Mentally tough Eflin dominating since debut

Rookie became 4th-fastest pitcher with CG SO on 100 pitches

Mentally tough Eflin dominating since debut

PITTSBURGH -- Phillies rookie right-hander Zach Eflin's first Major League shutout took a few decisions off Pete Mackanin's hands. Mackanin sat in the visiting manager's office chair, looking relaxed after Eflin's 100-pitch three-hitter helped the Phillies to a 4-0 win on Friday at PNC Park.

"A good manager knows how to use the bullpen," Mackanin said.

In his sixth straight quality start, Eflin suffocated a Pirates offense that's hitting .260. It's his second complete game in eight Major League starts, and he became the fourth-fastest pitcher since 1914 to toss a nine-inning shutout on 100 pitches or fewer.

Since giving up nine runs (eight earned) in his big league debut against Toronto, Eflin has found some consistency. On June 14, Eflin surrendered nine hits in an 11-3 loss to the Blue Jays. He allowed three home runs and walked three in 2 2/3 innings.

Over the next month-and-a-half, Mackanin has liked what he has seen from Elfin's positive attitude.

"It says an awful lot about him," Mackanin said, "and if you were to see him the next day after the Toronto debacle that he had, he looked like he was just ready. He knew what he had to do."

Two games later, Eflin earned his first quality start against the Giants. He has yet to give up more than three earned runs since his debut. Then, on July 1, Eflin threw his first complete game in a 5-1 win against the Braves on 92 pitches.

Eflin's only eight starts into his career, so odds are he won't throw a complete game every four starts or so. But the mental progress he has made since his debut helps him keep his composure, no matter how deep into games he pitches.

"You learn to focus really hard before games and before a series on executing game plans and going over every hitter and making him feel uncomfortable," Eflin said. "And we've just been doing a good job as a staff of doing that."

Sarah K. Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.