Monday, May 23, 2016

Phillies Bounce Back To Avoid Sweep

GAME RECAP: Phillies Blank Braves 5-0

Jerad Eickhoff reverted back to the game plan that got him in trouble his last start in Atlanta, but he faced no such problems Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. Sticking to his fastball-curve combo, Eickhoff went seven shutout innings in a Phillies' 5-0 win to avoid a series sweep for the first time since Philadelphia lost four straight to open the season. Though the Braves claimed their second series win of the season, this shutout loss denied their bid to split a 10-game trip that also included stops in Kansas City and Pittsburgh. "The biggest thing was the fastball command," Eickhoff said. "I had plans to do some other things, honestly, early on. But my command was so good that I kind of just stuck with the fastball." Where Eickhoff was efficient, Braves starter Casey Kelly was the opposite. Called up from Triple-A Gwinnett to make a spot start, he hit two Phillies and threw another wild pitch to the backstop. He left after five innings having allowed three Philadelphia runs. "We just couldn't get anything going offensively," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I thought [Kelly] did a really good job of keeping us in the game."

  • Two Friday night doubles had amounted to all the extra-base hits the Phillies had this series entering Sunday's finale. But Odubel Herrera set the tone against Kelly, doubling on a liner to left-center to lead off the game. Cameron Rupp followed the next inning with a solo shot, and the Phils added a pair of three-baggers. They tripled twice in a game for the first time this season and recorded more than three extra-base hits for the eighth time in 44 games. Philadelphia hadn't scored five runs since May 12, and Sunday marked only the ninth time this season it's scored five or more in a game. "It was good to see the guys get some hits," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "Yesterday two hits, today, what, 13? … We swung the bats pretty good today."
  • Just two starts ago, Eickhoff faced the Braves in Atlanta and experienced far different results. It took him 76 pitches, only to get knocked out after 4 1/3 innings, giving up four runs. On Sunday, his fastball velocity was down from his bounceback outing against Miami, and he rarely touched his slider or changeup, but it took him only nine more pitches to get through seven than it did 4 1/3 last time against Atlanta. He blanked the Braves for seven innings, striking out three. "He was locating his fastball," Mackanin added. "He was really efficient early in the game. He threw a lot of pitches those last two innings, but I liked the command of his fastball."

Philadelphia heads to Detroit for its first series in an American League ballpark this season. The Phils swept Cleveland at home in their only other Interleague matchup thus far. Vince Velasquez (5-1, 2.42) faces Mike Pelfrey (0-4, 5.49) in the series opener Monday.


Return To Form – Jerad Eickhoff closed out the Phillies' homestand by going seven scoreless innings, turning in one of his best games of the season en route to a 5-0 win over the Braves. "That's the guy we're used to seeing," manager Pete Mackanin said. After mixing in his heaviest slider use of the season his last time out against Miami, Eickhoff eliminated the pitch almost completely from his repertoire. He did the same to his changeup, which he only threw twice in 85 pitches. Sound familiar? It's the same formula that got him into trouble two starts ago, the last time he faced Atlanta. On May 11, the Braves knocked Eickhoff out after 4 1/3, his shortest start of the season. They laid into him for seven hits and four runs, while only striking out twice. Atlanta was able to sit back on Eickhoff's low-90s fastball and curveball. Mackanin and Eickhoff both pointed to a lack of fastball command as the reason for the poor start. After Eickhoff's brilliance on Sunday, they again looked to the heater for answers. "I had really good fastball command today," Eickhoff said. "That's something that I've been trying to get back to. … I think I was able to do that for the most part today." "He was locating his fastball," Mackanin added. "He was really efficient early in the game. He threw a lot of pitches those last two innings, but I liked the command of his fastball." Eickhoff zoomed through the first five innings, needing only 46 pitches to record 15 outs. Only two Braves reached base, both via singles. One, Daniel Castro, was stranded on second. The other, Freddie Freeman, provided the front-end of a Nick Markakis-induced double play. The Braves worked Eickhoff harder for his final two innings -- their third time around the order facing him. Entering Sunday, opponents' batting average against Eickhoff in their third plate appearance against him jumped to .362 from .219 in their second trips to the plate. Their on-base-plus-slugging percentage went up from .627 to 1.116. Despite that track record, Eickhoff still blanked them for his final two innings -- though it took him almost as many pitches to finish the sixth and seventh (39) as it did to get through five (46). More Braves reached base in his last two frames than his first five, but Eickhoff was resilient and lasted until Mackanin lifted him for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh. Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez again shut the door in the eighth and ninth, and the Phillies combined to pitch their seventh shutout of the season -- the most in baseball.

Today In Phils History – As Cesar Hernandez celebrated his first birthday in 1991, Tommy Greene was on the mound no-hitting a formidable Expos lineup (in only his 15th major league start). 60 years earlier, Phillies pitcher Jim Elliot was thrown out at first by Dodgers right fielder Babe Herman. Finally, it was on this day that Phillies outfielder John Titus broke his ankle sliding into home plate… and yet they didn’t change the rules.

The Phillies are currently 25-19 this season putting them on pace to beat 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 43-50-0 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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