Phillies-Reds 5 Things: Jerad Eickhoff's Quest for 200 Begins

Phillies (1-0) at Reds (0-1)
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A powerful first inning, seven extra-base hits and strong pitching for eight innings led the Phillies to an opening day win over the Reds.

The weather cooperated to allow the Phils to get their first game in Monday. After a built-in off day Tuesday, the series resumes tonight at Great American Ball Park:

1. Contributions aplenty
There was no shortage of positive signs on opening day. 

Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis homered. 

Odubel Herrera reached base three times.

Maikel Franco saw 20 pitches in five plate appearances.

Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders quickly made their presence felt, combining to go 4 for 8 with two doubles.

The 2017 Phillies' lineup is unquestionably better and deeper than it was in 2016 and it's not just because of the additions of Kendrick and Saunders. They'll also have a full season from a now-established Tommy Joseph, expected growth from Franco and Herrera in Year 3, and Hernandez is definitely trending up.

Hernandez didn't walk on opening day, but he saw 24 pitches in five trips to the plate.

2. Still Gomez's job?
Jeanmar Gomez had a shaky first appearance, allowing a two-run, opposite-field homer to Scooter Gennett. He was still able to notch the save, but Gomez didn't look nearly as dominant as the three relievers that preceded him.

Joaquin Benoit threw gas in the sixth inning and struck out two. Edubray Ramos had a clean seventh. 

And Hector Neris ... wow. He entered in the eighth inning and the Reds had absolutely no chance. Neris threw 11 pitches, eight of thems strikes to retire Joey Votto, Adam Duvall and Eugenio Suarez. Votto struck out swinging and was late doing it.

Pete Mackanin said after the game that he is concerned about Gomez (see story), who allowed 17 earned runs in eight innings last September.

With Neris and Benoit, the Phillies have two ready-made replacements if Gomez falters.

3. Eickhoff's quest for 200 begins
Jerad Eickhoff was as steady as it gets last season for the Phillies, going 11-14 with a 3.65 ERA in 33 starts and falling just shy of 200 inning (197 1/3) last season.

Eickhoff showed excellent control throughout the season, walking just 1.9 batters per nine innings while striking out 7.6. And that 3.65 ERA was a bit deceiving -- aside from his eight-run outing at Coors Field, Eickhoff had a 3.38 ERA in 32 starts. 

Eickhoff allowed two runs or fewer in 17 of his 33 starts last season and allowed three or less 25 times. He kept a weak Phillies' offense in so many games and figures to do so again this season. If he does, he'll finish with more than 11 wins behind an improved offense and bullpen.

Eickhoff has never faced the Reds, and only Gennett, the former Brewer, has faced him. He's 2 for 6 with a homer.

4. Facing the lefty Finnegan
Left-hander Brandon Finnegan starts the second game of the season for the Reds for the second straight year. He went 10-11 with a 3.98 ERA last season, striking out 145 but walking 84 in 172 innings.

That's an obscenely high walk total, and the Phillies' game plan should be to make Finnegan work. 

It's rare you see a pitcher walk so many hitters and not pay the price, but Finnegan was at his best last season with men on base, limiting opponents to a .205 batting average with the bases occupied and a .175 mark with two outs and runners in scoring position.

Finnegan faced the Phillies twice last season. He allowed two runs on three hits over six innings with nine strikeouts on April 6, then lasted only four innings and allowed three runs on four hits and five walks on May 13.

Finnegan walked at least four batters in 10 different starts last year.

Active Phillies are 6 for 25 (.240) against him with six walks, including two apiece from Kendrick and Herrera.

Finnegan, who stands 5-11, throws a sinker, four-seam fastball, slider and changeup. The sinker and four-seamer average about 93 mph. 

Right-handed hitters really struggled last season against his changeup (.138 BA, 1 HR in 93 PAs ending with a changeup) and slider (.216 BA).

5. This and that
• Lefties hit just .218 last season off Finnegan, but that doesn't necessarily mean Saunders will sit for Aaron Altherr. The left-handed hitting Saunders has actually been better against lefties the last three seasons (.277 BA, .850 OPS) than he has against righties (.250, .778).

• That 5-6-7-8 the Reds have of Eugenio Suarez, Scott Schebler, Zack Cozart and Tucker Barnhart ... woof.

• Versatile right-handed reliever Raisel Iglesias didn't have great control on Monday, but the Phillies saw a glimpse of how good his stuff is. Iglesias is by far the best pitcher on the Reds' staff, and late last season Cincy used him similarly to how the Indians used Andrew Miller, pitching him multiple innings and bringing him in to all sorts of situations.

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