Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Eickhoff Continues To Impress Despite Loss To Mets

GAME RECAP: Mets Finish Phillies 3-1

Suddenly the Mets' hottest pitcher, Bartolo Colon delivered eight shutout innings Monday in a 3-1 Mets win over the Phillies at Citi Field, running his streak of scoreless innings to 16 and -- for good measure -- rapping out his career-high seventh hit. The Mets finished August with 20 wins, achieving that for the first time in any month since August 2000. They also set a franchise record with 45 home runs in the month, including a pair on Monday from Michael Conforto and Curtis Granderson. New York also extended its division lead to 6 1/2 games as Washington was topped by St. Louis, 8-5. "The biggest difference is, we made some moves," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We made some moves that brought some energy, brought some enthusiasm to the clubhouse, on the field, and I think it's spread." Count Colon among those catching the fever. Hardly a lock for the playoff roster, Colon has spent the past two weeks proving why, at age 42, he at least deserves some serious consideration. He retired the first five Phillies he faced and the final 10, leaving to an extended standing ovation as a cameraman trailed close behind. Colon's single in the fifth inning was part of a three-run rally against Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff, who allowed no other damage over seven innings. Regardless, the Mets tied a 44-year-old franchise record with their 10th straight win over the Phillies, improving to 13-1 against them this season. "It's unbelievable," Phillies right fielder Jeff Francoeur said about Colon. "He knows how to pitch. Even [Greg] Maddux, late in his career, you look at him, he was able to still start and be effective. I think the one thing Bartolo does a great job of is, he can hit a gnat's [bottom]. That's his thing. When he is locating, games like tonight are what you're going to get from him."

  • The Phillies continue to like what they see from Eickhoff, despite the homers in the fifth. In fact, he already has to be considered a favorite to open the 2016 season in the rotation. He pitched a career-high seven innings, allowing four hits, three runs, two walks and striking out four. "The thing I like about him is that he throws strikes," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "That's the first thing. The second thing is, the numbers mean something. You look at his ERA and innings pitched, that is a good indicator of how he's doing."
  • The Phillies challenged Conforto's stolen base in the seventh inning, thinking he might have come off the bag after a head-first slide. He did, and replay officials overturned the call. Conforto was out.
  • "I've never seen so many guys take bad swings on fastballs." -- Mackanin, on the above-average movement of Colon's fastball.
  • The Phillies are expected to add three players when rosters expand. Though no official announcement has been made, catcher Erik Kratz, and right-handers Dalier Hinojosa and Colton Murray are the likely candidates.
  • New York has 13 wins (against one loss) over Philadelphia this season, tying a franchise mark met five times before (1970, 1971, 1972, 1987, 2014). The Mets have five more chances to notch the record-breaking win.
  • The Mets plan to feature a few more faces in the clubhouse on Tuesday with rosters expanding. Kevin Plawecki, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Eric Campbell will be back, as will Eric Young Jr. Steven Matz and Bobby Parnell are also expected to be activated from the disabled list.

The Mets' historic August is over. It'll be a bittersweet calendar turn for New York, which is a step closer to its first playoff berth in eight years, and the Mets have their performance in August to thank for it. The Mets set a franchise record with 45 home runs last month and begin September by continuing this three-game series against Philadelphia, with Jon Niese opposing Aaron Harang. Niese went 3-0 in August despite putting up a 5.17 ERA, the product mostly of starts in the hitters' havens of Colorado and Philadelphia. Harang has won just once since mid-May. Both allowed five runs in six innings and received no-decisions against each other Aug. 27.


