Tuesday, June 14, 2016

You Don’t Mess With The Hoff, Eh!

GAME RECAP: Phillies Shutout Blue Jays 7-0 

Ryan Howard and Odubel Herrera each homered while Jerad Eickhoff tossed six scoreless innings in the Phillies' 7-0 victory over the Blue Jays on Monday night at Rogers Centre. Herrera finished 2-for-5 with three RBIs and a run scored in his third multi-hit game of the month. Howard went deep in his first start since June 8, and he now has two home runs over his last three games. "He's fun to watch," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said of Herrera. "You just never know. He can look so bad for two pitches and then hit a home run; he can look so bad for two at-bats, and then all of a sudden, come through with a big hit off a lefty. He's amazing." Eickhoff tamed a Blue Jays lineup that came into this game red-hot. Toronto scored 30 runs over a recent four-game series against the Orioles, but it managed to put just two runners in scoring position when Eickhoff was on the mound. The 25-year-old scattered three hits and four walks while striking out five. "We have a game plan," Eickhoff said about shutting down the Blue Jays. "We kind of deviate from that or change from that as the game progresses or how I'm feeling. Especially having that fastball command, it wasn't the best that I've had, but it was enough to keep them off balance and throwing that slider was huge in those fastball counts." Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey was charged with the loss despite a strong night on the mound. He surrendered the two solo shots and left with one out and a man on base in the seventh inning. When Dickey departed the game it was 2-0, but the Phillies tacked on five more runs to snap their four-game losing streak. "It's a tough place to pitch for anybody," said Dickey, who dropped to 0-5 at home. "Both Howard's ball and Herrera were wall-scrapers here, and you usually don't lose when you give up solo home runs. I was OK with that. The pitch to Herrera was a poor pitch, the one to Howard not so much. He hit it off the end and it top-spinned over the wall."

  • The Phillies opened up a 4-0 lead in the top of the seventh after stringing together three hits and adding three runs. Howard led off the seventh inning with a solo shot, Peter Bourjos added a two-out RBI double and Herrera brought home his second run of the game with a single. Howard, who recently lost his first-base job to Tommy Joseph, started at designated hitter on Monday and hit just his second home run since May 11.
  • Herrera gave the Phillies an early 1-0 lead with his sixth home run of the season in the top of the third inning. Herrera took a 2-1 knuckleball from Dickey and sent it just over the right-field wall. According to Statcast™, Herrera's blast left the yard at 109 mph while traveling a projected 345 feet.
  • Gibbons lost his challenge in the bottom of the eighth inning. Toronto had runners on first and second with nobody out when Kevin Pillar hit a grounder to third. Philadelphia's Andres Blanco stepped on third for the first out, and then threw across the diamond for a double play. Pillar felt he beat the throw to first and the Blue Jays decided to challenge, but following a review of one minute and 19 seconds, it was ruled that the call on the field stands.
  • Tuesday's 7-0 victory was the Phillies' first shutout against an American League opponent since blanking Oakland, 3-0, on Sept. 20, 2014.
  • Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco missed Monday's series opener with a right knee sprain he sustained in Philadelphia's 5-4 loss to the Nationals on Sunday. Franco is day to day, and he could make his return to the lineup on Tuesday.
  • With a single in the first inning on Monday, Toronto outfielder Michael Saunders extended his hitting streak to seven games. Saunders has been a welcome addition to the Blue Jays' right-handed-heavy lineup after missing a majority of the 2015 season and leads the team with five three-hit games.
  • Edwin Encarnacion missed Monday's contest after sustaining a jammed right index finger in Toronto's 10-9 win against the Orioles on Sunday. Encarnacion is expected to play Tuesday and is also considered day to day.

Phillies starter Zach Eflin was all smiles as he walked into the visiting clubhouse at Rogers Centre in anticipation of his Major League debut. The 22-year-old right-hander was recalled to start Tuesday against the Blue Jays. Eflin was acquired by the Phillies as part of the deal which sent Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers in 2014, and he put together a 5-2 record with a 2.90 ERA in 11 starts at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. "It's been unbelievable," said Eflin, who had seven family members make the trip up north. "Obviously, it's a dream come true. I've always wanted this to happen ever since I was a kid, and for it to finally happen and come true is something special. I'm just really looking forward to getting out there on the mound tomorrow." The Blue Jays will counter with Marcus Stroman (5-2, 4.94 ERA), who will look to get back on track after three consecutive disappointing outings. Stroman has has not made it out of the sixth inning in each of them, while also allowing a total of 17 earned runs. Toronto's Opening Day starter has seen his ERA climb over a full run higher in that span. In seven career Interleague games (three starts), Stroman is 3-0 with a 1.72 ERA. The 25-year-old graduate of Duke University is also 10-3 with a 3.59 ERA all time at Rogers Centre.


