Phillies-Reds 5 things: Jerad Eickhoff's quest for 200 begins

Phillies-Reds 5 things: Jerad Eickhoff's quest for 200 begins

Phillies (1-0) at Reds (0-1)
7:10 p.m. on CSN and streaming live on and the NBC Sports app.

A powerful first inning, seven extra-base hits and strong pitching for eight innings led the Phillies to an opening day win over the Reds.

The weather cooperated to allow the Phils to get their first game in Monday. After a built-in off day Tuesday, the series resumes tonight at Great American Ball Park:

1. Contributions aplenty
There was no shortage of positive signs on opening day. 

Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis homered. 

Odubel Herrera reached base three times.

Maikel Franco saw 20 pitches in five plate appearances.

Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders quickly made their presence felt, combining to go 4 for 8 with two doubles.

The 2017 Phillies' lineup is unquestionably better and deeper than it was in 2016 and it's not just because of the additions of Kendrick and Saunders. They'll also have a full season from a now-established Tommy Joseph, expected growth from Franco and Herrera in Year 3, and Hernandez is definitely trending up.

Hernandez didn't walk on opening day, but he saw 24 pitches in five trips to the plate.

2. Still Gomez's job?
Jeanmar Gomez had a shaky first appearance, allowing a two-run, opposite-field homer to Scooter Gennett. He was still able to notch the save, but Gomez didn't look nearly as dominant as the three relievers that preceded him.

Joaquin Benoit threw gas in the sixth inning and struck out two. Edubray Ramos had a clean seventh. 

And Hector Neris ... wow. He entered in the eighth inning and the Reds had absolutely no chance. Neris threw 11 pitches, eight of them strikes to retire Joey Votto, Adam Duvall and Eugenio Suarez. Votto struck out swinging and was late doing it.

Pete Mackanin said after the game that he is concerned about Gomez (see story), who allowed 17 earned runs in eight innings last September.

With Neris and Benoit, the Phillies have two ready-made replacements if Gomez falters.

3. Eickhoff's quest for 200 begins
Jerad Eickhoff was as steady as it gets last season for the Phillies, going 11-14 with a 3.65 ERA in 33 starts and falling just shy of 200 innings (197 1/3) last season.

Eickhoff showed excellent control throughout the season, walking just 1.9 batters per nine innings while striking out 7.6. And that 3.65 ERA was a bit deceiving -- aside from his eight-run outing at Coors Field, Eickhoff had a 3.38 ERA in 32 starts. 

Eickhoff allowed two runs or less in 17 of his 33 starts last season and allowed three or less 25 times. He kept a weak Phillies offense in so many games and figures to do so again this season. If he does, he'll finish with more than 11 wins behind an improved offense and bullpen.

Eickhoff has never faced the Reds, and only Gennett, the former Brewer, has faced him. He's 2 for 6 with a homer.

Eickhoff's battery mate Wednesday will be Cameron Rupp, who he continues to build chemistry with (see story).

4. Facing the lefty Finnegan
Left-hander Brandon Finnegan starts the second game of the season for the Reds for the second straight year. He went 10-11 with a 3.98 ERA last season, striking out 145 but walking 84 in 172 innings. For reference, Eickhoff and Jeremy Hellickson combined to walk 87 batters last season in 386 1/3 innings.

That's an obscenely high walk total for Finnegan, and the Phillies' game plan should be to make him work. 

It's rare you see a pitcher walk so many hitters and not pay the price, but Finnegan was at his best last season with men on base, limiting opponents to a .205 batting average with the bases occupied and a .175 mark with two outs and runners in scoring position.

Finnegan faced the Phillies twice last season. He allowed two runs on three hits over six innings with nine strikeouts on April 6, then lasted only four innings and allowed three runs on four hits and five walks on May 13.

Finnegan walked at least four batters in 10 different starts last year.

Active Phillies are 6 for 25 (.240) against him with six walks, including two apiece from Kendrick and Herrera.

The 5-foot-11 Finnegan throws a sinker, four-seam fastball, slider and changeup. The sinker and four-seamer average about 93 mph. 

