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Phillies Week In Review: Gopher Balls! Nothing But Gopher Balls!!

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Phillies Week in Review

The Phillies Week in Review, everything you need to know about the week that was for the Philadelphia Phillies 2016 season.

2016 Phillies – Week in Review – Week 11 – 6/13-6/19/16

The Phillies are 5-17 since posting a 24-17 mark at the season’s quarter-pole. It’s difficult to point to any one factor in their precipitous fall. Nothing seems to be working right now. The bats, which weren’t exactly lighting the world on fire, have taken impotence to a new place. The rotation and bullpen are each showing cracks and manager Pete Mackanin’s once steady hand appears to be trembling a bit.

A four-game ‘Home-and-Home’ with the Toronto Blue Jays (one of MLB’s pathetically manufactured Interleague rivalries) could mean serious trouble. The parade of lethal bats that this team calls an everyday lineup can amass runs at an alarming rate (25 in their last three games alone). If the arms can’t contain them, the bats won’t be able to keep up.

The series opens on the 19th anniversary of the Phillies very first Interleague contest, a 4–3 win over the Blue Jays at Veterans Stadium. All-time, they are 146-185 against the AL in regular season play. Only the Colorado Rockies, San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds have been worse.

Monday –
Jerad Eickhoff continues to prove that he is a major-league pitcher. He allowed only three hits, while striking out five hitters in six scoreless innings of work. He did walk four while running his pitch count to 106. But, he exited with the 1-0 lead thanks to an Odubel Herrera home run off of R. A. Dickey in the 3rd inning. In the top of the 7th, his mates rewarded his efforts. Ryan Howard finally solved Dickey, going deep for the first time in his 27th career at-bat against the knuckleballer. This was followed by an RBI double from an awakening Peter Bourjos and a run scoring single by Herrera. Suddenly, the pen had a 4-0 to protect. Protect it they did, as the Phillies racked up their eighth shutout of the season. The bats even tacked on three more in the 9th and the Phightins ended a six game road losing streak and their curious run of 12 straight Monday losses. Phillies, 7 – Blue Jays, 0

The last time a Phillies pitching staff had eight shutouts in the first 64 games of a season was the “Four Aces” rotation in 2011. While we can’t expect 102 wins from this squad, their league-leading achievement seems worthy of note.

Tuesday –
With Vince Velasquez nursing his strained biceps, Phillies Nation buzzed in anticipation of the Major League debut of Zach Eflin. The towering righthander was the prize of the Jimmy Rollins trade. He had been 5-2 with a 2.90 ERA in 11 AAA starts this season and scouting reports promised a strike thrower who pitched to contact, creating ground ball outs by the bushelful.

Adrenaline is a funny thing. Sure, it can help a 120 pound woman lift a car to save her child or send a fireman sprinting up a fiery staircase carrying 60 pounds of equipment. But, it can also turn a young pitcher’s big day into a complete nightmare. At first, it appeared to help Eflin as he fanned the dangerous Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in the 1st before allowing an RBI knock by Russell Martin. Kevin Pillar homered to open the 2nd and the Jays would lead 3-0 after two innings.

You may want to shield the eyes of any children sitting near you at this point. In the 3rd, things got a little messy. Ezequiel Carrera smashed a two-run shot that eliminated any chance of Eflin ‘shaking off the jitters’ and ‘settling in’. Two singles and a walk quickly loaded the bases for reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson. True to his reputation, Donaldson promptly thumped a ball that, had it not been abruptly halted by the second deck of the Rogers Centre, may have wound up in Lake Ontario. The monstrous grand slam made it 9-0 and set Eflin’s ERA at 27.00. League rules dictated that they play all nine innings. So, they did. But, it was pretty well decided after the 3rd. Blue Jays, 11 – Phillies 3

Wednesday –
Back home in Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies asked Jeremy Hellickson to tame the Toronto bats. They would once again be without Maikel Franco, who had sat out the two games in Canada due to a knee injury he suffered during last Sunday’s loss to the Nationals. Cody Asche and Jays’ slugger Encarnacion traded solo dingers to create a 1-1 tie before Hellickson was touched up for a 3-spot in the top of the 4th. Cody Asche’s RBI double in the bottom half was the only response the Phils could muster. When struggling reliever Hector Neris allowed three runs in the 8th, the game was put out of reach. Blue Jays, 7 – Phillies, 2

Thursday –
If Aaron Nola was looking to bounce back from the shortest start of his young career, it was unlikely to happen against a Blue Jays team that was building some serious momentum. Like Eflin had, Nola started by fanning Bautista. Unfortunately, like with Eflin, it turned ugly. After a Donaldson single, Encarnacion and Michael Saunders went back-to-back to dig a 3-0 hole. Former Phillie J. A. Happ kept the bats silent while his mates tacked on a run in the 3rd and four more in the 4th off of Nola and reliever Colton Murray. After Pillar took Andrew Bailey deep to start the 7th it was 9-0. He would homer again as part of a four run 9th. Toronto had rebounded from Monday’s shutout by racking up 11 homers and 31 runs scored in the next three games. Blue Jays, 13 – Phillies, 2

After the game, Murray was sent back to Lehigh Valley. Severino Gonzalez, who was 3-3 with a 7.92 ERA in seven starts with the Phils last year, was recalled to take Murray’s place in the bullpen.

