If the Phillies are going to survive the long, hot summer in the National League East, they're going to need more consistent starting pitching.
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Sure, it was nice to see Nick Pivetta toss that complete game on Saturday and Aaron Nola bounce back from a poor start last week in San Diego with a strong outing on Sunday.
But Jerad Eickhoff got rocked in a 13-8 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday night and Jake Arrieta gets the ball on Tuesday night.
Over his last two starts, Arrieta has been tagged for 17 hits and 10 runs in just 9⅔ innings. He has walked six and given up five homers. These are not exactly comforting numbers when you consider that Arrieta must go up against the same lineup that pounded eight home runs against the Phillies on Monday night.
"We have to pitch a better baseball game than we did today," manager Gabe Kapler said after his team's seventh loss in the last 11 games, a defeat that dropped the Phils into a first-place tie with Atlanta after leading the division by themselves since April 26.
The Diamondbacks opened the game with three straight homers against Eickhoff. Boom. Boom. Boom.
"Obviously not the way you want to start the game," Kapler said. "We were able to kind of storm back and even the score, but you'd certainly like to start the game on a better note than that."
The Phils did tie the game at 3-3, but Eickhoff gave up a pair of home runs in the fourth (both were preceded by walks) and Arizona never looked back. The Diamondbacks' eight homers, along with five hit by the Phillies, made for a major-league record 13 home runs in a single game. The previous record was 12. That was set by the White Sox and Tigers in games in 1995 and 2002.
Now, the air was a toasty 76 degrees at first pitch and the ball generally carries better in warm weather at Citizens Bank Park. Baseballs these days are rock hard and travel like Titleists. Home runs are up throughout the game. But long balls are also fueled by mistakes over the plate and Eickhoff made some. He pitched into the fourth and gave up just five hits. All were homers.
Eickhoff has given up 16 home runs and 27 runs over his last six starts and his ERA has swelled over 5.00.
Is his place in the rotation in jeopardy?
Kapler was noncommittal when asked if Eickhoff would make his next start.
"I think these are things we need to talk about after the game and we're probably not there yet," Kapler said.
Eickhoff was confident he'd get another shot.
"Yeah, I expect to make the next start and I'm going to show up tomorrow and work," he said. "That's what I've always done and nothing really changes. I've just got to execute a little better and move on.
"This was just kind of one of those nights where every mistake I made, they were able to put a pretty good swing on it. The most frustrating thing is just not keeping us in the game. Letting every single one of these guys in the clubhouse down. That's what's the most frustrating."
Even if the Phillies felt they needed to make a change in the rotation, they don't have much in the pipeline. Cole Irvin is in Triple A. So is Enyel De Los Santos. How much of an upgrade would they provide? It has long been clear that the Phillies would need to improve their starting pitching for a second-half run by making a significant trade. Games like Monday night's only magnify the need. The Phils just hope Arrieta's start Tuesday night doesn't further magnify it.
The eight homers given up by the Phils on Monday night increased their season total to 108, most in the NL. They are on pace to allow 265 homers, which would crush the team record of 221 set in 2017.
"It's definitely a problem," Kapler said of the long balls. "It's definitely something we have to get out in front of and figure out how to solve. That's a lot of work on the part of the staff. That's our responsibility to get out in front of that."
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