Phillies-Nationals 5 things: Can Jeremy Hellickson dominate Nats again?

Phillies-Nationals 5 things: Can Jeremy Hellickson dominate Nats again?

Phillies (3-7) vs. Nationals (6-4)
1:05 p.m. on CSN and streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app

Despite five strong innings from Aaron Nola, the Phillies couldn't nail down a win against the Nationals on Friday evening, losing, 3-2, in extra innings. The Phils send Jeremy Hellickson to the hill Saturday afternoon with hopes to even the series at one apiece while the Nationals toss out Tanner Roark.

Here are five things to know for Game 2 of this series.

1. Can Hellickson tame the Nats again?
In his last time out, Hellickson had the Nationals' number. 

The Phillies' opening day starter took the hill last Sunday and held the Nationals to just one hit through five innings. He was perfect the first time through the order and avoided nearly any hard contact. He would have been able to take the Phils later into the game but dealt with forearm cramping and had to leave the game after warming up for the sixth inning.

It was a disappointing finish for Hellickson's solid start. Holding this Nationals lineup in check is no small feat. Even with starting shortstop Trea Turner on the 10-day disabled list, the team is chalk full of solid lefty hitters with Adam Eaton, Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy all in the top four of the lineup. Hellickson had trouble with the Nationals at times last season (5.09 ERA in 23 innings), so the performance on Sunday was encouraging.

So far on the year, Hellickson has been an ace ... in short bursts. He has a 0.90 ERA but has mustered only five innings in each of his two starts. Run prevention is great, but the Phillies' bullpen could also use a rest with Hellickson working late in the game. It doesn't help that his ERA and his lack of home runs allowed are unsustainable over the long run. However, the focus is one start at a time.

Don't be surprised if the Nationals start Adam Lind at first base against Hellickson again. He is 10 for 34 with three doubles and five walks in his career vs. Hellickson despite going 0 for 2 last time out. Murphy and Jayson Werth have home runs off the righty while catcher Matt Wieters is just 6 for 30, which may be why he didn't start vs. Hellickson last weekend.

2. Tommy Joseph's slow start
While Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera are off to hot starts at the top of the lineup, Tommy Joseph has yet to hit his stride further down in the six hole. This is Joseph's first April in the big leagues as well as his first full year as the Phillies' starting first baseman. With that in mind, it's hard to craft realistic expectations for the 25-year-old.

There are some signs that Joseph could be breaking out of his season-opening slump. After starting 2 for 23 at the dish, he had his first extra-base hit -- a double -- on Wednesday before taking Stephen Strasburg deep for a home run on Friday. We know that Joseph has plenty of power after 21 home runs in just 347 plate appearances last season, so some big swings are hardly out of the ordinary.

Joseph isn't out of the woods though. He's struck out in a third of his plate appearances so far this season and still has an ugly batting line. However, the .143/.194/.286 line he's currently sporting isn't his true talent level. Joseph's slump shouldn't be a long-term thing.

3. Roark vs. the Phillies
In five starts last season, Roark dominated the Phillies. The crafty right-hander was 3-0 with a 0.79 ERA over five starts and 34 innings. He had a quality start every time he faced the Phillies and went seven innings in all but one appearance. Sure, Roark had a career year in many ways last season and the Phillies barely won 70 games, but it's still an impressive performance.

Prior to last season, Roark had much more pedestrian numbers against the Phils, allowing 22 runs in 28 2/3 innings while going just 2-5. It's not necessarily a coincidence that Roark improved against the Phillies while also taking tremendous strides in his overall performance, but the Phillies aren't necessarily dead in the water with the 30-year-old starter on the mound.

In 2017, Roark is off to a solid, yet unspectacular start. He's 2-0 with a 4.09 ERA, getting 20 runs of support over his two starts. His 9/2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 11 innings is solid to begin the year. 

Only one Phillies hitter has a home run off Roark -- Freddy Galvis, who is 4 for 13 with the HR and a HBP vs. the righty. Herrera has the best numbers against him, going 7 for 15 off him. Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco are both 4 for 14 vs. Roark.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Kendrick is off to a roaring start for the Phillies. While he went just 1 for 4 on Friday, he's still batting .343 with a .410 on-base percentage in the early going.

Nationals: It's gone a bit under the radar with Ryan Zimmerman's resurgence, but Jayson Werth has started his contract season with a bang. He's batting .306 with a .556 slugging percentage and three home runs. Not bad for the former Phillie.

5. This and that
• In five appearances this season, Jeanmar Gomez has allowed seven runs over 5 1/3 innings. While he gave up the winning run Friday, his ERA actually went down from 12.46 to 11.81.

