Phillies (26-27) vs. Brewers (24-29)
7:05 p.m. on CSN
Six straight losses have dropped the Phillies under .500 for the first time since they were 9-10. A loss to this very Brewers team back on April 24 was actually the game that dropped the Phils under .500 last, so in a way they've come full circle over the last five weeks.
Let's take a look at Thursday's series opener vs. Milwaukee:
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1. Gotta take advantage
The Brewers are at Citizens Bank Park for four games, and then after that the Phillies' next 10 come against the Cubs, Nationals and Blue Jays. In other words, if they want to avoid falling well below .500, they must play well at home this weekend.
At 24-29, the Brewers are a bit better than expected, pretty much all because of the top of their order.
Former Phillies prospect Jonathan Villar has found a home atop Milwaukee's lineup, hitting .303 with a .409 on-base percentage in 223 plate appearances. He leads the majors with 19 steals, though he's struck out 54 times, a high number for a leadoff hitter.
Ryan Braun, the team captain of the Phillie Killers, is off to the best start of his career, hitting .352 with nine doubles, nine homers, 32 RBIs and a 1.000 OPS.
Catcher Jonathan Lucroy is hitting .299 with a .886 OPS, and 1B Chris Carter is having a typical Chris Carter season: .222 BA, 13 homers, 69 strikeouts.
Milwaukee has a 4.60 team ERA and a 4.88 ERA from its starters, so the Phillies don't have any excuses if they can't score some runs over these four games. There is nothing at all special about the quartet of right-handers they're scheduled to face: Chase Anderson, Jimmy Nelson, Junior Guerra and Wily Peralta.
2. About Braun ...
If he plays in these four games, Phillies pitchers just need to stay away. Braun, who has been in and out of the Brewers' lineup — missing 10 games with nagging back and neck issues — is hitting everyone this season but is especially dangerous at Citizens Bank Park.
In 26 career games at CBP, Braun has hit .411 with 10 home runs and 28 RBIs. He has more homers in 26 games at Citizens Bank Park than he has in 60 games at Wrigley Field or 69 at Busch Stadium.
Braun has faced the Phils 58 times overall and hit .387 with 20 homers, 52 RBIs and a 1.134 OPS. This is a hitter's park for sure, but Braun has taken advantage of it more than pretty much any other hitter of his era.
Let someone else beat you this weekend. If Carter or Lucroy drives in a run, so be it. Don't let Braun bring that flat bat through the zone and smack one out to left field.
3. Eickhoff's turn
It sure doesn't seem like it, but Eickhoff has given the Phillies a quality start four times in his last six tries. He enters tonight's game 2-7 with a 4.07 ERA in 10 starts, but his control numbers (50 strikeouts, 12 walks in 59⅔ innings) have been solid all season.
Eickhoff needs to get some momentum going. He pitched seven shutout innings against the Braves on May 22, following that with a six-inning, four-run start with seven strikeouts against the Cubs. That's not necessarily a bad line against the majors' best team, but Eickhoff knows by now that giving up four runs is a death sentence for a Phillies starting pitcher.
Through 18 major-league starts, Eickhoff is 5-10 despite a 3.42 ERA. The Phillies have scored 3.33 runs per nine innings for him, the fifth-lowest figure for any active NL starting pitcher over that span.
Eickhoff lost that game to the Brewers on April 24 that last dropped them under .500, allowing seven runs in 5⅓ innings in his worst career start. Braun went 2 for 3 against him with a home run, Carter went 2 for 3 with two doubles and second baseman Scooter Gennett homered. Lefty-hitting centerfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, formerly of the Mets, is 4 for 6 with three doubles against Eickhoff, so he could get a spot start tonight.
4. Another look at Anderson
Hat tip to CSN's Reuben Frank for pointing out that Milwaukee's Chase Anderson is the only one of the 53 starting pitchers the Phillies have faced this season that they've scored more than four earned runs against. How pathetic.
Anderson gave up six runs on eight hits and four walks in four innings vs. the Phils on April 23. Maikel Franco went 3 for 5 with a homer and four RBIs in that game, and Odubel Herrera went 3 for 4 with a homer, two walks, two steals and four runs.
Anderson, 28, was acquired by the Brewers this past offseason with Aaron Hill in the trade that sent Jean Segura to the Diamondbacks. He's 2-6 with a 5.00 ERA this season and 17-19 with a 4.32 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in his career.
Anderson has five pitches and he uses them all: four-seam fastball, sinker, changeup, curveball, cutter. His heater is in the 91 to 94 mph range.
5. This and that
• Tyler Goeddel, whose two-run home run accounted for the Phillies' only two runs Wednesday vs. Max Scherzer, is hitting .327 with a .939 OPS over his last 16 games.
• With Villar emerging as a leadoff threat, J.A. Happ finding himself last summer in Pittsburgh and carrying it over into this season with Toronto, and Carlos Carrasco developing into a top-of-the-rotation arm in Cleveland, you can no longer say the Phillies didn't give up anything in all those trades for starting pitchers. The Phils sent Villar and Happ to Houston in the Roy Oswalt trade, and dealt Carrasco to the Indians for Cliff Lee back in 2009. All of those trades made sense at the time and were wise gambles by the Phillies, and you can't fault them for prospects panning out years later. But that's why you can't judge trades after only a year or two.
• We went an entire "5 Things" without mentioning Ryan Howard or Tommy Joseph!