Phillies-Cardinals 5 Things: Eickhoff's Handling of Lefties Key

Phillies (16-12) at Cardinals (14-13)
1:45 p.m. on CSN

Well, let's see how the Phillies respond after their first deflating collapse in weeks.

Jeanmar Gomez wasn't going to go through a full season unscathed. And nine out of 10 ain't bad.

The Phillies now look to salvage a split in St. Louis before heading to Miami for the second leg of their 10-game, 11-day road trip.

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Let's take a look at Thursday afternoon's series finale.

1. Close quarters
When you have a weak offense and solid pitching, you find yourself in many close games like the 2016 Phillies. Going into Wednesday night, the Phils were 9-2 in one-run games. It looked like they'd improve to 10-2, but instead fell to 9-3. No other team in baseball has more than six one-run wins.

A team with a strong bullpen can get through a season winning a lot of one-run games, but it's not viewed in analytical circles as a sustainable long-term team trait. So the Phillies should have expected some regression there and Wednesday was almost an inevitability given how lights-out the back-end of their bullpen had been despite having little to no wiggle room each game.

2. Who is available?
Gomez threw 22 high-stress pitches last night, 12 of which were balls. He's thrown two games in a row after having three days off. Gomez's stamina is what makes him unique as a reliever, but given how last night went, he might not be Pete Mackanin's first choice if the Phillies have a lead in the ninth inning - not because of a lack of confidence but because he's thrown 40 pitches in high-leverage, one-run situations the last two nights. That takes a toll more than, say, protecting a pair of three-run leads.

Hector Neris has also pitched two games in a row, though both of his innings were 1-2-3 and he threw just 27 pitches. He'll probably be good to go.

David Hernandez would be a logical late-inning option today. He hasn't pitched since Sunday.

3. Eickhoff on the hill
Jerad Eickhoff (1-3, 4.15) makes his sixth start of the season this afternoon. His last outing was decent - he allowed three runs over six innings with no walks, four strikeouts and a season-high 11 groundballs - but the Phillies are looking more for the dominant version of Eickhoff they saw in his second and third starts.

Eickhoff's control has been excellent this season. He has 32 strikeouts and just five walks in 30⅓ innings. You hear a lot about Aaron Nola's ability to throw strikes but Eickhoff has done it, too, walking just 18 batters in 81⅓ innings in his 13 career starts with the Phillies.

The key for Eickhoff today against the Cardinals, who have never seen him before, is the handling of the lefties. Matt Carpenter has the ability to set the table for the middle of the Cardinals' order, and Matt Adams just continues to kill the Phillies from a run production standpoint. (More on Adams below.)

Lefties are hitting .302/.348/.492 against Eickhoff this season compared to .189/.196/.415 for righties. Eickhoff this season has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 16-to-1 against right-handed hitters.

4. A familiar foe in Garcia
The Phillies take on veteran left-hander Jaime Garcia (1-2, 3.73). You know what to expect from Garcia: a lot of changeups, a good amount of deception, the probability of few hits but the possibility of wildness.

Garcia has allowed just 22 hits in 31⅓ innings this season for a .193 opponents' batting average, but he has walked 14 batters. He pitched a one-hit shutout with 13 strikeouts in his second start of the year against the Brewers, but since then has allowed 10 runs (nine earned) in 16⅓ innings in his last three starts, walking 10. In fact, Garcia has walked at least three batters in four of his five starts. The Phillies need to be more patient this afternoon than they were against Michael Wacha or Mike Leake.

Garcia, who is probably best remembered by Phillies fans for allowing that surprising three-run home run to Ben Francisco in the 2011 NLDS, is 2-4 with a 3.27 ERA in nine career regular-season appearances vs. the Phils. He did not face the Phillies last season, but faced them once each in 2012, 2013 and 2014 and struggled in all three starts, going 0-3 with a 7.71 ERA.

5. This and that
• Odubel Herrera reached base twice more last night with a home run and a single. He's reached base multiple times in 19 games this season to lead the majors. Josh Donaldson, Dexter Fowler and Brandon Belt are next with 18.

• Add Adams to the starting lineup of active Phillie-killers. In 22 games against the Phils, Adams is 28 for 78 (.359) with 10 doubles, four homers and 15 RBIs. That's an extra-base hit once every 5.6 at-bats. They all seem to change the course of games, too.

• Maikel Franco is not in a good place at the plate right now. He's 2 for 24 in his last seven games and has just one extra-base hit in his last 33 plate appearances. He's down to .243 on the season with a .290 on-base percentage, though he is still on pace for 29 home runs and 87 RBIs.

• Despite Garcia's making nine career appearances against the Phils, few of their current players have ever faced him. Ryan Howard, who is unlikely to play, is 3 for 15 with a homer and eight strikeouts. Carlos Ruiz is 0 for 5 with five walks. Freddy Galvis is 0 for 6. Aside from that, only Emmanuel Burriss has seen the 29-year-old Mexican southpaw.

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