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April 18, 2016

Mets 5, Phillies 2: Syndergaard, bullpen ruin strong outing by Eickhoff

In Monday night’s starting pitching matchup, the Phillies were badly outgunned. The velocity of Jerad Eickhoff’s average fastball is a whole seven miles per hour slower than that of Noah Syndergaard.

And even though he took the loss, the 25-year-old right-hander, a minor piece in last July’s blockbuster trade that shipped Cole Hamels to Texas, continues to impress at the major-league level. Eickhoff gave up two earned runs in seven innings, part of a larger (though still fairly small), unexpected trend: He’s pitching much better than he did against worse hitters.    

 Minors 578.14.14
 Phillies 63.0

"The guy is a bulldog out there," Cameron Rupp said. "He's just as tough as any guy on any roster. He's going to go out there, he's going to compete, he knows how to work he knows how to pitch. He's got number one kind of stuff."

That is some high praise from Eickhoff's catcher less than a year after serving as a throw-in as part of the Hamels deal. Now how did that happen exactly?

"There was times in the minor leagues where you go through stretches where you don't know a lot about the other hitters and you try to think too much and give them too much credit," Eickhoff said. "I'm just trying to stay within myself and I know what I can do on a personal level to help get guys out."

Despite a strong outing by the Phils starter, the Mets took the first of a three-game set at Citizens Bank Park, 5-2. New York isn’t going to lose too many of Syndergaard’s starts when he’s supported by that many runs.

On paper, there aren’t many bigger mismatches than the gigantic Mets ace going up against a Phillies lineup that has been punchless in the season’s early going (2.62 runs per game). A towering presence on the mound, “Thor” pumped fastball after fastball… and they all had some zip on them:

"When he's locating his stuff and it's moving the way it does, it's just tough," Rupp said after an 0-3 night at the plate against Syndergaard.

The Phillies were able to manufacture their only run in the bottom of the third against Syndergaard. Freddy Galvis sent a 100 mph fastball into the left-center field gap and then stole third base. The incredibly patient Odubel Herrera (who worked his 13th walk of the season) then worked a 2-0 count, swung at a strike, and found some BABIP luck the other way.

Asked about Galvis' steal, Pete Mackanin said that the Phillies planned on being aggressive on the bases against Syndergaard.

"We tried to take advantage of that, you can steal off him because he's slow to the plate," Mackanin said. "But we didn't have enough baserunners to make that a big issue."

The Phillies' lack of baserunners has become a major issue. They have opened the season with 14 straight games without managing double-digit hits.

David Wright, who entered the game without an RBI in 33 at-bats, continued his long run of individual success at Citizens Bank Park with an oppo boppo into the right field bleachers in the first inning. Then for good measure, Wright homered to right again in the ninth to the delight of the many Mets fans in attendance.

After Eickhoff departed, David Hernandez made a mess of the eighth inning. Hernandez surrendered back-to-back homers to Lucas Duda and Neil Walker, neither of which was a cheapie. 

PITCHf/x says that Eickhoff threw 39 curveballs, and that pitch was working all evening for him. On his 100th and final pitch of the night, he threw a nasty breaking ball to strike out Wright. After the pitch, Eickhoff showed some emotion coming off the mound.

"For [Pete] to stick with me and to get out of that situation, I was really excited to get out of that," Eickhoff said.

For a team that is currently having trouble scoring and likely will continue to do so for all of 2016, Eickhoff and the other young pitchers (Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez) have the feel of players that can possibly be around when the Phillies can eventually challenge teams like Syndergaard and the Mets.


•    Mackanin had recently hinted at a change in the outfield, and that is precisely what happened on Monday. In an effort to get any offense whatsoever out of left field, the Phillies optioned Cedric Hunter (who was batting a cool .088) to Lehigh Valley while selecting the contract of David Lough. The 30-year-old outfielder had been hitting .280 in six games against International League pitching.

Lough, who batted .255/.295/.377 the last four years in the majors while splitting time between Kansas City and Baltimore, was thrown right into the fire, batting sixth. He went 1-4 in his Phillies debut, with a double off Jeurys Familia in the ninth inning.

Lough also made a great effort in left field to track down a ball hit by Duda that was tailing away from him, but Lough unfortunately couldn't hold on. The Mets took a 2-1 lead on the play.  

•    The Phillies acquired minor league outfielder Alfredo Marte from the Baltimore Orioles for a player to be named later or cash. Marte, who played in five games for Matt Klentak’s Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last season, had a .181/.249/.284 slash line in 155 career major-league at-bats.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann