Eickhoff trusts fastball, reverts to frontline form

Right-hander throws 7 scoreless for first win since April 13

May 22nd, 2016

PHILADELPHIA -- Jerad Eickhoff closed out the Phillies' homestand by going seven scoreless innings, turning in one of his best games of the season en route to a 5-0 win over the Braves.

"That's the guy we're used to seeing," manager Pete Mackanin said.

After mixing in his heaviest slider use of the season his last time out against Miami, Eickhoff eliminated the pitch almost completely from his repertoire. He did the same to his changeup, which he only threw twice in 85 pitches.

Sound familiar? It's the same formula that got him into trouble two starts ago, the last time he faced Atlanta. On May 11, the Braves knocked Eickhoff out after 4 1/3, his shortest start of the season. They laid into him for seven hits and four runs, while only striking out twice. Atlanta was able to sit back on Eickhoff's low-90s fastball and curveball.

Mackanin and Eickhoff both pointed to a lack of fastball command as the reason for the poor start. After Eickhoff's brilliance on Sunday, they again looked to the heater for answers.

"I had really good fastball command today," Eickhoff said. "That's something that I've been trying to get back to. … I think I was able to do that for the most part today."

"He was locating his fastball," Mackanin added. "He was really efficient early in the game. He threw a lot of pitches those last two innings, but I liked the command of his fastball."

Eickhoff zoomed through the first five innings, needing only 46 pitches to record 15 outs. Only two Braves reached base, both via singles. One, Daniel Castro, was stranded on second. The other, Freddie Freeman, provided the front-end of a Nick Markakis-induced double play.

The Braves worked Eickhoff harder for his final two innings -- their third time around the order facing him. Entering Sunday, opponents' batting average against Eickhoff in their third plate appearance against him jumped to .362 from .219 in their second trips to the plate. Their on-base-plus-slugging percentage went up from .627 to 1.116.

Despite that track record, Eickhoff still blanked them for his final two innings -- though it took him almost as many pitches to finish the sixth and seventh (39) as it did to get through five (46). More Braves reached base in his last two frames than his first five, but Eickhoff was resilient and lasted until Mackanin lifted him for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh.

Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez again shut the door in the eighth and ninth, and the Phillies combined to pitch their seventh shutout of the season -- the most in baseball.