Eickhoff's solid debut has Phils encouraged

Eickhoff's solid debut has Phils encouraged

NEW YORK -- All things considered, the Phillies' rotation has been the team's lone bright spot this season. Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff allowed three runs (two earned) in five-plus innings Friday afternoon in a 7-2 loss to the Mets at Citi Field.

"He doesn't look as sharp as I've seen him," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "But he still only gave up two earned runs, which is fine."

Following a spring that began with a broken right thumb, Eickhoff pitched better than perhaps expected. The Phillies will take it. Their starters have a 3.74 ERA in four games, but because of a poor bullpen and a struggling offense, the team is 0-4 for the first time since 2006. The Phillies need Vince Velasquez to pitch well Saturday night to avoid their first 0-5 start since 1934.

Eickhoff struggled early, throwing 50 pitches in his first two innings. He hit Michael Conforto with a pitch to start the second and loaded the bases with no outs. Freddy Galvis dropped an easy catch at second on a potential double-play ball, putting runners at first and second. Eickhoff then walked Travis d'Arnaud to load the bases.

But Eickhoff battled.

He got Jacob deGrom to ground into a fielder's choice as Conforto scored to make it 1-0. But Curtis Granderson popped out and David Wright grounded out to end the inning. Eickhoff threw just 28 pitches over his next three innings, retiring 12 of 13 batters in one stretch.

But a double from Lucas Duda, a single from Neil Walker and a Conforto double gave the Mets a 3-1 lead and ended Eickhoff's night.

Eickhoff left the game encouraged that he is close to where he was last season, when he had a 2.65 ERA in eight starts as a rookie.

"Yeah, I think so," Eickhoff said. "I threw a bullpen [session earlier this week] in Cincinnati. There were some pitches there where it was like, 'OK, that's it, that's where I need to be.' I think I threw some out there today. It's just I couldn't find it more than I'd like to, so it was kind of frustrating. But I'm happy to get through it and be healthy on the backside."

The bullpen is not healthy. It allowed four runs in three innings. It has a 12.66 ERA (15 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings).

"Our starters have done a really good job up to this point," Mackanin said. "That's what we were trying to go for up to this point. It's been working very well. We're not the best-hitting team in the league, but we're certainly better than what we're showing. We just need to get something going. I need to keep everybody positive and not get down on themselves. Everybody is trying so hard."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.