Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Phillies Stave Off Cubs For The Win

GAME RECAP: Phillies Control Cubs 3-2

The Phillies needed brilliant efforts from Jerad Eickhoff and Jeanmar Gomez to beat the Cubs on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park. Both delivered in a 3-2 victory over Chicago, preventing a season sweep, as the teams play the series and season finales Wednesday. Eickhoff allowed just two hits, one run, two walks and struck out eight over seven innings to give the Phillies just their fifth victory in their last 18 games. The Cubs threatened in the eighth inning when they loaded the bases with no outs, but Gomez replaced Hector Neris and allowed only one run to score to work out of the jam as he picked up his Major League-leading 19th save. "Wow," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "That was just a little loss for the Cubs, but it was a huge morale booster for us." Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard homered in his first start since May 31 to help the Phillies' offense. "It's good," Howard said. "I wasn't thinking about the week or the past 10 days, I was just thinking about that moment. I got a good pitch to hit, he hung me a breaking ball and I was able to hit it out."

  • Eickhoff pitched a gem in a game the Phillies sorely needed. It was just the third time this season a starter had pitched seven or more innings and allowed one or fewer runs against the high-octane Cubs offense. Eickhoff, who has a 2.76 ERA (10 earned runs in 32 2/3 innings) in his last five starts, struck out six of seven batters at one point. "He just made pitches," Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward said. "All night I feel like we had good at-bats, got to 3-2 counts a lot. He was able to make some pitches and that was kinda it. We faced him recently. Hitters adjust, but he was able to make an adjustment tonight.
  • Things looked bleak for the Phillies in the eighth when the Cubs loaded the bases with no outs, thanks to a Cesar Hernandez error and a couple hits allowed by Neris. But Gomez entered the game to pick up a six-out save and came up big. He allowed a sacrifice fly for the first out. Jason Heyward then hit a smash to Andres Blanco, who had just replaced Hernandez at second base. Blanco flipped the ball to Freddy Galvis, who threw to first to complete an incredible inning-ending and game-saving double play. "I said, this is the guy I want to face the top of that lineup right now," Galvis said about Gomez. "He trusts his stuff. His ball has a lot of movement right now. He controls the ball. That's why he is so good."
  • "Nobody believes it. I was talking to Whitey [Blanco] and Jeanmar. This is going to sound weird, but he has no emotions. He's like really chill when he pitches." -- Galvis, on what has made Gomez so effective as the team's closer.
  • Howard has been a hot topic of conversation lately as Mackanin benched him last week and a fan threw a beer bottle at him Saturday. But Howard, starting for the first time since May 31, hit a solo home run to right-center field in the fourth inning to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead. It was his 366th career homer, which ties him with Lance Berkman for 80th on the all-time list.
  • Cubs reliever Clayton Richard caught Odubel Herrera between first and second on a pickoff move in the eighth inning. Herrera sped toward second after Richard tossed the ball to first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo fired a throw to beat Herrera to second, but Herrera dodged Zobrist's tag. The Cubs challenged and it took 2 minutes, 45 seconds to uphold the call. Maddon is now 7-for-15 on challenges this season.
Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez starts the series finale at 1:05 p.m. ET against the Cubs. Velasquez (5-2, 3.67 ERA) has not pitched more than five innings in each of his previous four starts, posting a 6.00 ERA.


There’s A New Hoff In Town – If the Phillies had any chance to beat the Cubs this season, they needed one of their starting pitchers to pitch nearly perfectly. Jerad Eickhoff came close Tuesday night in a 3-2 victory at Citizens Bank Park. He allowed two hits, one run, two walks and struck out eight in seven innings. It was just the third time this season a starter had allowed one or fewer runs in seven or more innings against the high-octane Cubs offense. "That's as good as he's been all year," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. Eickhoff struck out seven batters through four innings. He struck out the side in the fourth, giving him six strikeouts in seven at-bats. It helped that he showed the Cubs a bit of a different look. Eickhoff threw a career-high 28 sliders. His previous high had been 25, which came in his previous start. He struck out three batters on the pitch Tuesday. He had struck out just five batters on sliders the entire season entering the night. Eickhoff's best pitch is his curveball. He entered the game with 40 strikeouts on that pitch. But the slider was working well Tuesday, so he kept with it. It has been a conscious effort on his part. It began a few starts ago following a conversation with Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure, and another talk with Phillies broadcaster Larry Andersen. Eickhoff threw his slider just 6.1 percent of the time in April and 14 percent of the time in May. That number is up to 26.6 percent through two June starts. "That was kind of the spark," Eickhoff said. "To key them off my fastball and curveball. It's a huge thing to think about, just a third pitch for the hitters."

