Sunday, June 19, 2016

Closer But Still A Loss

GAME RECAP: Diamond Backs Shut Down Phillies 4-1 

Zack Greinke extended his winning streak to seven as he tossed eight outstanding innings to lead the D-backs past the Phillies, 4-1, on Saturday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. Greinke (10-3) has won seven straight starts and on Saturday, after he allowed a first-inning homer to Odubel Herrera, he did not allow another hit until Andres Blanco led off the seventh with a single. Overall, the right-hander allowed three hits and a walk to go with six strikeouts. "I threw a lot of strikes, and there were a lot of balls put in play early," Greinke said. "There were a couple of longer at-bats that got the pitch count up a little bit. But mainly just attacking the zone and trying to get balls put in play weakly." The Phillies had a 1-0 lead until the fifth when Nick Ahmed tied things up with his fourth homer of the year. Later in the inning, Paul Goldschmidt hit a two-run blast and Jake Lamb added a solo homer in the seventh to cap the scoring.

  • Eickhoff started the game strong. He struck out four batters in the first two innings and didn't allow a run until the fifth. The first time Peter O'Brien -- who hit two home runs in Friday's 10-2 game -- stepped to the plate, Eickhoff sent him a fastball up and in. He threw a couple more on the inside corner and continued to attack the inside portion of the plate for much of game. "That's what I've always done," Eickhoff said. "Going inside is important, and I feel like I do that. I was able to do that for the most part today." Even in the final two innings, Eickhoff and Phillies manager Pete Mackanin felt he was still attacking. Instead, Eickhoff blamed balls finding the holes, as he gave up two homers. Mackanin said he thought Eickhoff lost his command the final two innings, so he eventually turned to Andrew Bailey with the bases loaded and two outs. "He could've gotten out of it, but I chose not to leave him in there," Mackanin said. "Bailey did a nice job bailing him out, going right after the hitter. I hate bringing a guy in with the bases loaded, but I felt like I had to."
  • The Phillies set a franchise record in Friday's game, allowing their 17th home run over four games. The pattern continued into Saturday. Although the Phils did not join the 1977 Yankees as the only team to allow at least five home runs in three consecutive games, they came only two shy, with Eickhoff surrendering two in the fifth (becoming the sixth Phillies player to allow multiple home runs in an inning since Tuesday). Mackanin sees a disheartening trend in that a number of the home runs have come on two-strike counts. Both Goldschmidt and Lamb's blasts came with two strikes, 0-2 and 1-2, respectively. "It boils down to being able to command your slider or your breaking ball or secondary pitch or fastball up and in," Mackanin said. "You have to command that pitch, and if you leave it out over the plate, you get burned."
  • When Mackanin made out the lineup card Saturday, Maikel Franco was penciled in the lowest spot he'd hit this season, sixth. It also included, in an attempt to stimulate the offense, Cody Asche hitting leadoff for the first time in his pro career and Herrera out of the top spot for the first time since April 19. But Mackanin's message was to Franco. After Friday's game, he said he believes Franco is getting into his own head and that he was going to move him down significantly. Mackanin kept his word, but it didn't help his young third baseman. Franco came to the plate as the tying run with one out in the seventh. Blanco stood on third and Jimmy Paredes on second. Greinke fell behind 3-0 to Franco. Yet, the at-bat ended with Franco's helmet on the dirt of the batter's box after he struck out swinging on a 3-2 curve from Greinke. "We sure need his bat," Mackanin said. "We need him to be what he's capable of. For some reason, he just got out of sync. He's not giving us disciplined, professional at-bats right now. Partially I think that's because he's overanxious, and he feels he needs to do too much." Franco denied that he was pressing, but he admitted that he might be over-swinging at times. "It's totally frustrating for everybody," Franco said. "You wanna do something, you want to go out there with energy and everything like that. Nothing good is happening right now. It's frustrating for everybody."
Zach Eflin (0-1, 27.00) will make his first career start at Citizens Bank Park at 1:35 p.m. ET. In his Major League debut against the Blue Jays in Toronto, Eflin didn't make it out of the third, allowing nine runs on nine hits while serving up three home runs. The 22-year-old right-hander is ranked as the Phillies' No. 13 prospect by