• Nationals new closer Blake Treinen has had a shaky start to 2017 (5.06 ERA in six games). He has a 2.70 ERA in 16 appearances against the Phillies in his four-year career.

• The Phillies' loss in walk-off fashion on Friday was their first extra-inning game this year. They were 7-6 in extras last season.

Phillies-Giants 5 things: Jerad Eickhoff's turn to face West Coast woes

Phillies-Giants 5 things: Jerad Eickhoff's turn to face West Coast woes

Phillies (43-77) at Giants (50-74)
9:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies dropped their sixth straight game on Friday night and fell to 0-5 on their West Coast road trip. The last-place Giants raced out to a quick lead against Zach Eflin and beat the Phils handily, 10-2.

Jerad Eickhoff, who left with the Phillies leading on Monday, looks to continue his recent success against Ty Blach and the Giants in a Saturday night affair.

Here are five things to know for the game:

1. Eickhoff quietly improving
You wouldn't know it just looking at his 4.33 ERA, but Eickhoff has put together a strong stretch in recent weeks.

In his last five starts, which dates back to July 23, he's thrown 28 2/3 innings with allowing just nine earned runs, good for a 2.83 ERA. In that span, he's notched three quality starts and has 25 strikeouts. While he's limited opponents to just one home run, he's still walked 12. He's lowered his ERA by half a run in this time.

You certainly have to factor in the level of competition. Beyond a struggling yet potent Milwaukee offense, he pitched against Atlanta twice, a weak Angels lineup (which does feature Mike Trout) and the lackluster Padres. The Giants aren't much better, so it's not hard to see him extending his recent success. 

Eickhoff's mini-roll has been easy to overlook with Aaron Nola's dominant summer and Eickhoff being a 27-year-old on a team looking towards even younger players. But you can't forget that he was their best starter last season and should be able to hit at least 150 innings, a year after throwing 197 1/3. 

He's no ace, but that's not what he's asked to be. He's an average to slightly above-average starter and there's plenty of value in that. And if you're comparing him to last season, his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) is actually better in 2017 than 2016, indicating he's been a little unlucky this year.

Eickhoff started against Blach in June and put together his worst start of the season, giving up 11 baserunners and five runs while recording just eight outs. He didn't give up any home runs, but he walked five batters and struck out just two. 

Denard Span went 3 for 3 vs. Eickhoff while Eduardo Nunez, who's since been traded, was 2 for 2 with a walk. Blach even walked twice in two plate appearances.

2. Back with Blach
While Eickhoff had his worst start of the year against Blach and the Giants, Blach had one of the best, if not the best, starts of his young career (the other option being eight innings of shutout ball vs. the Dodgers down the stretch last season). 

He threw a seven-hit shutout. He struck out four, walked none and needed 112 pitches to dispatch the Phillies in just five batters more than the minimum. He was the first of three pitchers (Carlos Martinez, Clayton Richard) to throw shutouts against the Phillies this season.

And the soft-tossing lefty started out the season in the bullpen. He made four appearances (two starts) down the stretch in 2016 and was filling a minor role in the Giants' bullpen this April. However, he was given a full-time spot in the rotation once Madison Bumgarner injured his shoulder, and he hasn't looked back.

He leads all rookies with 134 innings pitched. He's 14th out of 34 rookie starters in ERA (4.37) but he's fourth in wins above replacement (WAR), likely because of his durability and his innings total as much as his effectiveness.

Outside of his gem at Citizens Bank Park, he's been quite hittable on the road. Home is where he's been at his best with a 3.60 ERA compared to a 5.50 mark away from AT&T Park. That's because he doesn't strike many batters out, walks only a few, and really relies on his fielders. Therefore, he's a great beneficiary of playing at the one of the most extreme pitcher's parks in baseball, where a fly-ball pitcher like Blach can truly excel. 

The 26-year-old southpaw works off a 90-mph fastball and 80-mph changeup, working in a 12-6 curve and occasional slider.

Cesar Hernandez and Cameron Rupp each picked up two hits against Blach in June, while Maikel Franco had one as well (Howie Kendrick had the other two).

3. Don't go west, young men
When the Phillies have traveled to the opposite coast this season, their destiny has manifested itself in plenty of misfortune and poor play. 

After the 10-2 loss on Friday night, they are now 4-16 west of Texas, suffering sweeps at the hands of the Dodgers, Angels and Padres. They also went 2-5 combined against the Rockies and Diamondbacks, salvaging a two-game sweep against the Mariners in their western escapades. 

A lot of it's easy to parse out: Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies are all playoff teams. Angels are currently tied for the second wild card in the American League. 

