Phillies-Marlins 5 Things: Jerad Eickhoff Set for 4th Duel With Miami

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Matt Bowker |

Phillies (60-76) at Marlins (68-69)
1:10 p.m. on CSN

After losing every game of a six-game homestand, the Phillies head to the road to face a few playoff contenders. First up is the Miami Marlins, a team teetering on the brink of contention. Jerad Eickhoff starts for the Phils while rookie Jake Esch makes his second big league start for the Marlins.

Here are five things to know for Labor Day.

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1. Home away from home?
The Phillies' homestand couldn't have gone much worse. Three straight losses to the first-place Nationals and three losses to the NL-worst Braves. The only positive may have been the pitching performances as Jake Thompson and the rest of the rotation looked solid while the Phillies' bats went silent.

So is a trip away from Citizens Bank Park a panacea for the losing streak? There's at least some evidence that may be the case. 

The first stat to factor in is home runs. The Phillies have hit just 67 home runs at home, less than one per game (69 games) at a park that is known as a hitters' park. Meanwhile, the pitching staff has surrendered a whopping 105 home runs at CBP. The deficit is much less extreme on the road: 76 home runs for opponents compared to 69 for the Phillies. 

The Phillies also simply hit better on the road. They bat .252 as a team with a .252/.307/.403 triple slash line away from home and bat .222/.281/.364 at CBP. They have 31 more extra-base hits away from home and have struck out 38 fewer times in just two fewer games.

However, the counterpoint is their overall pitching numbers. The staff has a 5.19 ERA on the road and a 3.99 ERA at home. The staff has given up more total hits on the road and have struck out 140 fewer batters. 

The records are pretty similar after this weekend with the Phils 30-37 away and 30-39 at home.

2. Eickhoff's consistency key for Phils
Vince Velasquez reached his innings limit. Jake Thompson will be there soon. Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin are both done for the year with injuries. But Jerad Eickhoff keeps on going.

The 26-year-old righty has been a consistent component of an ever-changing Phillies rotation this season. He's thrown at least five innings in all but one of his 27 starts. His ERA has fluctuated between 3.30 and 4.00 since the beginning of June. 

Even recently, he's given the Phillies consistent efforts that look nearly identical when put in a row. His last three starts have all been six-inning outings. The last two have both been quality starts, giving up two runs to the White Sox on Aug. 24 and three runs to the Nationals on Aug. 30. 

Eickhoff has faced the Marlins three times this year, going 0-3 despite two quality starts. In fact, his most recent game against the Fish was a seven-inning, one-run performance. He struck out eight and allowed just six baserunners in that game but received no run support, resulting in the loss.

Overall, Eickhoff has a 4.50 ERA against Miami in 18 innings. He has struck out 18 batters while allowing 20 hits, three walks and three home runs. 

3. Fill-in for the wild card race
With starters Wei-Yin Chen, Adam Conley and David Phelps all on the disabled list, the Marlins are desperate for pitching at the moment. In fact, Phelps had been moved from the bullpen to the rotation to alleviate Miami's injury woes.

So now steps in Esch, a rookie with just one game of experience in the majors. Pitching against the Mets at Citi Field on Aug. 31, Esch lasted just 4 ⅓ innings while picking up a no decision. He limited the Mets to just two runs, scoring on a two-run homer by Wilmer Flores, but he allowed seven hits and three walks. After a 1-2-3 first, Esch was in and out of trouble all evening.

It's not like Esch is a top notch prospect who is expected to tear it up for the Marlins. The 26-year-old righty started the year in Double A, repeating the level after a so-so 2015. In 22 starts for Double A Jacksonville, Esch was 10-9 with a 4.03 ERA while striking out just 6.2 batters per inning. After a promotion to Triple A, Esch was 2-1 with a 5.70 ERA. 

His peripherals in Triple A were even worse. His strikeout rate fell to 5.3 per nine while his walk rate rose to 3.4 per nine innings. His one saving grace is a relatively low home run rate at all levels, something that can easily continue at a spacious home field like Marlins Park. 

As for his repertoire, Esch features a low-90s fastball and mid-80s slider. He also mixed in a curveball and changeup during his MLB debut.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Cesar Hernandez is batting .306 against the Marlins this year with 15 hits in 49 at-bats. He's been even better at Marlins Park, going 9 for 25, a .360 average.

Marlins: Christian Yelich has dominated the Phillies this year. He's batting .340 with three home runs, four doubles and a triple in 13 meetings.

5. This and that
• The Phillies are 6-7 against the Marlins this year and have been outscored 53-39 in those games. They are 3-3 at Marlins Park.

• Don't underestimate Esch as a hitter. He was a second baseman at Georgia Tech and was 16 for 56 with a home run in the minors. 

• The Marlins have lost eight of their last nine games and were just swept by the Cleveland Indians. Their top three relievers (Kyle Barraclough, A.J. Ramos and Fernando Rodney) struggled on Sunday. In three innings, they gave up six runs, picked up two blown saves, and gave up eight hits to go with five walks. 

• Phillies killer Martin Prado is 4 for 11 in his career against Eickhoff. Marcell Ozuna and Yelich each have home runs against him and have combined for seven hits in 18 at-bats. 

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