Right-handed hitters really struggled last season against his changeup (.138 BA, 1 HR in 93 PAs ending with a changeup) and slider (.216 BA).

5. This and that
• Lefties hit just .218 last season off Finnegan, but that doesn't necessarily mean Saunders will sit for Aaron Altherr. The left-handed hitting Saunders has actually been better against lefties the last three seasons (.277 BA, .850 OPS) than he has against righties (.250, .778).

(Update: Altherr is starting in right field, which makes sense given the fact that the next 12 starting pitchers the Phillies are scheduled to face are all right-handed.)

• That 5-6-7-8 the Reds have of Suarez, Scott Schebler, Zack Cozart and Tucker Barnhart ... woof.

• Versatile right-handed reliever Raisel Iglesias didn't have great control on Monday, but the Phillies saw a glimpse of how good his stuff is. Iglesias is by far the best pitcher on the Reds' staff, and late last season Cincy used him similarly to how the Indians used Andrew Miller, pitching him multiple innings and using him in all sorts of situations.

• The Reds on Wednesday claimed outfielder Tyler Goeddel off waivers from the Phillies. Goeddel spent all of last season on the Phils' 25-man roster after being selected with the first pick in the Rule 5 draft. The Phillies were forced to remove him from their 40-man roster last week in order to create a spot for Brock Stassi.

• As of early Wednesday afternoon, there was a 50 percent chance of rain in Cincinnati at game time.

MLB Playoffs: Justin Turner hits walk-off HR to give Dodgers 2-0 lead over Cubs

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MLB Playoffs: Justin Turner hits walk-off HR to give Dodgers 2-0 lead over Cubs


LOS ANGELES -- Justin Turner hit a three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 4-1 on Sunday to take a 2-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

The red-bearded slugger connected on the 29th anniversary of the Dodgers' last game-ending postseason homer: Kirk Gibson's famous pinch-hit drive to beat Oakland in the 1988 World Series opener.

"One of my earliest baseball memories, I was 4 years old at my grandma's house watching that game in `88 and seeing Gibby hit that homer," a smiling Turner said. "So yeah, it feels pretty cool. I thought about doing the fist pump around the bases, but we'll wait until we get to the World Series for that, hopefully."

Turner drove in every run for Los Angeles, going the other way for a tying single in the fifth before sending a long shot to center field off John Lackey in the ninth. A fan wearing a blue Dodgers jersey reached over a railing to catch the ball on the fly.

Turner's second homer of the postseason ended another dramatic night for the Dodgers, who remained unbeaten in these playoffs and moved within two wins of their first World Series appearance since 1988.

"It's very cool, and J.T., we were talking about it in there after the game," manager Dave Roberts said. "Twenty-nine years to the day. It was special. Our guys feel it."

Game 3 in the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Midseason acquisition Yu Darvish starts for the Dodgers against Kyle Hendricks.

Yasiel Puig drew his third walk of the game leading off the ninth, and Charlie Culberson bunted him to second. After losing pitcher Brian Duensing struck out pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer, Chicago manager Joe Maddon went to the bullpen for the 38-year-old Lackey, who pitched on consecutive days for the first time in his 15-year career.

Lackey got the call over All-Star closer Wade Davis, and the veteran starter walked Chris Taylor on six tense pitches.

Turner stepped up and ended it with his fourth career playoff homer. He's been at his best in October, batting .377 with 22 RBIs in the postseason.

"We've been doing it all year long," Turner said. "We're never out of a game. As long as we have outs left, we're going to keep fighting."

Completing the poetry of the moment, a fan in a Chase Utley jersey in the center-field bleachers caught the ball in his glove.

Addison Russell homered in the fifth for the Cubs, who are down early in this rematch of the 2016 NLCS. Chicago won that series in six games and went on to its first World Series championship since 1908, while the Dodgers have been absent from the Fall Classic since 1988.

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen got the victory with a hitless ninth despite hitting Anthony Rizzo on the hand with a one-out pitch. That ended the Los Angeles bullpen's impressive streak of 22 straight Cubs retired to begin the NLCS, but the Dodgers have thrown eight hitless and scoreless innings of relief in the NLCS.

