Phillies-Braves 5 Things: Youth on Display After Series of Trades

Phillies (36-64) vs. Braves (48-53)
7:05 p.m. on NBC 10; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies broke out their bats on Friday in a series-opening win against Atlanta, handing the second-place Braves a 10-3 defeat. Four home runs backed a strong effort from Jake Thompson, who made a spot start on short notice. 

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Back to their scheduled rotation, the Phillies will send Jerad Eickhoff out to run their winning streak to three while the Braves turn to rookie Sean Newcomb.

Here are five things to know for Saturday evening:

1. Thompson on the spot
Like all athletes, baseball players crave routine. Starting pitchers tend to take this to another level, which makes a spot start incredibly difficult. Needing to fill in on short notice can easily go poorly, especially for a young starter.

Except if you're Thompson last night.

In case you missed it, the Phillies scratched Jeremy Hellickson just before Friday's start due to a poor weather forecast and ongoing trade talks. With Hellickson soon ticketed to Baltimore, manager Pete Mackanin turned to the 23-year-old Thompson to avoid full-on Johnny Wholestaff game.

While Thompson, who was called up four days ago and hadn't pitched, was fresh, he also hasn't been particularly effective this season. He had a 9.00 ERA in three appearances with the Phils in May and has a 5.36 ERA in 94 innings in Triple A Lehigh Valley. 

Therefore, his five innings of shutout ball were particularly impressive. He allowed five hits and two walks while striking out five. While the Braves aren't a juggernaut offensively, holding them scoreless means navigating a lineup of Ender Inciarte, Freddie Freeman, Matt Kemp and other veteran hitters who are All-Star caliber or close. 

2. Trade winds blowing
Beyond trading Hellickson to the Orioles, the Phillies completed another deal on Friday night. For the second time in three years, the Phils and Nationals hooked up for an in-division trade with Howie Kendrick going to Washington in exchange for minor league LHP McKenzie Mills and international signing bonus space. In exchange for Hellickson, the Phillies received OF Hyun Soo Kim, MiLB LHP Garrett Cleavinger and more international bonus pool money.

The two deals came after the team sent Pat Neshek to Colorado on Wednesday for three prospects. 

These trades open up space for the youth movement, just as a Hellickson trade would. Dealing Neshek makes room for younger relievers to get high leverage experience. Trading Kendrick cements an outfield of Nick Williams, Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr for the stretch run with Kim presumably becoming the fourth outfielder. And the Hellickson trade opens up a rotation spot for an extended look at Mark Leiter Jr. or another youthful starter. Maybe Thompson after Friday night.

With these vets reaching free agency after this season, the Phillies essentially need to trade them in order to get value. Considering how poorly this season has gone until the last week or so, the chance of the team competing next season is significantly less than at the beginning of the year, making a reunion with veterans pursuing winning situations and playing time a dubious proposition.

Kendrick will only be able to torment the Phillies in-division for only seven games because the Phils and Nats have already played 12 times this year. In between a couple DL stints, Kendrick was highly productive in his short Phillies stint, batting .340/.397/.454 in 156 plate appearances. If Mills ever reaches the majors (or is used in another deal) or the Phillies can acquire someone valuable with the slot money, the deal can be worth much more than two months of Kendrick's services to the current squad. Meanwhile, Kim gives the Phillies an underappreciated asset who could recoup his value and become a valuable chip or, at the very least, a quality platoon bat.

3. Familiar foe for Eickhoff
Eickhoff has faced no team more often than the Braves in his short career, making eight starts against them (and the Mets) with no more than six against any other team. 

While he's just 2-2 against Atlanta in those appearances, he has a sterling 2.00 ERA over 45 innings with a 35/10 K/BB ratio and a 0.911 WHIP against the division foes. He had five innings of one-run ball against the Braves at CBP in April before taking a loss in June when he gave up four runs (three earned) over five frames.

Eickhoff has a 4.71 ERA this season but in five starts since his loss to the Braves in June, he has a 3.72 ERA with 30 strikeouts in 29 innings. He's coming off a quality start on Sunday against the playoff-contending Brewers and shut out the Padres for five innings two starts before that.

Very few current Braves have had success against the Phils' righty. Nick Markakis is 4 for 18 with only one extra-base hit and Ender Inciarte is a paltry 2 for 16. Freddie Freeman is one of the few with quality numbers, going 6 for 16 with two home runs, three walks and a double. Sean Rodriguez also has a solo home run. 

4. New(comb) kid on the block
While the Phillies made deals to further their rebuild on Friday night, the Braves are in the middle of their own rebuild and also have a starting rotation with young arms trying to earn spots for the future. Newcomb is one of the newer additions to the staff.

Newcomb was the 15th overall selection by the Angels in the 2014 draft. Just 17 months after he was drafted, he became the centerpiece in Los Angeles' package for Gold Glove shortstop Andrelton Simmons. 

The 24-year-old lefty entered this season as the No. 8 prospect according in a stacked Atlanta system according to Baseball America. 

It's been a tale of two months in the rookie's brief MLB career. In June, he had a 1.48 ERA over 24 1/3 innings over four starts. This month, he is 0-3 with a 9.16 ERA over just 18 2/3 innings. He's improved his strikeout rate but his rising walk rate, which has been high throughout his minor league career, has reared its ugly head. It hasn't helped that he's allowed seven more hits in six fewer innings and given up a homer per start in July.

The lefty has nearly no split, posting similar numbers vs. LHBs and RHBs. He throws a 93 mph fastball over 60 percent of the time. His 78 mph curveball is his main off-speed offering while he mixes in a changeup and slider. 

The key for the Phillies will be patience. He's walked 22 batters unintentionally (2 IBBs) and hit two batters in 43 innings, so not chasing and allowing Newcomb to walk batters will be important to chasing the rookie starter.

5. This and that
• In 52 starts as a Phillie, Hellickson had a 4.09 ERA in 301 1/3 innings, striking out 219 batters. He has a 4.73 ERA across 20 starts this season.

• Kim hit just .232.305/.288 in 142 plate appearances this season for the Orioles but hit .302 playing primarily against RHPs in 2016. The 29-year-old outfielder was a star in the KBO before coming to Baltimore. He's also a top-notch dancer...

• Altherr has played four games in the last 20 days and he has two hits in each game. Seven of the eight hits have gone for extra bases, including his two-homer night on Friday.

• The Phillies are now 7-6 in the second half after winning just one-third of their games before the All-Star break. They are also 6-2 against the Braves this year with a +6 run differential. 

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