Phils' lack of starting arms on display in defeat

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Phils' lack of starting arms on display in defeat

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ATLANTA -- Thursday night’s loss to the Atlanta Braves was a sad commentary on the state of starting pitching in the Phillies' system and the entire organization -- from the front office that assembled this group to the scouting and player-development staffs that haven’t procured and produced enough talent -- can share in the embarrassment.

It’s not Tyler Cloyd’s fault that the Phillies were hammered, 7-1, by the Atlanta Braves (see Instant Replay). Frankly, his previous three starts were so bad that he should have been replaced in the rotation. But the Phillies have no one better. They have run out of viable pitchers as the team’s first losing season since 2002, a dispiriting campaign that claimed Charlie Manuel, limps to a close.

Earlier in the week, Manuel’s replacement, Ryne Sandberg, talked about the need to upgrade and deepen the starting rotation before next season.

He had the opportunity to do it again after his team’s seventh loss in the last eight games.

“Depth, even starting pitching depth,” he said. “To have backups at Triple A, let alone the rotation, yeah, that’s very evident right now.”

Pitching hasn’t been the only problem recently. The Phils have produced just five runs in the last four games. They have gone eight straight games without a home run, their longest drought since 1996, when they were the worst team in the NL.

“We’ve hit some balls hard the last few days,” Sandberg said. “We just need to battle through it.”

The Phils did have nine hits in this game, but were hitless in 12 chances with a runner in scoring position. Atlanta rookie David Hale picked up his first win in his second big-league start. He held the Phils to one run over six walk-free innings.

As for Cloyd, well, he described his night this way: “It was just bad. I wasn’t executing pitches and they hit balls hard from the beginning.”

Jason Heyward had five hits, including a homer and three doubles, for NL East champs. He hit Cloyd’s first pitch of the night for a home run and the rout was on. The Braves scored five times against Cloyd in the first and twice more in the second. Lefty Mauricio Robles stopped the bleeding with three scoreless innings out of the bullpen.

Cloyd faced 13 batters; 10 reached base. Five of the eight hits he allowed were for extra bases. The right-hander has an ERA of 15.43 this month. He has pitched 14 innings in four September starts. Over that span, he has allowed 33 hits and 24 runs.

“He had a tough time with first-pitch strikes and with two strikes,” Sandberg said. “They were able to barrel up some balls pretty good. Before you knew it, it was 7-0.”

Since the All-Star break, Phillies starting pitchers have a 5.33 ERA, worst in the majors. And that’s with Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee combining for a 2.97 ERA over that span.

Cloyd’s path to the current rotation went like this: He replaced Ethan Martin, who pitched himself out of the rotation. Martin replaced rookie Jonathan Pettibone, who was shut down with a sore shoulder in July. Pettibone came up in April when No. 5 starter John Lannan went down and he stayed when Roy Halladay went down. Halladay is down again now, which explains why the Phillies will use their bullpen to get through Saturday night’s game. Zach Miner will make his third start filling in for Kyle Kendrick in Sunday’s season finale.

Take heart, Lee pitches on Friday night.

“We can look forward to that,” Sandberg said.

Jerad Eickhoff has 'off' game as Phillies' win streak ends with loss to Dodgers

Jerad Eickhoff has 'off' game as Phillies' win streak ends with loss to Dodgers

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LOS ANGELES — Hold your thumb and index finger about an inch apart.

That's how close Jerad Eickhoff came to pitching an excellent ballgame on Friday night.

The Phillies' six-game winning streak came to an end in a 5-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers (see Instant Replay).

Eickhoff took the loss, but he and his team might have had a different fate if the right-hander could have finished off innings more efficiently.

Eickhoff allowed the leadoff man to reach base in just one of six frames and he retired the first two batters four times. However, Eickhoff allowed nine baserunners with two outs and that was his downfall on an unusually windy night in Chavez Ravine.

What happened?

Simple. Eickhoff didn't have his trusty sidekick with him.

He didn't have his curveball.

"It just comes down to the curveball," he said. "I had it in the first inning and I just couldn't find that release point after that. I struggled with it.

