Phillies-White Sox 5 things: Wrapping up interleague play

Phillies-White Sox 5 things: Wrapping up interleague play

Phillies (68-83) vs. White Sox (72-79)
7:05 p.m. on CSN

The Phillies will go for a two-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox tonight in their final interleague game off the season. The Phils fended off a ninth-inning rally from Chicago last night to take Game 1, 7-6.

Runs will be harder to come by tonight, as Chicago sends out its ace, but it certainly helps some of the Phillies' top bats have been hot at the plate recently. 

Let's take a look.

1. Young bats staying hot
Last night, the Phillies manufactured seven runs off 12 hits. All seven runs and seven of the 12 hits were produced by the two through four spots in the lineup: Roman Quinn, Odubel Herrera and Tommy Joseph. Quinn was 2 for 4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Quinn has reached based safely in seven of his nine starts.

Herrera has continued to finish the season the same way he started. Last night, he was 3 for 4 at the dish, driving in three runs and hitting his 15th long ball of the season. 

After hitting a wall out of the All-Star break, where his on-base percentage dipped from .378 to .353, Herrera has heated up in the final stretch of the season. In September, he has a batting line of .339/.403/.571 with eight extra base hits.

Herrera's hot hitting has carried over to the player hitting behind him recently in Joseph, who was 2 for 3 with an RBI double last night. The rookie first baseman has struggled getting on base this season (.310 on base percentage) and is coming off a down month of August. 

But Joseph has rebounded for his strongest month at the plate since July, hitting .333/.408/.619 in September.

These three young payers continuing to carry out their hot streaks through game No. 162 would help provide a promising end to a rebuilding season for the Phillies.

2. Eickhoff looking to rebound
Jerad Eickhoff turned in one of the odder stat lines you'll see from a pitcher in his most recent outing.

The 26-year-old right hander allowed five hits and walked none over six-plus innings of work against the Pirates, but four of those hits wound up over the outfield wall at Citizens Bank Park. Pittsburgh hit four solo home runs off Eickhoff, chasing him for six runs before the Pirates unloaded for nine more off the Phillies' bullpen in the final two innings of a 15-2 rout.

Before Eickhoff tossed one of his worst starts of the season, the second-year starter had actually strung together four strong starts in a row, going 2-1 with a 2.63 ERA over 24 innings.

One of those starts came against the White Sox in Chicago on Aug. 24. In six innings, Eickhoff surrendered two runs on four hits, striking out two and walking none in the Phillies' 5-3 win.

The Phillies are going to need that kind of performance from Eickhoff tonight, because the pitcher they're matched up against is one of the best the game has to offer. 

3. First look at Chris Sale
Another year, another Cy Young caliber performance from Chris Sale. 

Sale, 27, is 16-8 with a 3.03 ERA across 29 starts this season and will take the hill tonight looking to tie his career high in wins. His six complete games lead all of Major League Baseball and he's currently riding a streak of six consecutive starts where he's gone at least eight innings, boasting a 2.16 ERA over that span.

The left-handed power arm features four pitches, a four-seam and two seam fastball, changeup and slider. Sale is most known for his nasty slider, which he throws 25 percent of the time and holds hitters to a .173 average. His strikeout percentage has dipped from his previous two seasons, but Sale has struck out over 200 batters (215) for the fourth consecutive year. 

Sale has been overpowering MLB hitters since he entered the big leagues as a reliever in 2010, but tonight will be the first look most Phillies will get at him.

The only players in a Phillies uniform to face Sale are Jimmy Paredas (0 for 6), Peter Bourjos (2 for 6) and A.J. Ellis (1 for 3). 

4. Changes coming in the 9th inning?
Last night, Jeanmar Gomez came on to pitch the ninth inning with the Phillies holding a comfortable 7-3 lead. While it wasn't it save situation when Gomez initially took the mound, it quickly turned into one. In two-thirds of an inning, Gomez allowed three runs on three hits and a walk.

With the tying run on second and the go-ahead run at the plate, Gomez was relieved of his duties in favor of Michael Mariot, who retired the first batter to secure the win.

Following a strong first half, which saw him post a 2.59 ERA and lock down 24 of 26 save opportunities, Gomez's execution has dropped off since the break. In 25-plus innings of work, he has an ERA of 6.39 and three blown saves.

While Gomez has trended downward, Hector Neris has gone on the upswing. In over 29 innings since the break, Neris has posted a 1.82 ERA with a .91 WHIP.

Unless he's dealt in the offseason, Gomez figures to be a part of the Phillies' backend of the bullpen in 2017, but it would hard to see him simply being handed the closer job entering spring training, especially with the development of Neris.

