HOUSTON — There was chaos around them, champagne and beer spraying everywhere, but Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin found one another in the middle of the visitors clubhouse at Minute Maid Park. It was 10:28 p.m. CT, 18 minutes after Eflin had secured the 27th out to end an interminable Phillies postseason drought, and the party had just started.
The two pitchers are good friends. They are the two longest-tenured players on the roster. They have witnessed this franchise fail in unthinkable ways. Now, they were each holding two Budweisers, and they hugged. Nola looked at Eflin, said a few words, and they hugged again.
They did it. Together.
“It’s just so beautiful,” said Rhys Hoskins, the team’s longtime first baseman. “That’s how cool this game is.”
The Phillies did not design it like this. Before the game, when interim manager Rob Thomson met with pitching coach Caleb Cotham, they decided one thing: They really liked the idea of Eflin pitching in a key spot Monday night against the Astros.
Eflin, two weeks into his new role as a setup man, has exceeded every benchmark. His right knee, supported by a brace he wears under his baseball pants, hasn’t hurt.