Thursday, April 14, 2016

Eickhoff and Franco Silence Padres

GAME RECAP: Phillies Edge Padres 2-1

Maikel Franco hit a first-inning laser into the left-field seats and followed it with an RBI double in the third, and that was enough offense for starter Jerad Eickhoff, as the Phillies held on for a 2-1 win over the Padres on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park. Eickhoff tossed seven scoreless frames and racked up nine strikeouts. He allowed four hits and threw 64 of his 96 pitches for strikes. Eickhoff has now logged at least seven innings while allowing two runs or fewer in five of his last six starts dating to last season. "Tonight was all about Eickhoff and Franco," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "Eickhoff, I can't say enough good things about. He was in total command the entire time he was in that game. Nothing but superlatives for him today. Franco hit a couple lasers to get us the runs." Padres starter Colin Rea was much sharper than he was against Colorado on Saturday, allowing two runs -- only one earned -- over seven innings. Rea needed only 94 pitches on Wednesday, after it took him 90 to get through 3 1/3 frames against the Rockies. "I definitely felt good tonight," Rea said. "... But it stings a little bit. [Eickhoff] outpitched me tonight. Unfortunately, I made a few mistakes, and they took advantage of it."

  • The night after Phillies manager Pete Mackanin praised Charlie Morton's use of his curveball en route to seven strikeouts, Eickhoff managed to upstage his predecessor's use of the breaking pitch. He used it ahead and behind in the count but especially with two strikes, recording seven of his nine strikeouts with his swooping mid-70s hook. "It can be an unhittable pitch," Mackanin said. "He's got that ability to get a real tight rotation with good depth. ... He threw two curveballs back-to-back to strike out [Melvin Upton Jr.]. If you can do that, you're a Major League pitcher."
  • On another night when offense was hard to come by, baseball's spring breakout star delivered both runs in support of Eickhoff's gem. After slugging nine home runs in Spring Training, Franco blasted his second of the regular season over the left-field wall in the first. That extended his on-base streak to nine -- every game to start the season -- but he wasn't done. His second RBI of the night came his next time up, as he doubled in Odubel Herrera, who had singled and advanced to second on an errant throw from Padres second baseman Cory Spangenberg. "I'm feeling pretty good, hitting the ball pretty good," Franco said. "I want to continue to do that, continue to make adjustments on the pitches and try to be ready every single day."
  • "I was talking with Charlie Morton about it and was just like, 'You guys are just dueling it out against each other. It's no secret these guys are good. It seems like they're literally going to see who can do better each night." -- Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp, on Eickhoff and the staff's success.
  • Eickhoff recorded his first seven strikeouts all via his curveball. For his eighth? Ninety-five mph high cheese to Myers.
Vince Velasquez, the 23-year-old right-hander acquired as a part of the Ken Giles trade to Houston, makes his second start for the Phillies on Thursday in the series finale at 1:05 p.m. ET. It will be tough for him to top his debut, in which he went six scoreless innings and struck out nine Mets.


Impressive Outing – On the fourth pitch of the game, when Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff painted the outside corner with a 75-mph curveball to get Padres leadoff hitter Jon Jay looking, it was apparent that Eickhoff had something going on Wednesday night. That something turned out to be pinpoint control and command of his out pitch. Twenty outs later, Eickhoff had retired eight more hitters via strikeout, using his hook for all but the final two in leading the Phillies to a 2-1 win over the Padres at Citizens Bank Park. "That first inning, to get a couple curveballs over for strikes, I think that was kind of a sign in itself," said Eickhoff, who picked up his first win of the season. "Whenever I can find that curveball, since it's a feel pitch, I'm gonna go to it until the hitters tell me otherwise." Judging by his seven scoreless innings, Eickhoff never got any such word from the opposing side. It took his spot coming up in the batting order in the eighth for him to finally get pulled after 95 pitches. It wasn't until the sixth that the 25-year-old right-hander recorded any of his punchouts via any pitch but his curve. Even then, Eickhoff had already gotten ahead of Wil Myers with breaking balls, only to get Myers swinging with a 95-mph heater at the letters to end the inning. When a pitcher is as on like Eickhoff was on Wednesday night, it makes it easy on his batterymate. “When you can put your fingers down and know that he's out," catcher Cameron Rupp said, "it's fun to be back there and work with him." With Eickhoff's seven shutout innings, the Philadelphia rotation now has the lowest ERA in baseball, with a 2.50 mark in 54 innings. That's including Charlie Morton's first start on April 7, in which the Reds rocked him to the tune of five runs in the fourth inning. Prior to Eickhoff's outing, Morton pitched 6 2/3 scoreless on Tuesday. Aaron Nola struck out nine in seven innings on Monday against the Padres. Jeremy Hellickson allowed only two runs in 5 2/3 against the Mets on Sunday. And Vince Velasquez turned in arguably the Phillies' best start before this one, going six scoreless and striking out nine Mets this past Saturday. "Watching Nola go out there and do what he does, Morton last night, it's a tremendous accomplishment for those guys," Eickhoff said. "It's a privilege to be in the dugout and watch them and work off them. … I feel it's my job to do the same." Until the Padres scraped across a run in the ninth inning, the Phillies' staff hadn't allowed a run in 19 2/3 innings. "It's been very impressive," Mackanin said. "And I don't see any reason why we won't continue to pitch well for the entire season if these guys stay healthy."
Injury Updates – Although Mackanin said he was hopeful first baseman Darin Ruf would be available to pinch-hit on Tuesday, Ruf said on Wednesday that he wasn't able to lift his left arm above his shoulder. He received a cortisone shot on Tuesday and is still considered day to day with a rotator cuff contusion. "Today it feels a whole lot better," Ruf said. "I got a cortisone shot, I've taken some anti-inflammatories. So, it feels a lot better -- a lot better -- today." With left-hander Drew Pomeranz starting for the Padres on Thursday, Ruf said he's not sure if he'll be ready to regain his half of the first-base platoon with Ryan Howard. Klentak reiterated Mackanin's message from Tuesday. This time in the form of Cody Asche, saying he's in "good spirits." However, Asche (oblique) is on the same timetable as he was when he began his injury rehab. "He's likely to begin a hitting progression sometime the first week of May and then from there we'll just see how his body responds," Klentak said. "That's the one thing about obliques, you can't rush them."