But the showing this week has been especially painful. The Phils took two of three from the Giants in June, one of their rare series wins, and the Padres are a team that isn't designed to compete in 2017. These aren't just the worst teams in the NL West, they're two of the worst in baseball and the Phillies are cementing themselves in the cellar of the National League with this poor trip out west.

In San Diego and San Francisco, they've been outscored 33-14 by the teams that are 28th and 30th, respectively, in OPS. 

Luckily for the Phils, they've got no more West Coast trips left after this weekend and only 14 of their last 40 games are on the road. That's plenty of games at CBP, where they are a much more respectable 24-31 (compared to 19-46 on the road).

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Rhys Hoskins is just 2 for 12 with three walks against left-handed pitchers, but both hits are home runs. 

Giants: After going 2 for 4 on Friday night with a double and home run, Hunter Pence has a six-game hitting streak going. He has six multi-hit games this month and is batting .351 in August.

5. This and that
• The Phillies have faced 19 teams this year and have a winning record against only one of them (Atlanta).

• Checking in with some recent former Phillies: Jeremy Hellickson allowed five home runs to the Angels on Friday night, including one to New Jersey's own Trout.

• Now with the Nationals, Kendrick has hit even better than he did with the Phillies. Going into Friday's action, he had a .353/.400/.667 batting line with four home runs.

• Pat Neshek has struck out seven batters in 6 1/3 innings, but he's allowed five runs (three earned). He's given up 10 hits, though he's yet to walk a batter.

• Lastly, Joaquin Benoit has had a rough go of it in Pittsburgh. He has a 11.81 ERA, giving up nine runs (seven earned) in just 5 1/3 innings. The 40-year-old reliever has as many hit-by-pitches as strikeouts with the Pirates.

Zach Eflin leaves with sore shoulder as Phillies' California woes continue

Zach Eflin leaves with sore shoulder as Phillies' California woes continue

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The state of California has become the state of despair for the Phillies.

They fell to 0-11 in the state after a 10-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Friday night (see Instant Replay).

The Phils suffered three-game sweeps against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, the Angels in Anaheim and the Padres in San Diego. They have now lost the first two of a four-game series against the Giants in the northern part of the state.

Friday night's defeat was the Phillies' sixth straight, dropping them to a season-high 34 games under .500. They are 19-46 on the road and 6-22 against the National League West.

The loss was embarrassing because the Phils were held to one hit over seven scoreless innings by the pitcher with the highest ERA in the NL. Giants lefty Matt Moore entered with an ERA of 5.71. The Phils finished with just four hits, all singles.

The loss may also have been costly because starting pitcher Zach Eflin, one of the young pitchers the Phillies would like to build around, gave up seven hits and six runs and had to leave the game after five innings with discomfort in the back of his right shoulder. Earlier this season, Eflin, 23, missed time with an elbow strain.

Eflin said he'd felt soreness in the back of this shoulder before.

"This is a little different than I've had before," Eflin said. "It's just kind of a steady tightness. It's something I wasn't comfortable continuing with. I don't think it's anything serious. It's more of a precautionary thing."

The shoulder tightness didn't affect Eflin's velocity. He threw breaking balls early in the game and gave up three runs in the first inning. In the fourth inning, he used his four-seam fastball and hit 96 mph on the radar gun while getting three quick outs. Manager Pete Mackanin said he'd like to see more of that from Eflin. Of course, now it's safe to wonder when Eflin will pitch again. The Phils will surely be careful with him.

The Phillies are already making some adjustments to their starting rotation. Right-hander Ben Lively will be recalled from Triple A to take Odubel Herrera's spot on the roster. Herrera went on the disabled list with a sore left hamstring (see story). Lively will start against the Giants on Sunday while scheduled starter Mark Leiter Jr. goes to the bullpen.

The Phillies were never in Friday night's game. They got three of their four hits and both of their runs (on a bloop hit by Freddy Galvis) in the eighth inning and the Giants came back and scored four in the bottom of the inning.

Rookie catcher Jorge Alfaro had the Phillies' first two hits of the game, the only two that Moore gave up. Moore (4-12) earned his first win since June 20.

In a span of three days, the Phillies have been held to two runs over 16 1/3 innings by a pair of lefties with high ERAs. They were shut out by Clayton Richard in San Diego on Wednesday. He entered that game with a 5.14 ERA.

"It's frustrating when you look up at the numbers and you see that," Mackanin said. "You kind of hope we can get to the guy. But for whatever reason, the bats are just silent right now."

The Phillies' offense has been bad all season, but it has been especially bad lately. Over the last nine games, they have scored just 25 runs, an average of 2.8 per game. The Phils are 1-8 in those contests.