Phillies (17-34) vs. Giants (22-33)
7:05 p.m. on NBC10; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App
With the month of May thankfully in the Phillies' rearview mirror, they try to turn the page on four weeks of futility beginning tonight against another team struggling offensively.
Let's take a look:
1. Is the nightmare over?
Just because May ended doesn't mean the Phillies' struggles have. But in baseball, we tend to look at the passing of one month to the next as a symbolic endpoint to whatever preceded it. (Funny how we don't do this when a team goes 20-8 in a month.)
The Phils went 6-22 for their worst May since 1928. They plummeted to the bottom of baseball in a host of offensive categories, which is saying something because in April they ranked 15th of 30 teams in runs, 13th in batting average and ninth in slugging percentage.
We're witnessing a team-wide slump right now.
Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera have yet to break out.
Cesar Hernandez has hit .195 over his last 21 games.
Aaron Altherr has a six-game hitting streak and is still at .299 overall, but he's hit .234 with no home runs in his last 17 games.
This prolonged cold streak can't last forever and it won't. But when you're in the middle of it, it feels like it will never end.
2. Giants even worse
The Giants have been extremely disappointing two months into 2017. They carry a three-game losing streak into this weekend's series along with perhaps the worst offense in baseball.
The Phillies have hit .240 as a team; the Giants have hit .228.
The Phillies have scored 205 runs in 51 games (4.02). The Giants have scored 183 runs in 55 games (3.33).
The Phillies have hit 53 home runs (1.03 per game). The Giants have hit 42 homers (0.76 per game).
What the Phillies did in May the Giants have essentially done all season.
Unsurprisingly, Buster Posey has led the offense, doing his part by hitting .348/.445/.529 with seven doubles and seven homers. He has more walks (23) than strikeouts (15). But he also has just 13 RBIs because nobody gets on base ahead of him.
The next-toughest out in San Francisco's lineup is first baseman/leftfielder Brandon Belt, who's hit just .237 but has a .348 OBP (33 walks) along with a team-leading 10 home runs.
3. Get-right game for Eickhoff?
The Giants this season have offered little resistance in most innings. Thus, it could finally be a night when Jerad Eickhoff gets quick outs, goes deep into the game and picks up his first win of the season.
Eickhoff is 0-5 with a 4.74 ERA in 10 starts. We've come to expect workhorse-like totals from him but he's exceeded six innings only twice all season - in his first two starts.
The issue with Eickhoff this season has been a lack of command with pitches other than his curveball. The 12-6 hammer is still a pitch that makes hitters freeze or swing and miss but too often this season it's been the only pitch he can locate. And when that's the case, he becomes the breaking-ball version of Vince Velasquez, who often has his fastball working and little else.
When Eickhoff was at his best last season, he was getting outs with his fastball, curveball and slider. His slider has a different shape and velocity than the curve but it just hasn't been there consistently enough in 2017.
Last season, Eickhoff's opponents hit .238 against his fastball, .234 against the slider and .159 off the curve.
This season, they've hit .273 against his fastball, .333 against the slider and .205 off the curve.
4. Who is Ty Blach?
The Phillies face 26-year-old lefty Ty Blach (3-2, 3.83).
He's been excellent since joining the Giants' rotation, pitching seven-plus innings in four straight starts and five of the last six.
Over his last four starts, Blach is 3-0 with a 2.51 ERA in 28 ⅔ innings. He beat the Dodgers, Braves and Cubs.
Lefties are just 9 for 51 (.176) against him this season with a .498 OPS and no home runs. Righties have hit .275 with 13 extra-base hits and a .772 OPS.
The only Phillie to ever face Blach is Howie Kendrick, who's 0 for 4.
Blach throws mostly four-seam fastballs in the 90 mph range (63 percent) and changeups (22 percent). He'll also mix in some sliders and curveballs.
He's spotted his fastball well most of the season, and it's the pitch he turns to frequently with two strikes, especially to lefties.
5. This and that
• The Phillies had five save opportunities in May, the fewest in baseball. Their opponents had an .837 OPS, highest in baseball.
• I've written it before, but the Giants could be a potential landing spot for Tommy Joseph if the Phillies do decide to trade him to make room for Rhys Hoskins. Joseph, a former Giants prospect, could play first base and push Belt out to left field. As outlined above, San Fran desperately needs some pop.
In six games against the Giants last season, Joseph went 5 for 18 (.278) with two doubles, two RBIs and three walks.
• Hunter Strickland, the pitcher who hit Bryce Harper charged the mound against last week after being hit on the hip, was suspended six games. The Giants are awaiting the resolution of his appeal. He has a 1.45 ERA this season and more strikeouts than innings pitched, so it would be a little boost for the Phillies if they could avoid him this weekend.