FORT WAYNE – Zach Eflin came to the pitchers mound for the TinCaps on Monday night with the fourth-lowest ERA in the Midwest League since the beginning of May, and looking to knock another decimal point or two off it.
He looked in the right place.
For seven innings of a 2-0 win, Eflin, 19, threw and the Lansing Lugnuts swung, and not a lot beyond that happened. Seven times the Lugnuts (49-64, 17-27 second half) flied or popped out. Four times they struck out. Only twice did they put a man on base.
End result: Seven innings and one hit against Eflin on a night when the Lugnuts scratched out just two hits as Eflin and relievers Jorge Guzman and Chris Nunn retired 17 straight batters and 19 of the last 21.
Nice to see that, TinCaps manager Jose Valentin said. I think Zach right now is one of the best pitchers we have. Young pitcher that he is, hes not trying to go out there and strike out everybody. Hes really pitching.
Eflin, whose ERA since May 1 was 2.39 coming into Monday, would like to think so. I think early in the season I was focusing more on pitching around hitters, he said. Trying to get swings and misses and trying to get strikeouts. But Ive learned from (pitching coach) Burt Hooton the key to pitching is pitching to contact and keep the ball low.
That was especially true on another night when the TinCaps (59-53, 16-27) struggled at the plate after the first inning.
In the first, Mallex Smith greeted Lansing starter Matt Boyd with a leadoff single, then took second on his league-leading 50th stolen base. Gabriel Quintana brought him home with a single up the middle.
After that things went quiet, as Eflin and Boyd – last seen knocking Indiana out of the College World Series two months ago – both cruised.
Eflin retired the last 13 batters he faced and didnt allow a baserunner after walking Dwight Smith Jr. with two out in the third. Boyd retired nine of 10 after the first before coming out after four innings work; reliever Colton Turner proceeded to retire the first six TinCaps he faced before Quintana bounced a single up the middle to lead off the TinCaps seventh.
That broke the spell.
Quintana subsequently took second on a passed ball to Luis Domoromo, who drew a walk. Tyler Stubblefields sac bunt moved the runners over, and, after Luis Tejada was deliberately walked to load the bases, Corey Adamson lifted a sacrifice fly to left and Quintana beat the tag at the plate to make it 2-0.
Notes: The TinCaps announced that infielder Maxx Tissenbaum was placed on the disabled list, and infielder Reynaldo Bruguera was called up to Fort Wayne from the Arizona League Padres The TinCaps and the Parkview Comprehensive Cancer Center will offer free health screenings at Parkview Field on Aug. 6-7.