Phillies

Phillies-Braves 5 things: Atlanta has seen enough of Odubel Herrera

Phillies

Phillies (41-69) at Braves (51-60)
7:35 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies' dominance over the Braves continued in Tuesday's series opener with a 5-2 win. It made the Phils 21-19 against the NL East this season and 10-2 against the Braves.

Atlanta would be just a game under .500 if you removed the Phillies from its schedule.

Let's take a look at the second and final game of the series tonight:

1. Red-hot Herrera
Three years in the majors, three prolonged hot streaks for Odubel Herrera, who is up to .282/.325/.456 after another big night Tuesday.

Herrera last night went 3 for 4 with a homer (his 12th), a double (his 34th), two RBIs, two runs and two steals.

Just like that, even through struggles that lasted a few months, Herrera's OPS is up to .781, an identical mark to 2016.

Herrera is riding an 11-game hitting streak but he's been locked in much longer than that. He's hit .338 with a .951 OPS since June 3 and .370 with a 1.072 OPS since July 3.

Phillies hitting coach Matt Stairs set a goal for Herrera at the All-Star break: For the rest of 2017, more walks than strikeouts. Since then, Herrera has nine walks and 16 K's. Prior to that point, he had 16 walks and 84 K's.

The Braves have sure seen enough of Herrera. He's 21 for 49 (.429) against them this season with seven doubles, five homers, 12 RBIs and 13 runs.

 

2. Expectations for Eickhoff
Coming off a 33-start season in which he posted a 3.65 ERA and pitched 197⅓ innings, Jerad Eickhoff appeared poised to take the next step in 2017 with perhaps a lower ERA and an innings total exceeding 200. But it's been a rocky season all the way through for Eickhoff, who has dealt with poor command, a curveball that hasn't been as consistent as years past, a lack of run support and an upper back strain that cost him four starts.

Eickhoff (2-7, 4.56) has been better lately, allowing three runs or less in five of his last six starts. But he hasn't been going deep into games. Eickhoff pitched seven innings in his season debut and 6⅔ in his second start but hasn't exceeded six innings since.

The Phillies are hoping that over the season's final six weeks, Eickhoff can spot his pitches better early in games and revert back to that workhorse form. They'd like to enter the offseason knowing they have more than just Aaron Nola as a rotation fixture.

Eickhoff has seen the Braves more than he's seen any other team — tonight will be the 10th meeting. He's pitched extremely well in the previous nine starts, posting a 1.98 ERA and .200 opponents' batting average with just 13 walks and four home runs allowed in 50 innings.

Freddie Freeman is 6 for 18 vs. Eickhoff with a double, two homers, four walks and four strikeouts. Brandon Phillips is 4 for 8 with a pair of doubles. Nick Markakis is 6 for 20 with three doubles of his own.

All other Braves are a combined 8 for 54 (.148) off Eickhoff.

3. Another look at Newcomb
The Phillies face Braves lefty Sean Newcomb (1-6, 4.61) for the second time in 11 days. They scored just one run on two hits against him on July 29 in a win at Citizens Bank Park.

The league seems to be catching up to Atlanta's 24-year-old rookie. He started his major-league career with four straight quality starts and ended his first full month with a 1.48 ERA. But he's made just one quality start in six tries since as his ERA has risen substantially.

Newcomb was a high draft pick, selected by the Angels 15th overall in 2014 out of the University of Hartford, a school that produced Jeff Bagwell and no other major-leaguers of note.

Newcomb was the main piece the Braves received from the Angels in the Andrelton Simmons trade prior to 2016, a deal that, so far, has worked out better for the Halos.

Newcomb is a four-pitch pitcher who's thrown his fastball 63 percent of the time this season, his curveball 23 percent, his slider eight percent and changeup seven percent. 

Of the 17 extra-base hits Newcomb has allowed, 15 have come off the fastball. His opponents have hit a combined .171 against his slider and curve.

Lefties have actually hit 53 points better against Newcomb than righties, albeit in a small sample.

Herrera and Cesar Hernandez are the only Phillies who own hits off Newcomb.

4. Neris rounding into form
Hector Neris is on a nice little roll here, having allowed one run over his last nine innings with 10 strikeouts.

 

Since allowing three straight home runs at Dodger Stadium at the end of April, Neris has been taken deep just once in 39 appearances and posted a 2.29 ERA with better than a strikeout per inning.

He hasn't been as consistently sharp as he was in 2016 when the splitter confused hitters for five months, and it remains to be seen whether his long-term future here will be as a closer or setup man. But either way, the Phillies have a good one in Neris.

Since 2016, Neris' 131 appearances rank third in the majors, behind only Addison Reed and Brad Hand. 

He's also one of only four National League relievers since the start of last season with at least 150 strikeouts and fewer than 50 walks. The others are Kenley Jansen, Felipe Rivero and Seung-hwan Oh.

5. This and that
• With a leadoff double and a walk last night, Cesar Hernandez reached base multiple times for the 10th straight game. He's hit .341 with a .439 OBP since coming back from the DL on July 17.

• Herrera's .571 slugging percentage since June 3 places him ahead of Aaron Judge, J.D. Martinez, Anthony Rizzo, Justin Upton, Eric Hosmer, Jose Abreu, Freddie Freeman, Edwin Encarnacion, Nelson Cruz, Jake Lamb, Manny Machado, Michael Conforto and many others over that span.