Friday –
The Phillies are 19-5 in their last 24 home games against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The hope was that the trend would continue and the devastation of the last three games could be put behind them.

A Cameron Rupp triple in the 1st plated Asche and Tommy Joseph, giving starter Adam Morgan a 2-0 cushion. It would prove insufficient. First, the D’Backs plated two in the 2nd to tie it up. Then, the barrage began anew. Yasmany Tomas put his team ahead with a solo bomb to lead off the 4th. In the 5th, Peter O’Brien hit a 3-run tater that Tomas followed immediately with his second bomb of the game. That was the last pitch Morgan would throw. Gonzalez was pressed into immediate service since the rest of the pen had been worn out by the starters’ early exits against Toronto. He got the last two outs in the 5th and survived a threat in the 6th when Michael Bourn was thrown out at the plate by Asche and Freddy Galvis to end the inning. At 7-2, the game was basically decided. But, there was history to be made. When Elvis Araujo served up solo big flies to Wellington Castillo and O’Brien to start the seventh, then another to Paul Goldschmidt in the 8th, the Phillies had officially allowed more round trippers (17) in a four game stretch than they had in any other four game stretch in the history of the franchise. Diamondbacks, 10 – Phillies, 2

Franco returned to the lineup, but was 0-4 with two strikeouts.

Saturday –
Mackanin moved Herrera out of the leadoff spot in hopes of jump-starting the offense. If there was a personal message being sent, El Torito received it loud and clear. With one out in the bottom of the 1st, he smashed a solo home run off Zack Greinke to put the Phils ahead 1-0. Eickhoff, whose solid outing on Monday had been the lone highlight for the pitching staff this week, continued to toss zeroes through the first four innings. But, the epidemic finally caught up with him in the 5th. Light-hitting shortstop Nick Ahmed took him deep to tie the game. Then, three batters later, it was Goldschmidt’s turn again. His two-run tater gave Greinke a lead that he would protect. Jake Lamb added a solo shot off of Gonzalez in the 7th as the Phillies dropped their fifth consecutive game. Diamondbacks, 4 – Phillies, 1

Sunday –
On Father’s Day, Eflin was given the chance to atone for his disastrous debut. Salvaging a win would be great. But, at this point, just keeping the ball in play would be a step in the right direction. From the first pitch it was clear that Tuesday’s jitters were gone and the kid was ready to work. The D’backs managed to scratch out single runs in the 3rd & 6th. For a brief moment in that 6th inning Eflin’s ERA had fallen from 27.00 to under 10.00. But, the D’backs second run took it back to double-digits and chased the rookie from the game. In the bottom of the 6th, the Phils loaded the bases with nobody out. Arizona starter Archie Bradley induced a Tommy Joseph double-play ground ball and finished his afternoon with a lineout to centerfield by Asche. Arizona restored their two-run lead with a Bourn RBI single in the 7th. When they tacked on two more in the 9th, it sealed the sixth loss in a row for the Phightins. Diamondbacks, 5 – Phillies, 1

More Phillies: J.P. Crawford Named Baseball Prospectus’ Top Player

Thoughts –
Monday’s win in Toronto was nearly perfect. What followed was an unimaginable horror. We could make all of the expected comments here about running into hot teams or the growing pains of a young team. But, this was historically brutal. In fact, if they can’t find a way to beat Arizona in Monday’s series finale, it will be the first time since the legendary September collapse of 1964 that a Phillies team came up empty in a homestand of at least six games.

Looking ahead –
A quirk in the schedule means one final game with the D’Backs on Monday before a long road trip takes them to Minnesota, San Francisco and Phoenix. The Twins may be the only team in baseball having as bad a month of June as the Phils. The Giants … well … they’re the Giants. We’ve all just gotten a good look at what the D’backs can do. So, it looks like they had better get what they can in the Twin Cities.

Quality Starter of the Week –
Say what you will about the legitimacy of the ‘Quality Start’ as a metric. After all, three earned runs in six innings pitched is a 4.50 ERA and that is not a ‘quality’ you find in most Cy Young Award winners. But, Jerad Eickhoff has now started 21 games and 16 of them have been Quality Starts. It has been 30 years since a Phillies starter began his career as effectively (Bruce Ruffin – 1986). It puts Eickhoff in pretty good company, too. The last three pitchers to achieve this feat are Masahiro Tanaka, Gerrit Cole and Jacob deGrom.

Roundtrip Advisors of the Week –
After opening the week with their eighth shutout of the season, the pitching staff combined to allow 20 home runs this week, setting the kind of franchise records that nobody wants their name on. It was just the tip of the iceberg. Since May 20th, when the Phillies were 11th in the league having allowed only 46 dingers in their first 41 games, they have served up 52 taters in just 29 games. Not surprisingly, their record is a league worst 6-23 during that time.

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