This week we’re counting down the top 10 moments of the 2016 Phillies season.
Here is No. 6.
6. The complete Eflin
Zach Eflin was one of the several prospects we hoped would earn a shot at a major league job in 2016. His entry to the show happened primarily by necessity, but he stuck because he showed there was more to him than one really bad outing.
June 14 was the beginning of Eflin’s major league career. He was brought up from Lehigh Valley because Vince Velasquez suffered a biceps injury, and his first assignment was auspicious: at Rogers Center against the Toronto Blue Jays.
That wasn’t one of the best moments of 2016.
Eflin was lit up by the Toronto offense. He surrendered three home runs (to Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera and Josh Donaldson), walked three, gave up nine hits and nine runs in less than three innings. It was one of the worst debuts in major league history. His ERA opened at 27.
And yet somehow, a little more than one month later, Eflin found himself closing out a complete-game shutout in Pittsburgh with an ERA of 3.40.
That Friday night in Pittsburgh, July 22, Eflin cruised. He hit Andrew McCutchen in the first, surrendered a double to John Jaso in the second and a single to Josh Harrison in the third. Then he went to work. A strikeout and double play in the third. A 1-2-3 fourth. A 1-2-3 fifth.
The Phillies finally scored in the sixth and Elfin went right back at it. A 1-2-3 sixth. A 1-2-3 seventh. Until Jaso singled against him in the eighth, Eflin had retired 15 straight. On the other side of that single he retired another six straight.
In the end, Gregory Polanco grounded out to finish it up. Eflin walked away with a complete-game shutout. Three hits, one hit batsman, six strikeouts and just 100 pitches. One fewer pitch and Eflin would’ve thrown a Maddux, a stat for a pitched game that ends with a complete-game shutout and fewer than 100 pitches (Greg Maddux was known for them).
Eflin would give up 20 runs in his next three starts, with an injury to his patella tendon ending his season early. Hopefully he’ll return healthy and prepared for 2016. If so, there’s no question that he has the ability to stick in the starting rotation.