Did He Turn The Corner? – Looking at the numbers, you'd be hard-pressed to find much fault in Jerad Eickhoff's outing against the Blue Jays. But the right-hander didn't see it that way, relying heavily on the usage of his slider to fire his second consecutive dominant performance and third straight quality start in the Phillies' 7-0 rout of the Blue Jays on Monday. In total, Eickhoff threw 30 sliders, using it to set up his fastball and as an out-pitch to silence Toronto's lineup, which came into the night having scored 21 runs in the last two games. The 25-year-old needed 26 pitches to get out of the first before modifying his approach to go deep into the game. "We have a game plan," Eickhoff said. "We kind of deviate from that or change from that as the game progresses or how I'm feeling. Especially having that fastball command, it wasn't the best that I've had, but it was enough to keep them off balance and throwing that slider was huge in those fastball counts." In total, Eickhoff managed five strikeouts and walked four over six innings, overcoming the command issues in the early frames. The Evansville, Ind., native managed to put up his 16th quality start in 21 big league outings and allowed an opponent to score one earned run or fewer for the fourth time in 13 outings this season. "I think I knew when my fastball wasn't kind of drifting off the plate a little bit, and I knew that I had to get a pitch to get them off," Eickhoff said about the deviation from his regular approach and going to his breaking stuff. "I knew it wasn't where it needed to be. This is a great team, they hit fastballs really well and I knew that coming in, so I've got to be precise with that offspeed stuff." Eickhoff's slider was also a big part of his seven-inning performance against the Cubs on Tuesday, in which he limited Chicago to a single run on two hits. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound righty heavily relied on the the pitch when initially called up to the Major Leagues last season, and he has once again found a way to integrate it aggressively into his arsenal. "I threw the slider a lot when I first came up last year, because I didn't have my curveball yet," Eickhoff said. "I was still trying to figure out that new baseball at the big league level. I reverted to that quite a bit, and I think these past couple starts have been kind of an eye-opening transition."

Taking Precautions – Phillies manager Pete Mackanin updated the status of recently injured starter Vince Velasquez and third baseman Maikel Franco prior to Philadelphia's home-and-home series opener against the Blue Jays on Monday. Velasquez left his Wednesday afternoon start against the Cubs after just two pitches, and was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Friday with a right biceps strain. "He'll be re-evaluated tomorrow and then we'll determine when he'll start throwing," Mackanin said. "He's here [in Toronto]." The 24-year-old is 5-2 with a 3.65 ERA after coming over in a trade with Houston for Ken Giles in December, and he has been a major bright spot for the Phillies' rotation this season. While no timetable has been set for a return, Mackanin insisted the team will be cautious with their young starter. "Everything's in pencil," Mackanin said. "I'm anxious to see him tomorrow." Franco, who was out of the starting lineup for Monday's contest, suffered a right knee sprain in the Phillies' 5-4 loss to the Nationals on Sunday and is day to day. Franco hurt himself in a rundown play during the fifth inning, but he stayed in the game and finished 2-for-4 with a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning. "I didn't want to chance anything today, so we'll see how he is tomorrow," Mackanin said. "There's a little bit of swelling." "I don't feel I can be able to play today, so we'll figure it out tomorrow," added Franco, who leads the Phillies in both home runs (11) and RBIs (33). "When I come in, we'll see if my leg is better and try to be ready."

Welcome To The Majors! – Prior to Monday's game, Mackanin talked to starting pitcher Zach Eflin, the newest member of the Phillies. Eflin was called up to make his Major League debut against the Blue Jays on Tuesday in the spot normally occupied by Velasquez. While the Phillies' skipper did not guarantee a long-term spot in the rotation for the 22-year-old, he did share a few words of advice. "I was in here talking to him today," Mackanin said. "I told him, 'Up here, if you make your pitches, you're going to be successful. If you make mistakes, you're going to get hit. It's as simple as that. Pitch the way you normally pitch, and if you make quality pitches, you're going to be OK.' He's got the stuff to be successful. It boils down to command and control." Originally selected by the Padres in the first round of the 2012 Draft, Eflin was acquired from the Dodgers alongside left-handed pitcher Tom Windle in December 2014 for shortstop Jimmy Rollins. The Orlando, Fla., native went 5-2 with a 2.90 ERA in 11 starts for Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Today In Phils History – Milestones and Oddities are the name of the game today beginning in 1890 when owner Al Reach took over as manager due to the temporarily blindness experienced by Harry Wright. In 1983, for some reason, manager Pat Corrales tied a MLB record by using 4 right fielders in a game. Of course, I am sure there were some additional oddities on display in 2009 when the Phillies bullpen was on display in the MLB Network show “The Pen”. Who knows maybe if they followed the current Phillies they might discover some birthday shenanigans today as Hector Neris turns 27. However, the most notable moments that happened on this day occurred in 2004 when Jim Thome connected for his 400th career homerun. 10 years later, Jimmy Rollins, who is currently a free agent, became the Phillies’ all-time hits leader with a single in the 5th, his 2,235th career hit, passing Mike Schmidt.  

The Phillies are currently 30-34 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 42-57-0 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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