Jerad Eickhoff entered his start against the Brewers tonight having allowed only five earned runs over 30 IP this season. He had been even better at home, allowing only a single earned run in 16 IP. Strong to quite strong, I’d say.
None of that, however, mattered to the Brewers. Not at all.
Milwaukee had five runs across the plate by the third inning thanks to a pair of blasts by Yasmani Grandal and Ryan Braun—the first two homers Eickhoff allowed this season. Grandal’s three-run shot was a 399 foot rocket that opened the scoring:
— FOX Sports Wisconsin (@fswisconsin) May 14, 2019
Not an egregiously poor pitch, but that’s too much plate for an 89.6 mph fastball. After the game, Eickhoff talked about it:
“Yeah, I mean. I’m trying to go up. I’m trying to go fastball up after a curveball, and looking back, I executed it,” Eickhoff said. “I’d have rather had it a little more inside, but I missed up, which is what you want to do, and he put a good swing on it.”
That he did.
An inning later, Braun, who is STILL killing the Phillies, launched his 14th career home run at Citizens Bank Park to make it 5-0.
Can we talk about this guy for a minute?
I guess this probably doesn’t come as a surprise, but Braun entered the night with the best batting average at Citizens Bank Park of any player with at least 135 career at-bats. Dude came in hitting .410 with a 1.257 OPS in this stadium. For his career, he now has 25 homers and 71 RBI in 74 games against the Phillies. Multiply that pace out and it equates to roughly 54 homers and 155 RBI over a 162-game regular season. Amazing.
Hey, speaking of amazing, it’s pretty crazy how Braun is still having so much success at age 35, you know? Makes you wonder.
As for Eickhoff, whose ERA ballooned by more than a full run from 1.50 to 2.65, he lasted only four innings, allowing a season-high five runs as well as a season-high eight hits. After the game, Gabe Kapler had a concise explanation for his starter’s struggles.
“The curveball was just not biting like it normally does,” Kapler said. “Stayed up a little bit. Just didn’t have his best command tonight.”
It was the second straight night the Phillies found themselves in an early multi-run hole, but unlike last night, they couldn’t work themselves out of it.
It’s not like they were without opportunities early on. Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff struggled with his command, walking five batters over his first three innings of work, but a Phillies lineup that came into the night leading the National League with a .278 team average with runners in scoring position uncharacteristically failed to deliver a blow while Woodruff was on the ropes.
J.T. Realmuto popped out to second base to end a first inning threat and lined into a tough-luck double play with two men on in the third. Andrew McCutchen, who is only 5 for 24 (.208) with RISP this season, weakly bounced out on a first-pitch swing to kill a second inning rally. That’s about as close as the Phillies would get.
Woodruff would settle in, retiring the final 10 hitters he faced on his way to completing six shutout innings. The Phillies’ lone hit through seven innings came via a first inning infield single off the bat of Jean Segura. They wouldn’t get their second hit of the evening until a Nick Williams leadoff base-hit in the eighth, which snapped a string of 13 straight hitters retired by Brewers pitching.
Fittingly, things came full circle with the Phillies trailing 6-1 in the ninth. Williams came to the plate with two outs following a César Hernandez single and Maikel Franco double, but flew out weakly, bringing the Phillies to 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position. That kind of night.
General manager Matt Klentak expressed confidence prior to the game that Harper will soon break out of his prolonged slump, but that didn’t happen tonight. After drawing a pair of walks (his NL-leading 32nd and 33rd of the year), Harper struck out twice (his ML-leading 55th and 56th of the year), dropping his average to an ugly .219. He’s now 7 for 42 (.167) with 18 strikeouts and only one home run this month.
He did, however, again play some stellar defense in right field:
Bryce Harper slides and makes a great catch but gets up limping.
After a check with the trainer, he will remain in the game. pic.twitter.com/r5ebGV7gyb
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) May 15, 2019
He was dinged up on the play, but would stay in the game. After it was over, Kapler was asked if he gave any consideration to removing Harper with the Phillies trailing by five runs.
“I probably would have if I thought there was any risk there and that was really what I was going after. Always looking to see if there’s any–if you’re putting a player in any further danger,” he said. “But it was him banging his knee, not twisting it, or anything like that. So, (assistant athletic trainer) Sean [Fcasni] and I talked about it. I asked Bryce, he said ‘I’m totally fine.’ I said, ‘you promise?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I’m good to go.’ And then he proved it. He’s a fighter. He’s everything you want in a teammate, everything you want representing your club. He’s a special guy.”
Loved the “you promise?” line. It drew a light chuckle from the room.
Despite Harper’s struggles, it doesn’t sound like Kapler plans to give him a breather tomorrow night:
Unless I have a good reason, or I think this is really going to serve him well, I’m not going to do it, right? It’s gotta be rooted in something rational, and right now for me, it would be purely…I don’t have a good reason to not have him play tomorrow’s baseball game. And the next day’s baseball game. And the next day’s baseball game. He always gives us our best chance to win. We’re always this far away from him going deep and getting on base three or four more times. I don’t know why we wouldn’t want him in there for tomorrow’s game.
As for Harper himself, he doesn’t sound overly enthusiastic about taking a seat to clear the mechanism. *Name the movie.*
“Baseball, you know, I think going out there each day and trying to get out of it or anything like that,” said Harper. “I’m not sure a day off is going to work for me mentally or physically, or anything like that. Just gotta keep going, keep grinding, keep trying to get through it.”
The Phillies and Harper will run it back tomorrow night against a familiar face in Gio Gonzalez (1-0, 1.69 ERA) at 7:05. It’ll be Jake Arrieta for the Phils.