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' ramped-up rebuild demands starting-pitching upgrade

Phillies' ramped-up rebuild demands starting-pitching upgrade

Let the record show that on a snowy Friday afternoon 10 days before Christmas 2017, the Phillies ramped up their rebuild.


What other conclusion can be drawn after the club went out and signed Carlos Santana, one of the best offensive players on the free-agent market? With the signing, confirmed by multiple baseball sources, general manager Matt Klentak has attached a new level of importance to the 2018 season.

Just a couple of days ago at the winter meetings in Orlando, Klentak spoke of how 2018 was going to be a time to "find out" more about the team's young core of players. Who would continue to take a step forward? Who would fall by the wayside?

But now that Santana is here, 2018 doesn't feel like it's just a find-out season. It feels like a season in which the Phillies can continue to find out about players — separate the studs from the duds — and also start nibbling around that second National League wild-card spot.

Sure, a lot has to go right for that to happen.

And one of the things that has to go right is Klentak has to land a starting pitcher to slot in around Aaron Nola and the rest of the staff, which has the look of a bunch of No. 4 and No. 5 starters — until someone steps forward.

Santana's deal is for three years and $60 million, according to sources. Three years is a nice get — i.e., it's not cripplingly long — for a 32-year-old (in April) who hits for power, produces runs and does what Klentak likes best: controls the strike zone. (You could say that Klentak added two players who control the strike zone to his lineup Friday as the trade of Freddy Galvis to San Diego for strike-throwing pitching prospect Enyel De Los Santos cleared the way for J.P. Crawford to be the regular shortstop.)

The Phillies need to do everything within reason to make sure that the first of Santana's three seasons with the club isn't about simply inching the rebuild forward. The Nationals are the class of the NL East, but the rest of the division ranges from ordinary to awful. The Phils, with an improved offense and bullpen (Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter), can play with the Braves and Mets and clean up on the Marlins, the jewelry store that became a pawnshop, in agent Scott Boras' words.

It's just up to Klentak to get more starting pitching, and he's on the case. He admitted that at the winter meetings. He is particularly fond of young starters with years of control remaining on their contracts. Gerrit Cole, Chris Archer and Michael Fulmer fit this description. It takes talent to get pitchers like that. The Phillies have enough depth of prospects to get one of these guys and their reserves of expendable talent just grew with the Santana signing.

Santana, a switch-hitter who has averaged 25 homers, 85 RBIs and a .810 OPS in eight seasons, is going to be the team's primary first baseman. Rhys Hoskins is going to be the primary leftfielder. That means the Phillies suddenly have a young outfielder that they could deal. Maybe they try to capitalize on Nick Williams' strong half-season in the majors and package him for an arm. Or maybe it's Odubel Herrera or Aaron Altherr.

However it plays out, you can be sure that Klentak will be creative. You can rule nothing out with this guy. The other day, we poo-pooed the Phillies signing Jake Arrieta, who is looking for a long-term deal approaching $200 million. But if Arrieta lingers out there until February and is looking for a two-year landing spot, hey, maybe.

We wouldn't even put it past Klentak to entertain the idea of using Santana at third base a little bit — he did play 26 games there in 2014 — and trading Maikel Franco. The Giants were sniffing around, gathering intel on Franco at the winter meetings. There has to be a reason for that. Also at the meetings, an official from a rival club said the Phillies weren't as aggressive as he expected in trying to move Cesar Hernandez. Could it be that Hernandez would get some time at third if Franco were to be moved? Hernandez is still a trade chip, but he doesn't need to be cashed in until July and by that time Scott Kingery should be here.

There are a lot of ways this thing can go. And with the signing of Carlos Santana — which won't become official until he passes a physical next week — the Phillies have guaranteed that the remainder of this offseason will be a busy one.

It has to be.

The stakes have changed for 2018. The rebuild is still in place, but it has been ramped up. Matt Klentak has improved the bullpen and the offense. Now he has to attack that starting pitching and he has the trade weapons to do it.

Source: Phillies agree to $60 million deal with Carlos Santana

Source: Phillies agree to $60 million deal with Carlos Santana

The Phillies' busy Friday continued with a pricey free-agent signing.

The Phils have agreed to a three-year, $60 million deal with former Cleveland Indian Carlos Santana, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury.

It is by far the most expensive contract the Phillies have given out under the Matt Klentak-Andy MacPhail regime.

They had the money. When the offseason began, the only player the Phillies had signed to a multi-million dollar deal was Odubel Herrera.

Santana, 31, has always been a high-walk power hitter. From 2011 through 2017, he walked between 88 and 113 times each season, all while maintaining relatively low strikeout totals for a man with such power and plate selection.

In 2016, Santana set a career high with 34 home runs. Last season, he hit .259/.363/.455 with 37 doubles, 23 homers and 79 RBIs.

This addition provides the Phillies with much-needed pop to protect Rhys Hoskins and also gives the Phils added versatility. Santana is a switch-hitter who came up as a catcher, but he hasn't caught since 2014. The last three seasons, he has played primarily first base. In his eight seasons, Santana has also started 26 games at third base and seven in right field.

The move likely means Hoskins will play left field, and it could facilitate another Phillies trade of an outfielder such as Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr or Odubel Herrera.