5. This and that
• Eickhoff has split his 30 starts evenly between home and the road this season, but has fared better at home (95 innings, 3.40 ERA, 1.175 WHIP) than he has away from Citizens Bank Ballpark (85 innings, 4.13 ERA, 1.224 WHIP). 

• Herrera has posted a .388 on-base percentage on 43 at-bats at the No. 3 position in the Phillies' lineup.

• Gomez's 37 saves are the ninth most single season total in franchise history. Jose Mesa holds the club record with 45 saves, set in 2002.

Phillies take long look at Roman Quinn as potential backup SS

AP Images

Phillies take long look at Roman Quinn as potential backup SS


FORT MYERS, Fla. — However the Phillies’ bench shapes up — whether it features four or five men during the first week of the regular season — one thing is a must:

“We need somebody who can play shortstop, absolutely,” manager Gabe Kapler said.

“We need someone who can play multiple positions in the infield on our bench and someone who can play multiple positions in our outfield on the bench. That’s a necessity.”

Kapler has taken a long look at Roman Quinn at shortstop the last two days. Quinn played four innings there Sunday against the Twins. He was there for the entire game Monday against the Red Sox.

Quinn grew up playing shortstop and outfield. He broke into pro ball as a shortstop but moved to center field during the 2014 season, when it became clear that J.P. Crawford was the shortstop of the future. Now, Quinn is relearning the shortstop position so he can potentially serve as a utility man on the Phillies’ bench. He’d be an intriguing talent to have on the bench because he’s a switch-hitter with electrifying speed.

As a shortstop, the Phillies won’t be looking for Quinn to be a Gold Glover. They need someone to make the play on an emergency or fill-in basis. Quinn made three plays in Monday’s game. He short-hopped one throw and Carlos Santana made the pick. He knocked down one ball, recovered and made a strong throw for an out. He made a nice play on a groundball while shifted behind second. It wasn't the prettiest exhibition, but it got the job done.

“The more I play there, the more comfortable I’m getting,” Quinn said. “I’m enjoying it. I’d like to think I can play any position. It’s fun coming in from center field and playing shortstop. I love it.”

Quinn turns 25 in May. Some schools of thought might come down against carrying a player of his potential as a reserve. Certainly, more time in Triple A would not hurt him, especially after missing more than three months with an elbow injury last year. But the Phillies are open to the possibility of carrying Quinn. His shortstop audition the last two days has made that clear.

“Everyday reps at the minor-league level are incredibly valuable,” Kapler said. “However, because a guy is on the bench at the major-league level doesn’t mean his development is stunted. He’s getting a different kind of experience and a really valuable experience.”

Tom Eshelman was charged with four runs in the bottom of the ninth as the Phils squandered a three-run lead and lost, 6-5, to Boston.

Aaron Altherr drove in four runs. He belted a three-run homer in the fifth inning against Boston ace Chris Sale. Cesar Hernandez grinded out a long at-bat before striking out and Santana and Rhys Hoskins both walked before the home run.

“When you have a guy like Sale, making him work is critical,” Kapler said. “Cesar’s punchout was an incredible at-bat. Santana and Hoskins made him work. [Sale] gets a little fatigued and Altherr gets a pitch to whack. So Altherr hitting a home run doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens as a result of team baseball.”

Jake Arrieta is ready for game action; Mark Leiter Jr. is hurting

Jake Arrieta is ready for game action; Mark Leiter Jr. is hurting

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Good news, bad news on the Phillies’ pitching front.

The good: Jake Arrieta will make his first Grapefruit League appearance of the spring when he gets the start Thursday against the Detroit Tigers in Clearwater.

Arrieta signed with the Phillies a week ago and threw a simulated game Saturday (see story). He will throw a side bullpen session Tuesday then be ready for Thursday’s start. It's still not clear when he will make his regular-season debut. Arrieta believes he will be ready to pitch during the first week of the season. Phillies management is taking a long-range view and will exercise caution in turning him loose. Either way, Arrieta projects to make 30 or more starts once he’s ready.

Now, the bad news:

Pitcher Mark Leiter Jr. headed to Philadelphia for tests on his right forearm. Leiter has been experiencing some tightness and soreness in the forearm, according to manager Gabe Kapler.

This is tough news for Leiter, who early in camp had impressed management with his performance and ability to pitch in a starting or relief role. Ten days before opening day, it’s likely that Leiter will have to open the season on the disabled list.

Starter Jerad Eickhoff will open the season on the DL with a right lat strain. It is not considered serious, but he is projected to be out into May.