September 21, 2016
Jerad Eickhoff, who along with Jeremy Hellickson appears to be one of only two starting pitchers that will stick in the Phillies rotation from Opening Day through the end of the season, has been one of baseball’s most durable and dependable young pitchers in 2016.
Eickhoff is one of just eight pitchers 26-years-old or younger to make at least 30 starts this season. Only two of those pitchers (San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner and Tampa Bay’s Jake Odorizzi) have lower ERAs.
If you needed any more proof that wins don’t tell you much (if anything) any more about a starting pitcher (particularly one on a second division team), then all you had to do was look at the 10-14 record that accompanied Eickhoff’s name on the pregame scorecard at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night, when he was pitted against Chicago White Sox left-hander and American League Cy Young favorite Chris Sale.
Eickhoff’s 14 losses were tied for the most in the National League. Eickhoff, like Cole Hamels before him, could easily have a half dozen more wins in a Phillies uniform.
Entering Wednesday, Eickhoff had received just 72 runs of support in his 180 1/3 innings; his 3.59 runs of support per nine innings ranked third lowest in baseball.
The Phils had scored two runs or fewer in 18 of his 30 starts. He has been tagged with 10 losses this season when allowing three earned runs or fewer, the most of any major league pitcher in 2016.
So, of course, the Phillies offense was going to come through for the young right-hander against the formidable Sale, right? Actually, that’s exactly what happened.
Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp ripped back-to-back doubles off Sale in the first inning and Joseph ripped a two-run home run in the third as the Phillies chased the White Sox ace en route to a 8-3 victory, finishing off a sweep of the two-game series at Citizens Bank Park.
"Well, that was nice," manager Pete Mackanin said afterward of watching his offense (fewest runs in baseball) beat up a pitcher who is arguably the best in his league. "I didn’t go into that game thinking we were going to score like that. But it was nice to see the guys step up. They did a real good job."
Sale allowed more runs in the first three innings on Wednesday than he had in 25 of his 29 starts this year entering the night. Sale, who had allowed two runs or fewer in 17 of those starts, was gone after four innings; it was his second-shortest start of the season.
Joseph, who drove in three runs and scored two more while Sale was in the game, called Wednesday night a "confidence booster" for a Phillies offense that went on the attack against the gangly lefty.
"I was just trying to attack strikes," Joseph said. "He’s a good enough pitcher where if he gets ahead of you, he’s going to make you pay. So that was our collective gameplan as a team, to capitalize on his mistake early in the count."
Sale, who has lead the American League in hit batsmen in each of the last two seasons, hit a career-high three batters on Wednesday, including rookie Roman Quinn twice.
"I just sucked," Sale said afterward. "Everyone is entitled to have a bad night and tonight was mine, unfortunately. It would have been nice to sneak out of here with a win, but I was just awful tonight."
Sale certainly didn’t look like himself. Eickhoff, meanwhile, continued his quietly consistent first full season in the big leagues.
The 26-year-old right-hander held the White Sox to three solo home runs: Adam Eaton swatted the game’s second pitch over the fence in right, and Todd Frazier went back-to-back with Alex Avila in the seventh.
In between those home runs, Eickhoff retired 17 of the 21 batters he faced, giving up a walk and three harmless singles. Eickhoff struck out six and walked one on Wednesday, earning his 11th win of the season.
"He pitched very well," Mackanin said. "For him to start the season (2-8) and have an 11-14 record is really outstanding. He’s been really consistent for us. ... He could easily have 15, 16 wins – if not more. He’s been our mainstay, him and Hellickson have really been consistent for us."
Eickhoff has held the opposition to three runs or fewer in 25 of his 31 starts this season. When the Phillies have managed to score three or more runs for him this season, they are 12-1.
With more nights likes Wednesday, both Eickhoff and the Phillies could certainly have had a few more of those win things.
"He seems to go up against the ace of every staff as well," Joseph said. "To get him run support meant a lot for us. And I’m sure it meant something for him as well."
No update on Tyler Goeddel, but my very educated guess is a concussion will keep him sidelined for what remains of 2016 season. pic.twitter.com/hjIjuBO4jF— Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) September 22, 2016
• Tyler Goeddel was struck on the head with a 93-MPH pitch from Chicago reliever Chris Beck in the sixth inning of Wednesday's game. The pitch knocked Goeddel's helmet off and sent him immediately to the ground in one of the scarier scenes at Citizens Bank Park in recent memory.
Goeddel attempted to get up after a few seconds, but then thought better of it and laid back down. He was eventually escorted off the field by the Phillies training staff and replaced with Obubel Herrera.
"He’s a little sore," Mackanin said after the game. "He’s dressed and walking around, but they’re in the process of evaluating him. We’ll know more tomorrow."
• Cesar Hernandez (2-for-4 with a triple, a walk, RBI, and two runs) has reached base safely in a career-high 26 consecutive games. It's the longest streak by a Phillies player since the man he replaced at second base, Chase Utley, reached in 28 straight games from June 21 to July 26, 2011.
Now if Hernandez can only work on his stolen base success rate, which is currently one of the worst in the last 100 years.
• Tommy Joseph's home run was his 21st of the season, tying former Rookie of the Year Scott Rolen for the most by a Phillies rookie over the last 45 years. Only Ryan Howard (with 22 home runs in 2005) has hit more as a rookie since 1972.
Joseph, who entered the night with a .310 OBP on the season, finished up a successful homestand that saw him bring a .560 OBP in a seven-game span (the highest in baseball since Sept. 12) into Wednesday night's game.
"That’s something I need to do better," said Joseph, who went 2-for-5 with a double and a home run Wednesday. "That’s what I want to do, I want to be one of those elite hitters, and a high on-base percentage comes with the territory."