ST. LOUIS -- Jerad Eickhoff’s stifling of the Cardinals' offense in Wednesday afternoon’s 5-0 Phillies win at Busch Stadium was so complete that he scarcely had reason to look over his right shoulder.
“He pitches with a fearlessness,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “Any pitch, any count. Secondary pitches behind in the count. He’ll throw a slider outside of the zone when he’s confident that he’ll get a swing. And he’ll fill it up, too.”
No St. Louis runner safely reached second base against Philadelphia's starter until Yadier Molina doubled to lead off the eighth inning, and the Phils took advantage of a fifth-inning rally that was sparked by poor Cardinals defense and extended by Eickhoff’s well-placed sacrifice bunt. The four runs scored in the fifth would prove to be a more than sufficient lead, later supplemented by a Cesar Hernandez solo home run.
Eickhoff (2-1) delivered shutout baseball for the third time in four appearances and the second time in three starts this season. His ERA dropped to 1.50, and he has now allowed only one earned run in his past 20 innings.
“I was just able to keep them in between,” Eickhoff said. “That’s what you’re doing as a pitcher. Trying to keep them in between and keep them kind of guessing. That little bit of doubt or hesitation is what gets the bad swing or the missed barrel of the bat.”
Eickhoff outdueled Jack Flaherty, whose defense committed two errors behind him in that critical fifth inning. One of those, charged to third baseman Matt Carpenter after colliding with shortstop Paul DeJong, negated a potential double play. That allowed the inning to extend to Hernandez, who doubled in two runs in addition to his later homer.
“I’ve been working really hard from the beginning of the season,” Hernandez said through a translator. “Things didn’t start off the way I wanted them, but I have confidence in myself, I know what I’m capable of, so you just gotta go day by day.”
Seranthony Dominguez worked a scoreless ninth inning to secure the shutout.
The hardest pitch Eickhoff threw in the game was a seventh-inning fastball to DeJong, measured by Statcast at 91.1 mph. The low-velocity, high-accuracy offerings and diverse pitch mix seemed to keep Cards hitters off balance for the duration of the game, and that allowed Eickhoff to extend his appearance through the eighth inning.
Eickhoff allowed three hits and three walks, striking out four. Despite his extended outing, he credited catcher J.T. Realmuto’s pitch calling, saying that he shook off a call only one time.
“We’ve discussed, ‘Can a pitcher be that effective with 90-91?’ And the answer is absolutely yes,” Kapler said. “He’s like a throwback. He’s command over velocity, he’s deception over pure stuff, but he does have two big weapons in his curveball and his slider that he can throw at any time.”
Eickhoff’s ability to keep the bases clear early in innings allowed him to utilize his full repertoire of pitches, balancing two- and four-seam fastballs with a slider and a curveball. He retired the first batter he faced in the first six innings, before allowing leadoff runners in the seventh and eighth. DeJong walked to lead off the seventh, but he was erased on a first-pitch double-play grounder off the bat of Marcell Ozuna.
“Early on, it was just really fastball, slider. In the third inning, I finally started dropping the curveball in there. I was having a hard time getting it over for a strike, and once that came, it kind of opened up everything else,” Eickhoff said.
Honoring David Montgomery
Kapler began his postgame comments with a tribute to Phillies chairman David Montgomery, who passed away Wednesday morning after a long battle with jaw bone cancer.
“It’s appropriate to start with how special it is to be able to honor David Montgomery with this win,” Kapler said. “I thought Eickhoff represented David beautifully. He carried our team in the same way David Montgomery carried our organization for so many years.
“I think there were points in the dugout where I legitimately found myself asking, ‘What would David do in this situation?’ Pretty special moment as a group to be able to win this series and feel like we were doing it in honor of David Montgomery.”
The Phillies and Cardinals observed a moment of silence at Busch Stadium on Wednesday in Montgomery’s honor. The tribute was repeated throughout the Major Leagues, and the Phils will honor Montgomery with a patch on their uniforms bearing his initials when the team returns to Philadelphia from Kansas City on Monday.