PHOENIX – When Arizona ace Zack Greinke was unable to open the third inning with tightness in left oblique Tuesday night, the first thought indicated this game may tilt in Jerad Eickhoff’s favor.
When Eickhoff last faced Arizona at Citizens Bank Park on June 18, Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale called Eickhoff, “the Phillies' best pitcher.” That was before Hale saw the resurgence of Vince Velasquez Monday night, but his observation was not terribly far off the mark.
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In his next start against the Diamondbacks Tuesday night, Eickhoff dazzled Arizona hitters with his usual assortment of off-speed pitches and an occasional hard fastball on the edge of the plate. The result was a no-decision for Eickhoff, but the Phillies were able to rally for two runs in the ninth inning for a 4-3 win over the Diamondbacks before 19,645 at Chase Field (see Instant Replay). Ryan Howard, who usually wins games with his bat, won this one by walking with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth.
Down 3-2 coming into their final at-bat, Andres Blanco, who manager Pete Mackanin calls “a super utility player,” singled in Jimmy Paredes, who doubled to open the frame. Blanco’s hit to right tied the game, and left the dramatics for later in the inning. After a single from Obudel Herrera and a walk to Peter Bourjos loaded the bases, Maikel Franco struck out swinging on a pitch well off the plate. But Howard, and his disciplined eye, squeezed out a walk from typically reliable closer Brad Ziegler, who earlier this season had a streak of 43 straight save opportunities converted snapped.
“Great come-from-behind win and reminds me of the kind of wins we were had earlier in the season,” Mackanin said. “Good at-bat from Howard there in the ninth, but I’m sure he would have liked to win this with a grand slam.”
For his part, Eickhoff said the contest was “a struggle and I battled most of the game.” Though his pitch count hit 105 for the five-plus innings of work, the native of Evansville, Ind. thought every pitch was critical.
Eickhoff was most effective during the middle innings.
With the score deadlocked at 1-1, Jake Lamb led off the fourth with a triple, but Eickhoff managed to get Yasmany Tomas to fly the right, struck out Welington Castillo and forced opposing pitcher Randall Delgado into a groundout to third.
After Franco snapped a 1-1 tie with his 13th homer of the season with two out in the fifth, Eickhoff seemed to pitch with more difficulty. He hit Nick Ahmed with a pitch before a Jean Segura single gave the Diamondbacks runners on first and third with none out in the bottom of the fifth. Eickhoff then struck out Michael Bourn, fanned Paul Goldschmidt on a 91-mph fastball and got Lamb to ground out to Freddy Galvis, who was positioned perfectly behind the bag at second. Approaching the dugout, Eickhoff pounded his glove in an emotional response to vanishing two Arizona scoring opportunities in subsequent innings.
“In those innings, you have to think one pitch at a time,” Eickhoff said. “Overall, I didn’t go as deep as I wanted, and the game was like a chess match.”
After retiring the sides in the fourth and fifth, Eickhoff was reached for a game-tying blast from Tomas leading off the sixth. The home run was the 13th of the season for Tomas, and came on a full count. The ball carried an estimated 460 feet by Statcast, and was the longest homer for any Arizona player this season.
Still, Eickhoff was able to hang around and battle through adversity, while his counterpart in Greinke was forced to the clubhouse with that oblique strain.
“That really made no difference to me,” Eickhoff said of Greinke’s departure. “I’m just trying to execute pitches myself. Nothing changed for me, and I just want to attack hitters.”
Howard appeared in his 1,521st game for the Phillies, which tied him for ninth place on the all-time franchise list with Sherry Magee (1904-1914). … With a 1-for-4 game, Bourjos extended his hitting streak to eight games (15 for 31, .484). Over his last 19 games, Bourjos is hitting .442 (23 for 52). … With the victory Tuesday, the Phillies are guaranteed of winning their first series since May 16-18. That’s when they took two of the three games from the Miami Marlins. After that series, the Phillies went started a stretch of 0-10-2 in their last 12 series.