Eickhoff's slider key in keeping Blue Jays scoreless

Eickhoff's slider key in keeping Blue Jays scoreless

TORONTO -- 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."

Alykhan Ravjiani is a reporter for MLB.com and covered the Phillies on Monday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.