Phillies

Jerad Eickhoff stays grounded after out-pitching Chris Sale

Jerad Eickhoff stays grounded after out-pitching Chris Sale

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The Phillies don’t have to worry about Jerad Eickhoff ever getting full of himself.
 
This is one grounded young man.
 
Eickhoff out-pitched American League Cy Young candidate Chris Sale in helping the Phillies beat the Chicago White Sox, 8-3, at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night (see Instant Replay). The 26-year-old right-hander has been remarkably consistent in his first full season in the majors. He has not missed a start, is pushing 200 innings and is 11-14 with a 3.75 ERA after starting out the season 2-8. His record would be a lot better if his mates had scored runs for him all season like they did Wednesday night.
 
With veteran Jeremy Hellickson likely moving on via free agency, Eickhoff could be in line to be the Phillies’ opening day starter next April.
 
Eickhoff was asked about that possibility after holding the White Sox to three runs over seven innings in his latest win.
 
His answer showed just how grounded he is.
 
“As long as I can be one of the guys on the team, one through five, just try to get in the rotation, whatever it is I’m happy with,” he said.
 
Eickhoff shouldn't worry.

He will be one of the guys next year.
 
Manager Pete Mackanin called him “a mainstay.” Those are words that get attached to durable pitchers who don’t miss a start and keep their teams in games, as Eickhoff has done so often. He entered Wednesday night’s game with the third-lowest run support in the majors — 3.59 runs per nine innings. He’d be pushing 15 wins with better run support. The Phils are 12-1 when scoring three runs or more in an Eickhoff start.
 
“That’s a tremendous compliment,” Eickhoff said in response to Mackanin’s calling him a mainstay. “I try to be as consistent as I can. You want to be counted on. To go out there and kind of know what you’re going to get, that’s what I’ve always strived to do.”
 
Eickhoff leads the team with 187⅓ innings. With two starts left, he has a chance to reach 200 innings.
 
“I think that would be a pretty cool benchmark to get to with this being my first full year,” he said. “But I try to think as day-by-day as I can and control what I can control pitch to pitch.”
 
Run support was not a problem for Eickhoff in this game. The Phillies had 10 hits with Tommy Joseph, Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco and Cameron Rupp all getting two each. Sale entered the game with a 3.03 ERA, second best in the AL, but the Phils torched him for six runs in four innings.
 
The top two men in the lineup, Hernandez and Roman Quinn, combined to reach base seven times and score three runs.
 
Joseph doubled in a run in the first inning against Sale and Rupp followed with a two-run double.
 
Joseph clubbed his 21st homer in 298 at-bats, a two-run shot in the third. The rookie first baseman is 12 for 25 with three homers and eight RBIs in his last seven games. He is hitting .262 with a .522 slugging percentage and a .311 on-base percentage.
 
Joseph was happy to get Eickhoff some run support.
 
“He’s pitched much better than his record,” Joseph said. “He seems to go up against the ace of every staff as well. To get him run support meant a lot for us. And I’m sure it meant something for him as well.”

Eickhoff has been prone to home runs. He has given up seven in his last two starts, but six have been solo shots and solo shots won’t kill you, as the saying goes.

The Phillies traveled to New York after the game. They open a four-game series against the Mets on Thursday night and will have a chance to impact that club’s postseason hopes. The Mets were swept by the Braves the last three nights and the Phillies would like to do the same.

“I think the guys are up to it,” Mackanin said. “The Mets are playing for something. It would be nice to be a spoiler.”

A glimpse of what could make Zach Eflin a complete pitcher

A glimpse of what could make Zach Eflin a complete pitcher

These last six weeks, the Phillies have desperately needed a starting pitcher other than Aaron Nola to step up to keep them alive in the NL East race. 

Zach Eflin has been that guy two starts in a row, allowing one run in 11 innings in victories over the Marlins and Mets. If the Phillies lose one of those games, they lose the series and their already slim playoff hopes reach critical condition. 

The most impressive aspect of Eflin’s night Wednesday in the Phillies’ 4-0 win over the Mets was his changeup, specifically to the dangerous Michael Conforto. Eflin trusted the pitch vs. lefties and executed it as well as he has all season. 

After retiring him twice (the first time on a swinging strikeout), Eflin faced Conforto in the fifth inning with two on and two outs. The Phils’ lead was on the line in that moment, with the Mets’ best power hitter at the plate two nights after homering and driving in six runs. 

Eflin got Conforto to swing over a 3-2 changeup and the crisis was averted. The Mets didn’t threaten again. 

