PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Zach Eflin has learned there’s more to pitching than just throwing hard.
Eflin pitched seven strong innings and Rhys Hoskins drove in a pair of runs to lead the Philadelphia Phillies to a 7-1 victory over the Washington Nationals on Sunday.
Cesar Hernandez added two doubles for the NL East-leading Phillies, who have won six of nine.
Eflin (4-3) gave up one run on four hits with five strikeouts and two walks. He was coming off his third career complete game in his previous outing, a win over Miami, and is 5-0 with a 1.05 ERA in his last five home starts.
“It’s locating pitches on a consistent basis, having a game plan, reading hitters, going in and out, up and down,” Eflin said. “I’ve come a long way from someone who chucked the ball up there.”
Catcher Andrew Knapp was asked what he most liked about Eflin’s outing.
“Besides it all?” Knapp said.
“That’s exactly how you want it to go,” Knapp added. “He’s doing what he wants to do: fastball command, getting ahead of hitters.”
Kurt Suzuki homered for the third straight day for Washington, which has lost eight of 11.
The game was played in a steady drizzle on a cool, breezy afternoon.
The Nationals played without five regulars after placing first baseman Matt Adams on the 10-day injured list with a left shoulder strain. Also sidelined are Ryan Zimmerman (foot), Anthony Rendon (elbow), Trea Turner (finger) and Juan Soto (back).
The patchwork lineup played some shaky defense, and Philadelphia took advantage of a pair of errors by rookies to go up 2-0 in the first inning.
Shortstop Carter Kieboom booted Segura’s grounder, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Anibal Sanchez (0-5) got the second out and looked like he was going to strand the bases loaded when Hernandez grounded sharply to first. But the ball scooted between the legs of first baseman Jake Noll, who was called up from Triple-A before the game to replace Adams.
“We have to catch the ball,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “Hitting comes and goes, but making routine plays is a constant.”
Philadelphia blew the game open with five runs on five hits in the sixth off left-handed reliever Matt Grace.
With runners on first and third and one out, Eflin successfully executed a safety squeeze, bunting down the first-base line to score Knapp and make it 3-1. Miscommunication by the Nationals allowed Eflin to reach safely.
“We can’t give teams 31 outs,” Martinez said.
The Phillies then scored on Jean Segura’s groundout, Bryce Harper’s single to right and Hoskins’ two-run double to left.
Sanchez needed 44 pitches to get through the first. The right-hander ended up going 4 2/3 innings, allowing two unearned runs on two hits with nine strikeouts and four walks.
Washington pulled within 2-1 in the fourth on Suzuki’s fifth homer of the season. He went deep in all three games of the series at Philadelphia, but the depleted Nats lost two of three to fall five games below .500.
BRYCE ON BASE
Harper finished 1-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts and has reached base in all eight games against his former team this season. He is batting .321 with two homers and seven RBIs against Washington.
Suzuki improved to 7-for-14 with four homers and seven RBIs in six games this season at Philadelphia.
Nationals: Rendon is on track to return to the lineup on Tuesday after taking batting practice over the weekend.
Phillies: Herrera went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and is 0-for-6 since being activated from the injured list on Saturday. He had been out since April 17 with a right hamstring strain.
Nationals: Open a three-game set at Milwaukee on Monday night with RHP Max Scherzer (1-4, 4.08 ERA) opposing RHP Jhoulys Chacin (3-3, 5.24).
Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (1-1, 2.73) starts for Philadelphia in the opener of a three-game series at St. Louis on Monday night against RHP Miles Mikolas (3-2, 4.73).
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