PHILADELPHIA — A whole lot of stellar pitching and just enough hitting gave the Philadelphia Phillies a good start on their quest to dethrone the Atlanta Braves in the National League East.
Alec Bohm had a tiebreaking single in the eighth inning, Zach Eflin gave the team another strong start on the mound and the Phillies won 2-1 on Sunday, completing a three-game sweep of the three-time reigning division champions.
Philadelphia's pitching staff was the story of the season-opening series as the starting trio of Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Eflin surrendered only three runs, 11 hits and one walk while recording 24 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings against an Atlanta lineup that led the majors in 2020 with 556 hits.
The Philadelphia bullpen, which posted a 7.06 ERA in 2020, didn't yield a run in 7 1/3 innings in the series.
"Everyone did their job," Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. "The starters came in and did their job. The bullpen did their job. To limit this team to the amount of runs that we did is not easy to do."
The top four hitters in Atlanta's lineup — Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies, 2020 NL MVP Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna — went a combined 3-for-44 (.068) as the Braves lost Thursday's opener 3-2 in 10 innings and 4-0 on Saturday before almost getting blanked again Sunday.
"We're going to go through this in this game," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "We'll probably go through this in July or August. We faced some good pitching. But I'd rather face a team like us (as an opponent) early than late when we get our offense going and get some at-bats."
The day off in the series obviously didn't make much of a difference for the Braves — and even brought some bad news Friday as they learned Major League Baseball was pulling this summer's All-Star Game from Atlanta's Truist Park due to changes to Georgia's voting law.
Atlanta starter Ian Anderson wiggled in and out of trouble early, striking out seven hitters while allowing four hits. Andrew Knapp homered in the second.
Eflin went seven strong innings Sunday, allowing four hits and a walk while striking out eight batters. The lone mistake he made was hanging a curveball to Atlanta catcher Travis d'Arnaud, who pierced the winds blowing into Citizens Bank Park with a tying homer in the seventh that ended Atlanta's 19-inning scoring drought.
"We know that those guys can hit," Eflin said. "It's a huge goal to go into a start and try to limit the amount of pitches they can hit. You stress weak contact against them."
Philadelphia regained the lead in the eighth as Rhys Hoskins, Bryce Harper and Bohm hit consecutive singles off Chris Martin (0-1). Hoskins scored just ahead of the throw from rookie center fielder Cristian Pache.
Hector Neris recorded his first save, dodging trouble caused by two-out walks to Freeman and Ozuna in the ninth before D'Arnaud flied out to end it.
"I think we proved to ourselves that any given night, we can go win a game and we have guys stepping up," Bohm said. "And we showed that our bullpen is for real with these guys shutting the door."