Phillies-Braves 5 Things: Time for Jerad Eickhoff to Feed Off Aaron Nola

Phillies (21-35) at Braves (24-32)
7:35 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies look to make it five wins in a row tonight, as well as improve to 6-0 on the season against the Braves.

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Their hot offense has a different test in Game 3 of 4. Let's take a look:

1. From finesse to velocity
The Phillies beat down Bartolo Colon on Monday and did just enough against Jaime Garcia Tuesday night. Both are finesse pitchers with fastballs in the 90 mph range who rely on pinpoint command, particularly on the outside corner.

Tonight, the Phillies face Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz, a 25-year-old with a huge fastball but mixed results.

Foltynewicz is 3-5 with a 3.90 ERA this season. He's struck out 51, walked 17 and allowed nine home runs in 57⅔ innings. 

The Phils saw the dominant side of Foltynewicz back on April 23 in Philly, when he allowed one run on four hits over seven innings while striking out nine. That was one of five starts this season in which he's allowed one or zero earned runs.

But he's also capable of melting down. He allowed five runs in four innings on May 27 in San Francisco and gave up seven runs in four innings on May 5 vs. the Cardinals. The Phils did some damage against him last season as well, scoring five runs in 5⅔ innings.

Foltynewicz's fastball averages 96 mph. His main secondary pitch is a mid-80s slider, which he throws about 24 percent of the time. He also has a curveball and changeup. 

Current Phils are 15 for 59 (.254) off Foltynewicz. Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph have the only home runs. Aaron Altherr is 1 for 5 with four strikeouts. Cesar Hernandez is 1 for 8 with three walks and three K's. Odubel Herrera is 3 for 11 with five strikeouts.

2. Can Eickhoff feed off Nola?
Jerad Eickhoff and Aaron Nola have mostly disappointed this season, Nola because of the month-long injury and overall inconsistency and Eickhoff because of a lack of command.

Eickhoff enters tonight 0-6 with a 5.13 ERA. His last start was perhaps his worst as a big-leaguer. He walked a career-high five and allowed five runs in 2⅔ innings. 

He's been falling off the mound a lot lately to the first base side. As a result, his pitches have been sailing high and missing the outside corner. When you have a fastball in the low-90s and you're not spotting it, you're going to get hit.

Interestingly, Pete Mackanin said after Eickhoff's last start that a root of the struggles is Eickhoff's lack of command lately of his curveball. That 12-6 curve is Eickhoff's go-to pitch, and Mackanin reasoned that when he doesn't have it, it causes him to overthink in key situations as opposed to throwing it.

Eickhoff, speaking minutes later, didn't agree with that assessment, saying it's more so come down to fastball command.

Either way, tonight's is a matchup he must take advantage of. He didn't last week against a Giants offense at the bottom of the NL. 

In seven career starts against the Braves, Eickhoff is 2-1 with a 1.58 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. Atlanta has hit just .190 off of him and most of that damage came from Freddie Freeman, who's out until the All-Star break with a wrist injury.

Current Braves other than Freeman are a combined 12 for 62 (.194) with with one home run and one double. Leadoff man Ender Inciarte is 1 for 13. Rightfielder Nick Markakis is 3 for 16.

3. Doubles machine
Herrera tied Nolan Arenado for the major-league lead last night by hitting his 19th double. He's on pace for 55, which is remarkable considering he essentially took the entire month of May off.

It's been only four games, but Herrera is back to looking like an All-Star, especially when you account for his centerfield defense, which has gone from mediocre to above average to top-notch. 

Over his last four games, Herrera is 9 for 17 with seven doubles and two homers. His OPS has risen from .588 to .688 in that four-game span.

4. Tonight's lineup
Altherr sits tonight and Michael Saunders is back in.

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Howie Kendrick, LF
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Maikel Franco, 3B
6. Michael Saunders, RF
7. Andrew Knapp, C
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Jerad Eickhoff, P

As for the Braves:

1. Ender Inciarte, CF
2. Brandon Phillips, 2B
3. Nick Markakis, RF
4. Matt Kemp, LF
5. Matt Adams, 1B
6. Tyler Flowers, C
7. Rio Ruiz, 3B
8. Dansby Swanson, SS
9. Mike Foltynewicz, P

5. Closer carousel
• Another interesting ninth-inning decision was made last night when Mackanin pulled Hector Neris after two straight one-out hits to bring in Pat Neshek. Neshek got the final two outs for his first save as a Phillie. 

If Neshek is the new closer, he'll be the fourth already this season. First it was Jeanmar Gomez, then Joaquin Benoit, then Neris, now perhaps Neshek.

It's hard to imagine Neris has much confidence right now that he can be a closer. He's been pulled by Mackanin in the ninth inning three times in his last 14 appearances. A year ago through this many appearances, Neris had allowed half as many hits and his ERA was more than two runs lower.

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