PHILADELPHIA >> There are a lot of things that are different about Zach Eflin these days.

He’s enjoying an all-too-brief stretch of full health after a litany of issues — surgeries on both knees in 2016 and shoulder troubles that ended 2017 in late August. But there’s also a mentality change for the 24-year-old that has helped harness his Major League stuff.

Eflin was at it again Sunday, working six strong innings and tying a career-high with nine strikeouts as the Phillies ended a four-game losing streak with a 4-3 decision over the Brewers.

He struggled through a rough top half of the fifth, hitting two batters and allowing two runs to nullify a 1-0 lead. But he didn’t linger on it, even as manager Gabe Kapler heavily considered pinch-hitting for him. Instead, Eflin contributed to a three-run rally in the bottom half with a sacrifice bunt misplayed by Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguliar trying to get the lead runner at third.

All runners were safe, and Eflin would score the game-winning run when Odubel Herrera beat out a grounder to prevent an inning-ending double play.

“It was kind of cool that we got into that first-and-second situation,” Kapler said. “(Aaron) Altherr went out in the on-deck circle and we were able to pull him back and allow Eflin to bunt. Ef laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt, J.P. Crawford gets an exceptional jump and I think that’s probably the biggest moment of the game.”

Kapler’s “biggest moment” assertion also owes to how Eflin responded on the mound. He struck out the side in the bottom of the sixth, mowing through the middle of the order, to notch his second nine-strikeout game of the season.

Eflin is excelling nowhere more than in the strikeout department. He has 40 Ks in 39.2 big league innings, a rate of 9.08 per nine innings that is nearly double his pace from 22 starts the last two seasons. The closest he’s come to that figure even in the minors was 8.1 k/9 in 11 appearances in 2017, albeit with rehab stints in rookie league and A-ball.

Eflin’s fastball has been livelier, averaging 94.4 mph, per MLBAM Statcast, an improvement of nearly two miles per hour. He’s topped out at 97, likely to product of a healthy body.

“I think he’s attacking hitters,” catcher Andrew Knapp said. “He’s much more aggressive in the strike zone. I think the fastball command is making people honor the fastball, and then his slider and changeup have been really good weapons late in the count. But when they feel his fastball, they have to adjust to that and that’s when you get a lot of strikeouts because you’re cheating to get to that pitch.”

Eflin has also changed his psychological approach.

“I think it’s really just pitching with conviction, throwing every pitch with intent,” Eflin said. “Kind of in the past, I’d kind of give in a little bit, throw maybe a baby sinker up there and let them put it in play. It’s kind of the complete opposite now, I’m going for the swing-and-misses when I need it, I’m throwing pitches when I need to, whether that be off-speed or my heater. I’m really trusting my four-seamer a lot this year so that’s really been playing up as well. Just having the mentality that they’re not going to put the ball in play I think has been the biggest thing.”

“We’ve asked Ef to go back and look at how he gets his empty swings, and I think the biggest change is him being responsible for taking that step forward, him deciding how he’s going to get the swings-and-misses,” Kapler said. “It’s explosive fastballs up to left-handed batters and using that four-seamer instead of that two-seamer sometimes to left-handers has made a huge difference. He threw some great changeups today, too.”

That’s come in handy given when Eflin has started this season. Sunday was his seventh start in the bigs; six have followed Phillies losses. The task was magnified with the Phils coming off four straight losses and 24 runs surrendered in two games against Milwaukee.

Eflin has consistently played the stopper role. The Phillies have won four of his starts, and save for two rough outings, he’s kept his team in the game more often than not.

“I go out with every outing with intent for it to be my best, but especially when you have a team that beats us twice in a row,” Eflin said. “You really kind of bear down and, I wouldn’t say try harder, but you want to make sure you limit your mistakes and put a stop to what’s happening.”

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Seranthony Dominguez pushed another frontier in the stellar start to his career, logging his longest outing in terms of pitches thrown (41) and batters faced (nine) in two innings. As Kapler continues to deploy the rookie in the biggest moments, the 23-year-old is proving himself.

“We want to look for the highest-leverage situations to use Seranthony,” Kapler said. “Now you might think because we’re at the bottom of the order that might not be quite as high-leverage. But the idea that we’re going to use him for two innings, we know he’s probably going to face the middle of the lineup, too. We just felt like there was no time to deploy him like then.”

Dominguez ran into trouble with weak contact in the seventh but escaped, striking out four. He threw 31 strikes.

Despite the elevated pitch count, long outings are nothing new. It was his 14th big league appearance; seven have been more than three outs, and it’s the third time he’s gone two frames.

“He seems really comfortable,” Knapp said of multi-inning outings. “We’re all confident in his ability to go out and get hitters out. Anytime you can use him to get one-plus or two, it helps our team out.”

Luis Garcia, who gave up a grand slam to Ji-man Choi in the sixth Saturday, got the first two outs of the ninth before allowing a single and a double. Tommy Hunter finished it with a groundout from Christian Yelich on his only pitch for his first save, the sixth Phillie with a save this season.

NOTES >> The Phillies picked up their 20th win at Citizens Bank Park in their 31st game, the earliest they’ve gotten to 20 wins since 2011 (20-10, June 6). The Phillies needed 48 home games to get there in 2017, on July 28. … Fan favorite Ryan Braun had two hits, a run scored and an RBI to extend his on-base streak at Citizens Bank Park to 16 games. He was 6-for-12 with two homers and seven RBIs in the series and is hitting .406 at the Bank, the best average for any player in this building. … The Phillies are off Monday before a three-game set with Colorado. Aaron Nola opens the set Tuesday against Jon Gray.

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