‘Good Game for 6 Innings' and Predictably So, It All Unravels for Phillies in Loss to D-backs


The let's-go-Phillies chants grow lamer as the innings pass. The crowd, such as it is, dwindles to friends-and-family size long before last pitch.

And it's only June.

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The Phillies lost again Saturday, this time by a 5-1 count to the resurgent Arizona Diamondbacks (see Instant Replay). They have dropped nine of 10, and since going 11-9 to start the season, they are a spiffy 11-36.

That drops their major-league-worst record to 22-45.

All the Markelle Fultzes in the world couldn't put them back together again.

The Phillies did some things well Saturday. Jerad Eickhoff, winless on the season but saddled with a no-decision on this day, went six innings and allowed a run on five hits. It was his first start this year in which he lasted that long and surrendered one run or fewer, and just the seventh such start by a Phillies pitcher to date.

Leftfielder Aaron Altherr also threw out a runner at the plate, and Andrew Knapp drove in the Phillies' lone run with a sixth-inning sacrifice fly.

None of that mattered, however, because they were unable to get a big hit – they left the bases full twice, and stranded 12 in all – and the bullpen imploded during Arizona's four-run seventh.

"Good game for six innings," manager Pete Mackanin said.

But it ultimately hinged on a defensive play in the seventh, and two key Phillies at-bats.

With the score tied 1-1, the D-backs' Rey Fuentes led off the seventh by singling off reliever Edubray Ramos. D-backs reliever Jorge De La Rosa attempted to sacrifice, but his bunt dribbled just a few feet out in front of the plate.

Knapp pounced on it and threw to second in an attempt to get the force. Fuentes beat the play, however, which set the inning in motion. Daniel Descalso delivered the tie-breaking run with a single, and with one out Paul Goldschmidt rocketed a two-run double to the gap off Ramos' successor, Casey Fien.

Brandon Drury capped the inning with an RBI single.

Of Knapp's throw, Mackanin said, "I think if he had to do it all over again he would've thrown to first base. The runner on first is pretty quick. I would've preferred he went to first but, hey, I'm not going to fault him for trying to be aggressive. I just think he should've went to first."

The Phillies had loaded the bases after Knapp's sac fly tied it at 1-1 in the sixth, but pinch hitter Daniel Nava lined out to third to end the inning. They loaded them again in the seventh, but Michael Saunders, amid a 2 for 4 day, lined out to Goldschmidt at first.

"If it's over his head," Mackanin said, "it could be a three-run double and whole different game."

Eickhoff, at least, kept them in it. He struck out two and walked three while throwing 105 pitches (62 of them strikes) over his six innings, but had nothing to show for it. He remains 0-7 over 14 starts, making him the first Phillies pitcher to go winless over that many outings to open a season since Matt Beech in 1997.

Eickhoff's last victory came against the Chicago White Sox on Sept 21, 2016, 17 starts ago, but he said after Saturday's game that the drought is not weighing on him in the least.

"A lot of it I can't control," he said. "I'm sticking with my process of getting ahead, putting guys away and getting outs, and that's all I'm worried about. That's all I care about. At the end of the day, if it's a loss, it's a loss. If it's a win, it's a win. I'm trying to keep us in the game the best I can, every time I come out. That's the bottom line."

Mackanin thought Eickhoff's fastball command was particularly good, and that showed when he retired Chris Owings on pop-ups to end the first and third with two men on, and when he set down the dangerous Goldschmidt on a smash to second with a runner at third to end the fifth. 

In each case, the put-away pitch was a heater.

"I wasn't able to execute the curveballs to those guys like I wanted to," Eickhoff said, "but I think I slowed them down enough to get a fastball not necessarily by them, but in a position to where I could mis-hit them. I was able to put it in the right spot at the right time."

He also was aided by Altherr, who gunned down Jake Lamb at the plate after fielding Chris Iannetta's flyball to end the sixth.

That preserved the tie, if only temporarily. The game swung one inning later. And at this point in the year, predictably so.

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