Eickhoff Improving – Jerad Eickhoff got ahead no balls, two strikes on Peter O'Brien with no outs in the second. Then he sent a message. On the third pitch, Eickhoff fired a 91-mph fastball up and in. O'Brien dipped and dove out of the way, but Eickhoff made it clear: He was going to own the inside part of the plate in the Phillies' 4-1 loss to the D-backs on Saturday. "That's what I've always done," Eickhoff said. "Going inside is important, and I feel like I do that. I was able to do that for the most part today." Manager Pete Mackanin had been disappointed with the lack of aggressiveness his pitchers have shown, speculating that it contributed to the 20 home runs the staff has allowed over the last five games. Adam Morgan agreed after not making it out of the fifth inning in his start on Friday. Eickhoff was not deterred from the inner third, though. He continued to attack O'Brien inside, setting him up for a sweeping slider over the plate that the D-backs' rookie whiffed at. Eickhoff struck out O'Brien twice more before leaving the game after 5 2/3, having allowed three runs on nine hits. Through four innings, the 25-year-old right-hander had yet to surrender a run and had recorded five of his six strikeouts. He was pitching with moxie and challenging D-backs hitters, who had mustered no more than singles off him. The fifth inning wasn't the same story. Nick Ahmed kicked off the scoring with a home run to left-center. Jean Segura followed with a single, and Paul Goldschmidt brought him home with Arizona's second blast of the inning. It was the sixth time in five games a Phillies pitcher allowed multiple home runs in an inning. But neither Mackanin nor Eickhoff felt the starter backed off. "I went after them like I had the whole game," Eickhoff said. "Balls just found the holes, and that's kind of what I'm looking at it as." Where Mackanin felt Eickhoff faltered was with his command in the sixth inning, which he did not make it out of. After loading the bases, Mackanin pulled Eickhoff with two outs, calling on Andrew Bailey to erase the threat. "He could've gotten out of it, but I chose not to leave him in there," Mackanin said. "Bailey did a nice job bailing him out, going right after the hitter. I hate bringing a guy in with the bases loaded, but I felt like I had to." Eickhoff has been the lone bright spot on a starting staff that had an 8.45 ERA over their last eight games before Saturday. That number included Eickhoff's six shutout innings in Toronto. Over his last four starts, Eickhoff has gone 25 1/3 innings, allowing six runs (2.13 ERA). In comparison, twice in the last week, other Phillies starters allowed at least that many runs in a single start. On Saturday, Eickhoff offered an example of what it will take to turn it around.

Pitch, Hit, & Run At CBP – Of more than 600,000 Scotts Pitch, Hit & Run participants nationwide, 23 descended on Citizens Bank Park on Saturday morning to determine the Phillies' team champions and compete for a possible trip to San Diego for the MLB All-Star Game. The 23 competitors consisted of three baseball and softball participants each in the 7/8, 9/10, 11/12 and 13/14 age divisions. Those lucky enough to play on the same field as the Phillies got there by beating our hundreds of others at eight Delaware Valley sectional competitions. To move on to Petco Park for National Finals -- which will take place prior to the T-Mobile Home Run Derby on July 11 -- a player must finish in the top three in the age group nationwide. The winner of the baseball 13-14 division, Karim Mullen Jr., has high hopes of making it to San Diego, but just playing at Citizens Bank Park was exciting enough for him. "It's very cool," Mullen said. "I've never experienced something like this before." Softball isn't even Amelia Atkins' favorite sport. It takes second place to horseback riding for the Chester Springs, Pa., native. But that didn't stop her from showing off her skills and winning the 7-8 softball division. Atkins, like every one of the eight first-place finishers, said Ryan Howard is her favorite player. The slugger's recent struggles haven't overshadowed his community involvement and role on the Phillies' division-winning ballclubs. Mullen wears No. 6 because of Howard. "I play first base, he plays first base," Mullen said. "He hits home runs, I hit home runs." Scott's Pitch, Hit & Run is part of Major League Baseball's Play Ball initiative, a partnership program with USA Baseball that encourages widespread participation in all forms of baseball activities among all age groups, especially youth. This marks the 20th year of the Pitch, Hit & Run competition. List of the winners, by age group: Baseball 7-8: Tyler Reinhart (Lebanon, Pa.); Softball 7-8: Amelia Atkins (Chester Springs, Pa.); Baseball 9-10: Bronson Kilmer (South Gibson, Pa.); Softball 9-10: Meghan Fisher (Dauphin, Pa.); Baseball 11-12: Callan Fang (Yardley, Pa.); Softball 11-12: Abby Tobelman (Gap, Pa.); Baseball 13-14: Karim Mullen Jr. (Philadelphia); Softball 13-14: Zoey Gross (Mays Landing, N.J.).

Today In Phils History – Double trouble seems to be a trend on this day in Phillies history beginning in 1927 when Jack Scott started both games on the mound of a double header against Cincinnati going the distance in both the earlier win and latter loss. 2 years later, the Phillies and Giants completed a double header in 7 hours and 42 minutes (the longest double header of the decade) with the Phillies dropping both games. The only faceoff between Hall of Famers Jim Bunning and Tom Seaver happened on this day in 1970 with Seaver dominating the Phillies while Bunning lasting only 2 batters. The following year, Larry Bowa recorded 2 stolen bases on a single play as he reached third on the double steal and advanced home when Oscar Gamble got caught in a rundown (Gamble also reached second safely thanks to Bowa’s aggressiveness). Some of the other notable occurrences include Willie Jones inside the park grand slam in 1951 and Randy Wolf surrendering a homerun in what would be the last in a team record 12 straight starts in which they allowed a homerun.   

The Phillies are currently 30-39 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 47-55-0 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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