Defensive Assets – Following Tuesday's 3-0 win, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin specifically referenced Tyler Goeddel's glove possibly leading to more playing time, even while his bat continues to come around. Before the third of a four-game set against the Padres on Wednesday, general manager Matt Klentak echoed and expanded on that. In his first meeting with reporters since the regular season began, Klentak said he was pleased with the way his offseason plans have transferred over to the field. "I can just look back upon what we talked about this offseason," Klentak said. "Which was trying to improve our pitching, but also improve our defense, which would in turn help the pitching." Entering Wednesday, Phillies outfielders had gone 14-for-80 (.175) to start the season. The starting rotation, however, had the highest combined wins above replacement (WAR) in baseball. Has the improved outfield defense played a part in that? It's probably too small of sample size to determine. But Klentak has seen glimpses he likes. "[Peter] Bourjos made a catch in the gap the other day that kind of doesn't get a lot of attention because it wasn't a fully stretched dive," Klentak said. "But I think the way we measure it, that's a play that the average right fielder doesn't make. And that doesn't show up in the box score, it unfortunately doesn't hit his triple slash line, but there's obviously value in that. "It's hard not to be pleased with what we've seen so far in the run prevention area." The Phillies' outfield was tied with the Rangers in defensive runs saved (DRS), with four, after the first eight games.
Weather Interruption – Thanks to northeast weather patterns -- and a schedule that included two series in upstate New York to start the season -- Philadelphia's Triple-A affiliate, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, have had a difficult time getting in games. Four of Lehigh Valley's first seven games were postponed due to weather. Two have been made up. That's given Klentak an even smaller sample size to evaluate. He said he hasn't learned anything about newly acquired outfielder Wil Venable other than the brief stint he saw at the end of Spring Training. Top prospects Jake Thompson and Mark Appel, however, have each gotten in one start, combining for 10 2/3 innings and 10 strikeouts, allowing only one earned run. "Right now, the most important thing is these guys continue to work on their development," Klentak said. "Mixing pitches, throwing strikes and putting themselves in a position where they're ready to pitch at [a Major League] level."

Today In Phils History – While today is known for pitching performances with Roy Halladay collecting his 200th win in 2013 and B.J. Rosenberg giving up homeruns to all three batters he faced the following season, it all started with 2’s today with Sherry Magee becoming the first Phillies player to hit two homeruns in a game in 1914. This feat was repeated on this day in 1931 by Chuck Klein. Ten years later, the all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, was born. In 1960, two men held the title of manager on this day as Gene Mauch took the reins after Eddie Sawyer’s resignation. That same day, Johnny Callison made his Phillies debut. Mickey Doolan (1905) and Lloyd Waner (1942) also donned the Phillies uniform for the first time on this day.

The Phillies are currently 4-5 this season putting them on pace to meet most preseason predictions. The Phillies finished the spring exceeding most expectations compiling a record of 15-11-3 (18-11-3 if you include the exhibition games against Reading and the University of Tampa). All time, the Phillies are 26-25-0 on this day. I expect the Phillies to finish in the bottom half of the division but not last in the NL East by finishing the season with a 77-85 record. Let the rebuild begin!

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