You don’t want to overemphasize one good start from a young pitcher, but if Eflin’s confidence in his changeup grew Wednesday, it’s a night you’ll think back to as his career unfolds. At various points in the season, all four of Eflin’s pitches — four-seam fastball, sinker, slider, changeup — have looked like plus pitches. 

He has a lot in his toolkit. He can throw a four-seamer by a hitter at 95 up in the zone. He can keep the ball in the infield, as he did Wednesday when just one of 21 Mets put the ball in the air against him. He can use the slider’s movement to complement the opposite movement from his two-seamer. 

If Eflin can effectively throw that changeup to powerful left-handed hitters, he can be a reliable mid-rotation piece for years to come. 

He’s the lone Phillies starter who will not pitch this weekend in Atlanta, but Eflin will indeed face dangerous lefties like Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez, Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis in his remaining two starts. 

Blackmon and Freeman are both red-hot, in zones where they’re capable of hitting every type of pitcher they face. Go pull up a clip of Blackmon’s rainmaker off Clayton Kershaw Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.

Eflin will likely need that changeup to work against them like it did Conforto. With every remaining game carrying massive importance, the Phillies’ playoff hopes could depend on it. 

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Phillies 4, Mets 0: After 2 straight series wins, bring on the Braves

Phillies 4, Mets 0: After 2 straight series wins, bring on the Braves

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Zach Eflin is pitching as well as he has since June, Rhys Hoskins added another startling stat to his résumé with career homer No. 50, and the Phillies won a series against a team other than the Marlins for the first time since July 25.

Boy, did the Phils need this 4-0 win, too, with the Braves beating the Cardinals earlier in the day ahead of the all-important four-game showdown in Atlanta beginning Thursday.

"We're going to Atlanta ready to win," Eflin said after the game, with some confidence.

At 78-73, the Phils are 5½ games back in the NL East with 11 to play. Any combination of six Braves wins or Phillies losses will result in Atlanta winning the division.

"We're in a pretty unique postion, an exciting position that doesn't happen all that often," Hoskins said. "As a competitor, it's all you can ask for — you control your own destiny."

This is the first time the Phillies have won back-to-back series since their first two series out of the All-Star break.

Success vs. Syndergaard

Four meetings with Noah Syndergaard in 2018 and the Phillies hit him around all four times. Syndergaard lasted just four innings, put seven men on base, allowed three runs and two homers.

Syndergaard had a 5.75 ERA in his four starts against the Phillies and they hit .326 off him.

In a year filled with weak offensive performances vs. mediocre pitchers, the Phils had little trouble with Syndergaard. The only other ace-type they did some damage against was Stephen Strasburg.

Hoskins has reached base in 8 of 13 career plate appearances vs. Syndergaard with two homers and two doubles (see story).

"There's something about velocity that simplifies things," Hoskins said. "It gives you less time to think. We've stuck to our game plan really well against him. As that goes on, you build confidence against a guy and when something works, you stick with it."

Eflin deals

Eflin was cruising until the fifth inning, when his pitch count rose in a high-stress situation. With runners on the corners and the Mets' most dangerous hitter, Michael Conforto, at the plate, Eflin was able to gear up to strike him out on a full count.

Eflin struck out nine over five scoreless innings. He faced 21 batters and only one put the ball in the air.

The Phillies have desperately needed someone to step up in the rotation other than Aaron Nola and these last two starts, Eflin has done it. He's given up one run in 11⅓ innings in wins over the Marlins and Mets.

Pinch-hit decisions pay off

These last two nights, Gabe Kapler's pinch-hit decisions in the middle innings have paid off.

On Tuesday, he used Wilson Ramos and Justin Bour in place of J.P. Crawford and Scott Kingery in the sixth inning. Ramos hit an RBI single and Bour tied the game with an RBI double. The Phillies scored five in the inning to win the game.

On Wednesday, Kapler turned to Jose Bautista over Odubel Herrera against a lefty in the fifth inning. An interesting choice with Herrera having homered in his previous at-bat.

Bautista rewarded his skipper with an RBI double.

Up next

Phillies and Braves, four games at SunTrust Park beginning Thursday at 7:35 p.m. on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

The pitching matchups:

Vince Velasquez (9-11, 4.50) vs. Kevin Gausman (5-2, 2.61)

Nick Pivetta (7-13, 4.67) vs. Julio Teheran (9-8, 3.97)

Jake Arrieta (10-9, 3.77) vs. LHP Sean Newcomb (12-9, 4.04)

Aaron Nola (16-5, 2.44) vs. Mike Foltynewicz (11-10, 2.90)

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