Eickhoff settles in after shaky first, retires 16 straight
Phillies rookie allows three early runs, but lasts six innings vs. hot-hitting Mets
By Michael Radano
Special to MLB.com |
PHILADELPHIA -- With a relatively young roster, the Phillies will be using the final six weeks of the season to gauge just what type of team they can field in 2016 and beyond.
More to the point, the last month of evaluations won't be just about successes and failures. Instead, for a team that is clearly in a rebuilding phase, the biggest concern will be how this collection of players handles both scenarios.
On Wednesday night, right-hander Jerad Eickhoff made just his second Major League start and first at Citizens Bank Park in a 9-4 loss to the National League East-leading Mets. The Mets entered the game as one of the hottest hitting teams in baseball in August and looked to bring the rookie crashing down to earth after he went six scoreless innings in his debut against the Marlins just five days ago.
"I think he was a little nervous [making his first start at home]," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "For sure, I was getting nervous [after Eickhoff's pitch count hit 40 in the first inning]. We have a strapped bullpen. We can't keep going to the bullpen every night as much as we do. Obviously, he wasn't the guy in the first inning we saw in Miami. After that, he was."
"I just needed to get settled," said Eickhoff, the team's No. 15 prospect. "The first start at home, there are some jitters. I think that's what I was getting rid of in that first inning. I knew my pitch count was up there so I just wanted to attack the zone, pitch to contact."
For Eickhoff and the Phillies, the game started ominously when center fielder Odubel Herrera dropped a fly ball deep at the warning track in left-center. The Mets scored three runs in the frame on their way to their eighth straight win over the Phillies, but Eickhoff's recovery spoke louder than the final result.
While it's hard to say one dropped ball changed the entire game, it certainly didn't help. Especially after Eickhoff used an economical 57 pitches over his final five innings.
"Those things make a difference," Mackanin said of the dropped ball. "We talk about the fact that the only ball hit hard that inning was the [Michael Cuddyer double that brought home the second run]. The fly to center was well hit, but it should have been caught.
"But the more important thing is he came out of it. As poorly as he located his pitches in that first inning, he located extremely well the rest of the game."
Eickhoff went six innings and allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits and a walk while striking out six. After the shaky first, he recorded 16 straight outs and kept the Mets guessing until a double by Michael Conforto in the sixth and a single by Juan Uribe scored the fourth run.
"After the first, I was able to get my slider over," said Eickhoff, who became the first Phillies rookie to record 16 straight outs since Mike Grace recorded 17 straight on May 12, 1996, against the Braves. "I was able to locate it off the plate when I needed to and then the occasional changeup."
"He's a pretty solid guy," Mackanin said. "He really doesn't need reinforcement. He's got a lot of confidence."
Michael Radano is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.