Tough Save – Freddy Galvis looked up at the scoreboard in the top of the eighth inning Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park to see exactly who Phillies closer Jeanmar Gomez needed to beat with the bases loaded and no outs to pick up his 19th save of the season. He had to face the top of the Cubs' lineup with the Phillies holding a two-run lead. "I said, this is the guy I want to face the top of that lineup right now," Galvis said after a dramatic 3-2 victory. "He trusts his stuff. His ball has a lot of movement right now. He controls the ball. That's why he is so good." Gomez, who replaced Hector Neris, got Dexter Fowler to hit a sacrifice fly to left field for the first out. He then got Jason Heyward to hit a bullet to Phillies second baseman Andres Blanco, who replaced Cesar Hernandez in a double switch. Blanco slid to his right, backhanded the ball and flipped it to Galvis at second base. Galvis caught the relay, avoided the slide from Javier Baez and threw to first baseman Ryan Howard for the inning-ending and game-saving double play. "I don't give Gomez the only save," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "I give Freddy and Blanco one, for turning that double play in the eighth inning. Wow. That was a special play." Blanco told Galvis afterward that he just wanted to knock down the ball. He did better than that and made a perfect flip. "I just tried to get away from the runner," Galvis said. "We were talking about the new rule at second base. If this happened last year, he might have killed me right there, you know?" Gomez pitched a scoreless ninth. The guy who entered the season as a middle reliever suddenly leads Major League Baseball in saves. "I didn't know what role I would have," Gomez said. "I just try to be ready." "Nobody believes it," Galvis said. "I was talking to Whitey [Blanco] and Jeanmar. This is going to sound weird, but he has no emotions. He's like really chill when he pitches. Whatever happens, happens. He's a Christian guy, so when he goes to the mound he says, 'I'm here, I'm going to throw the ball and that's it.' He has no emotions, so he's controlling himself in that moment. It's really good to have a closer without emotions like that. He can stay in the game, even if he gives up a homer or something like that. He stays in the game." And most of the time when he is pitching with a lead in the ninth, the Phillies win.

Defense Only Does So Much – The biggest reason the Phillies acquired Peter Bourjos in the offseason is they loved his defense. But his stellar defense and its benefits to a young pitching staff no longer outweigh his offensive struggles. "Unfortunately, yes," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "We were just talking about that. He has got to make a drastic change to his approach offensively. Because he just has that tendency to pull off the ball too much." Bourjos, who started 43 of the team's first 51 games, has started just one of the last eight after starting on the bench Tuesday night because he is hitting .196 with a .511 OPS in 158 plate appearances. There are 215 hitters with 150 or more plate appearances this season. According to FanGraphs, Bourjos' offensive production is next-to-last in baseball, above only Erick Aybar. Bourjos' wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) is 34. Aybar's is 13. According to Baseball Savant, 42.5 percent of pitches thrown to Bourjos this season have been breaking balls, which ranks eighth in baseball among 238 hitters that have seen 500 or more pitches this season. "Well, you know, he's got to make an adjustment," Mackanin said about Bourjos seeing a steady diet of breaking balls. "I love his defense. He has to make adjustments mechanically like a lot of our guys." Of course, Bourjos made a fine defensive play in the ninth inning in Tuesday's 3-2victory over the Cubs. He cut off a ball in right-center field to prevent the tying run from scoring. "Not too many right fielders would have cut that ball off in right-center like Bourjos did," Mackanin said. "I give him a save, as well. Defense really saved us."

Can’t Blame The Coaches – Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has talked plenty lately about his hitters' approach at the plate. He sees Maikel Franco and Peter Bourjos pulling off the ball. He sees Ryan Howard and Freddy Galvis chasing too many pitches outside the strike zone. He sees Cesar Hernandez mishandling offspeed pitches. Their struggles, among others, are why the Phillies rank 29th in baseball, averaging 3.24 runs per game. But Mackanin made it clear Tuesday he thinks Phillies hitting coach Steve Henderson is delivering the proper message to his hitters. "I listen to him, and I go in the cage and I watch what they're doing, and they are doing exactly what they need to be doing," Mackanin said. "And in the cage, they do it. The hard part is taking it into a game. You can only teach so much. "I've said this many times, but I can't teach you how to ride a bike. You got to get on it and feel it. Ice skate, I can't teach you how to ice skate. I can tell you how to tie your skates and push off, but you've got to figure it out." Coaches can be easy scapegoats, regardless of a team's expectations or talent level. Mackanin knows a coach can only do so much. "If you're a hitting coach and you're teaching a guy to do something, and he does it in the cage over and over again and then in the game he doesn't bring it, all you can do is show him the video," Mackanin said. "'Look it, you're not doing it. Let's do it.' And then they take it out into batting practice and do it and then in a game; it's uncomfortable. "It's like teaching a guy a [split-finger fastball]. On the side he says 'OK, that feels good.' Is he going to throw it in the game? Is he going to push it? Is he going to let it go? It's hard to do, but if you want to improve you've got to do it. If you don't do it, you're not going to improve."

Today In Phils History – It is all about the 2’s today. It starts in 1914 when Fred Luderus hit two home runs with the first being the result of the ball getting lodged in a hole in the brick wall for an inside-the-park home run. In 1968, outfielder Howie Bedell hit a sacrifice fly to collect his only RBI of the season which also ended Don Drysdale's record scoreless innings streak at 58 2/3 innings. While not known as a power hitter by any stretch of the imagination, Steve Jeltz hit 2 homeruns, 1 from each side of the plate, to lead the Phillies back from a 10 run deficit in 1989 against the Pirates. 7 years later, in the 1st Phillies game shown on the Fox Network, Jim Eisenreich hit 2 homers in the loss to Houston. And, finally, the Phillies got 2 for 1 in 2005, when they traded Placido Polanco to Detroit for Ugueth Urbina and Ramon Martinez.

The Phillies are currently 29-30 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 48-57-0 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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