Eickhoff pitches 7 scoreless while Phils go deep

Masterful performance earns newly minted starter first win since 2017

April 27th, 2019

PHILADELPHIA – Do not tell pitchers that wins mean nothing because Friday night’s win sure meant something to .

Eickhoff had spent much of the past two seasons recovering from a nerve issue in his right hand. He had carpal tunnel surgery in October. He suffered a setback in January. The setback pushed back his preparations for Spring Training. Not that it mattered, really, because the Phillies entered camp with their five starters set. But then Eickhoff, in his second start since replacing Nick Pivetta in the rotation, pitched seven scoreless innings in a 4-0 victory over the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park.

It was Eickhoff’s first big-league win since Aug. 25, 2017.

“It’s kind of surreal to think it’s been that long,” Eickhoff said. “It’s really special. Any time you get one, whether it's one or 20, each one is pretty awesome.”

It was the first time Eickhoff pitched seven scoreless innings in a start since May 22, 2016.

He made it look easy, too. He showed that pitchers can make hitters look foolish without a fireball for a fastball, if they have other weapons and if they are not afraid to fill the strike zone and challenge hitters. Eickhoff’s four-seam fastball averaged 89.4 mph on Friday. The average four-seamer this season is 93.2 mph, according to Statcast.

“I think he's kind of a throwback,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “He's not a 2019 pitcher. He's super crafty -- it's changing speeds, it's location over velocity, it's throwing a ball when he wants to throw a ball and it's being in the zone when he wants to be in the zone.

“A lot of swing and miss. Much more swing and miss than you would expect if you just watched it with the naked eye. But there's a lot of spin on the curveball and he's able to put it below the zone. And then the slider's really a much better pitch than it was in Spring Training. It's really improved.”

Eickhoff allowed two hits and one walk against the Marlins. He struck out six. He threw 86 pitches, including 57 strikes. He got 12 swings and misses. Five of his six strikeouts came on curveballs. He threw 22 of 29 curveballs (75.9 percent) for strikes, the third-highest strike rate for his curveball out of 71 career appearances in the big leagues.

“Jerad was good tonight with his breaking ball,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He kept getting that curveball over, and we didn't seem to know really exactly what we wanted to do with it. I thought he kept us off balance. Then he was able to use his slider, and throw some fastballs in there too.”

Eickhoff has a 2.12 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 17 innings in his three appearances.

“I feel like I’m throwing all three pitches in a way that you can’t really sit on one,” Eickhoff said. “If you are, then I have the chance to throw the other two. It’s another weapon. I’m trying to keep [hitters] off balance.”

His performance so far is encouraging. He will not pitch like this every time, but if he can match his performance from 2015-17, when he posted a 3.87 ERA in 65 starts, the Phillies’ rotation is more stable now than it had been just a week ago.

"If he's competitive and he's a middle of the rotation starter and kind of looks like the version of not last year, but the year prior to the year prior to that (2016) and maybe even a better, more mature version, it really deepens our rotation and makes us pretty strong across the board,” Kapler said.

and each hit solo home runs for the Phillies, staking Eickhoff to a 2-0 lead. hit a two-run home run into the second deck in right field in the eighth inning to provide some insurance runs.

The home runs were nice, but Eickhoff was the story Friday.

“Oh, man, it was great,” Harper said. “Eick from the opposing side was always really tough to face. To see that in person again … I’m very excited for him. I’m very happy to have that guy on our staff.”

“I never took the wins for granted or the quality games for granted,” Eickhoff said. “It just makes everything a little sweeter now. I think that's what I've kind of learned from this whole experience and the perspective from everything has changed quite a bit. I'm just pitching for these guys. Not necessarily for myself, it's for these guys, to keep us in the game. We're trying to win a World Series and that's what I'm here to try to help do.”