Playing For 2016 – The Phillies have a little more than a month to play, and these final weeks will be spent watching and evaluating each player with one question in mind: Does he fit into the organization's future plans, either short-term or long term? Rookie right-hander Jerad Eickhoff could be an early favorite for the 2016 rotation. Eickhoff made his third big league start on Monday night in a 3-1 loss to the Mets at Citi Field. He pitched a career-high seven innings, allowing four hits, three runs, two walks and striking out four. Interim manager Pete Mackanin likes to say that every player is constantly auditioning for a job, and early in Eickhoff's tryout, he has a 2.84 ERA. "Very good," Mackanin said about Eickhoff's first three starts. "The thing I like about him is that he throws strikes. That's the first thing. The second thing is, the numbers mean something. You look at his ERA and innings pitched, that is a good indicator of how he's doing. But I like his demeanor on the mound. We're playing a team that we're trying [very hard] to beat, and he kept us in the game." If Eickhoff keeps pitching like this, he should have an excellent chance to make the 2016 rotation. Right-handers Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams and Chad Billingsley are free agents after the season. Right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez will pitch on Tuesday for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but he has been a disappointment after signing a three-year, $12 million contract in 2013. Gonzalez cannot be expected to contribute next season considering his prolific injury history. That leaves rookies Aaron Nola, Adam Morgan, Alec Asher and Eickhoff in the mix along with David Buchanan and others in Triple-A. "They could always be better," Eickhoff said about his starts, which have reinforced his desire to continue to attack hitters. "I'm not shying away from throwing strikes," he said. "I'm still attacking like I would in Double-A, Triple-A, wherever. I haven't changed my attack or my approach. Just how things have gone, it's just learning and continuing what I have in past years." Eickhoff had cruised through four innings when he allowed a one-out home run to Michael Conforto in the fifth for a 1-0 Mets lead. Bartolo Colon then ripped a 1-0 fastball up the middle for a two-out single. "I think he learned you can't take pitchers for granted," Mackanin said. "The previous at-bat, he threw [Colon] three or four sliders, and he didn't even come close. So even with two outs, you just can't take it for granted." Curtis Granderson made Eickhoff pay, crushing a 1-0 fastball to right-center for a two-run homer and making it 3-0. "It's a little frustrating," Eickhoff said. "They got hold of some pitches I left over the plate a bit after falling behind. They were able to square up and do some damage." But his manager and teammates still left the ballpark impressed. "He works quick," Jeff Francoeur said. "He's got a good rhythm where it's real easy to play defense behind him. He's not trying to strike people out. If it happens, it happens. But he's letting us make plays. He's real focused when he's out there."

Returning To The Field? – It sounds more and more as though third baseman Maikel Franco could be back in the Phillies' lineup before the end of the season. Franco's broken left wrist seems to be healing nicely, and he said on Monday afternoon at Citi Field that he expects to take batting practice on Wednesday. "If I feel fine, I'll continue to swing the bat, and hopefully I'll be ready soon," Franco said. "Once he does that -- getting a few at-bats and taking some batting practice -- I might run him right in there if he's 100 percent," interim manager Pete Mackanin said. Some other injury updates: The season is officially over for right-hander Chad Billingsley, who has been on the disabled list with a strained flexor in his right elbow. "It's unfortunate," assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said. "We had high hopes for him coming back. He had made a lot of progress. It just didn't work out for us." Doctors said that Billingsley, who tried to come back following a pair of operations on his right elbow, does not need surgery. Lefty Elvis Araujo is on the DL with a strained left groin, and it is unlikely that he will pitch again this season. "I think [we're exercising] an overabundance of caution," Proefrock said. "He's done very well, and he's got a chance to be a piece for us going forward. There's no reason to take any unneeded chances with him."

Roster Additions – Expect to see some new faces in Phillies uniforms on Tuesday. No, the Phillies do not expect to trade anybody before Monday's midnight waiver Trade Deadline. Outfielder Jeff Francoeur might be the most attractive player to a contender, and it is believed that the Pirates claimed him off waivers earlier this month, but the two teams could not work out a trade, so the Phillies pulled him back. But the Phillies are expected to add three players when rosters expand on Tuesday. The smart bets are Triple-A Lehigh Valley catcher Erik Kratz and right-handers Dalier Hinojosa and Colton Murray, although that remains to be seen. "I don't think you're going to see a lot of moves made, because the guys that are here are the ones that need to continue to play and progress," assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said on Monday afternoon at Citi Field. "I think most likely the moves will be pitching-related to protect some of the young guys as they extend themselves beyond any point they have previously." Triple-A right-hander Nefi Ogando, who was optioned on Saturday, could be recalled when Lehigh Valley's season ends. The Phillies also indicated they could promote a player or two from Double-A Reading, but they prefer to keep those players together for the postseason. Because the Phillies are trying to conserve their young arms in the rotation and bullpen, interim manager Pete Mackanin said the team will probably implement a six-man rotation in the near future.

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 52-80. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and bipolar performances this season, this could still end up being the worst team in franchise history… at least that is something to hope for this year! All time, the Phillies are 51-60-0 on this day.

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