After a collective offensive effort drove the Dodgers to a 5-2 win in Game 1, Turner did it all in Game 2. He has 10 RBIs in the Dodgers' five postseason games, getting five in the playoff opener against Arizona.

Jon Lester yielded three hits and five walks while failing to get out of the fifth inning in the shortest start of his long postseason career, but the Dodgers couldn't take advantage of a rare shaky night by the Cubs' star left-hander.

Rich Hill struck out eight in five more impressive innings for the Dodgers, but he was pulled for pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson in the fifth in a debatable decision by Roberts.

Russell was off to a 4-for-22 start in the postseason with nine strikeouts before the slugging shortstop put a leadoff homer into the short porch in left field.

Turner evened it moments later by poking a single to right after a leadoff double by Culberson, the Dodgers' improbably successful replacement for injured All-Star shortstop Corey Seager.

The Dodgers chased Lester with two outs in the fifth, but reliever Carl Edwards Jr. came through after several recent postseason struggles, striking out pinch-hitter Chase Utley and then pitching a strong sixth.

Lester was the co-MVP of last season's NLCS, winning Game 5 at Dodger Stadium and yielding two runs over 13 innings in the series. He had nothing near the same success against the Dodgers' revamped lineup in this one, issuing four walks in the first four innings and repeatedly escaping jams.

Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward held up Turner in the third when it appeared he could have scored from first on Cody Bellinger's double to the gap.

Javier Baez, the other co-MVP of last season's NLCS for Chicago, got to third base in the third with one out but also was stranded.

Up next
Cubs: Hendricks dominated Chicago's playoff opener with seven scoreless innings against the Nationals, but yielded four runs in four innings during the team's wild Game 5 victory in Washington. He is starting on normal rest.

Dodgers: Darvish was outstanding in Game 3 against the Diamondbacks, earning his first career postseason victory with seven strikeouts over five innings of two-hit ball. He was acquired 

MLB Playoffs: Altuve's dash lifts Verlander, Astros over Yanks in Game 2

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MLB Playoffs: Altuve's dash lifts Verlander, Astros over Yanks in Game 2

HOUSTON — Jose Altuve raced home on Carlos Correa's double in the ninth inning, Justin Verlander struck out 13 in a complete game and the Houston Astros beat the New York Yankees 2-1 Saturday for a 2-0 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Correa also homered, but Houston needed a daring dash from Altuve to get Verlander a win. The 5-foot-6 AL MVP front-runner reached with a one-out single against closer Aroldis Chapman , then sprinted around from first base on Correa's shot to right-center field, sliding past catcher Gary Sanchez as he misplayed a short-hop. Altuve had two more hits and is 13 for 23 (.565) this postseason.

Verlander pitched another gem for the Astros, setting a postseason career best for strikeouts and allowing five hits in his second career complete game in the postseason. He threw a season-high 124 pitches and retired baby Bronx Bombers Aaron Judge, Sanchez and Greg Bird in the top of the ninth.

In the bottom of the inning, Judge picked up Correa's hit in right field and threw toward second base. Shortstop Didi Gregorius fielded there, and his throw beat Altuve to the plate by a few steps. But Sanchez bobbled the one-hop as Altuve slid by, and the Astros mobbed Correa in shallow center field. Altuve pointed toward Correa and his teammates from behind the plate (see full recap).

Puig, Taylor power Dodgers past Cubs in NLCS Game 1
LOS ANGELES -- Chris Taylor hit a tiebreaking homer in the sixth inning, Yasiel Puig added a homer and an RBI double to his dynamite postseason, and the Los Angeles Dodgers overcame a short start by Clayton Kershaw for a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday night in the NL Championship Series opener.

Charlie Culberson doubled, drove in the tying run and scored another while replacing injured All-Star shortstop Corey Seager for the resourceful Dodgers, who improved to 4-0 in this postseason.

With another collective offensive effort and four innings of perfect relief pitching, Los Angeles calmly overcame an early two-run deficit and took the first game of this rematch of the 2016 NLCS, won in six games by Chicago on the way to its first World Series championship in 108 years.

Game 2 is Sunday, with Rich Hill starting at home against Chicago's Jon Lester (see full recap).