"I was able to keep them off balance with my slider and by locating the fastball. Eight of their hits were singles and that's frustrating.

"But yeah, just the curveball. I couldn't put them away."

Seven of the nine hits that Eickhoff gave up came with two outs. He also issued two two-out walks. The Dodgers scored five runs against Eickhoff in 5 2/3 innings and four of them came with two outs. One of the four came on a wild pitch by Eickhoff. The wild pitch was a curveball that got away.

Perhaps the most frustrating sequence of the game for Eickhoff came in the fourth inning when Cody Bellinger beat the shift with a two-out bunt single then scored when No. 8 hitter Kike Hernandez lined a double over leftfielder Aaron Altherr's head to tie the game at 2-2. Altherr just missed making a running catch as the ball ticked off his glove as he raced back to the wall.

Also frustrating was the sixth inning. Eickhoff got the first two outs before allowing a single and a walk. Mackanin went to reliever Luis Garcia and Justin Turner tagged him for a two-run double as the Dodgers put the game away.

"You get two outs, you want to put them away," Eickhoff said. "You want to get the guys back in the dugout and I couldn't do it today.

"My curveball was either coming out early or I'd adjust, grip it a little tighter and I'd spike it. There was no in between. Then I'd get it over in the zone and it got put in play."

In other words, it was one of those nights.

"Eickhoff was off," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He just wasn't himself. He's allowed to have a bad game once in a while."

The Phillies' offense didn't have the best of days. Freddy Galvis improved his hitting streak to 10 games with a two-run double against Kenta Maeda to give the Phils a 2-0 lead in the third. But the Phillies got nothing else going against Maeda over his seven innings. Maikel Franco had a sacrifice fly in the eighth, but the Phils went down quietly in the ninth with Dodgers' closer Kenley Jansen striking out Altherr, Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp to end the game.

Rupp had a double and a walk, but is hitting .180.

Joseph was hitless with three strikeouts in four at-bats. He is hitting .190.

"A two-run lead is really nothing when you think about it," Mackanin said. "It's nice to get a lead but you don't want to hang on for nine innings with a two-run lead. You need to add on and we couldn't. Maeda pitched well. He mixed it up. We just couldn't zero in on him and get a big inning going."

One bright spot for the Phils was the work of reliever Mark Leiter Jr. He pitched a scoreless seventh inning in his big-league debut. With his debut, Leiter and his dad (Mark Sr. pitched for the Phils in 1997 and 1998) became the second father-son duo, joining the Amaros, to play for the club.

Leiter, who grew up a Phillies fan in Tom's River, on the Jersey Shore, pitched a 1-2-3 inning. He got Chase Utley on a fly ball to left for the second out.

"That was pretty cool," Leiter said. "Growing up and watching the Phillies, I saw him contribute to a lot of great years. Anytime you face a guy you watched growing up and rooted for, it's pretty special. It was awesome, something you dream about."

Best of MLB: Mets beat Max Scherzer, first-place Nationals

Best of MLB: Mets beat Max Scherzer, first-place Nationals

WASHINGTON -- With Bryce Harper coming to the plate with the bases loaded and the Mets clinging to a two-run, ninth-inning lead, New York manager Terry Collins went to the mound and replaced closer Jeurys Familia with left-hander Josh Edgin.

"If we'd have won seven in a row, I probably would have left Jeurys out there, because that's what he's here to do," Collins said.

But the Mets had lost six in a row and 10 of 11, falling 7 games behind NL East-leading Washington.

Edgin got Harper to hit a comebacker the reliever turned in a game-ending double play as the Mets held on for a 7-5 victory Friday night (see full recap).

Yankees rally from 8 down to beat Orioles
NEW YORK -- Matt Holliday ended a thrilling duel of home run derby in the Bronx with one final thump.

Holliday hit the eighth homer of the game, a three-run shot in the 10th inning as the New York Yankees completed a stunning rally from an eight-run deficit, outslugging the Baltimore Orioles 14-11 Friday night.

"It's an amazing feeling. We're down 9-1, and then we were down 11-4," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "They never quit. We have the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark and that's what we did."

Starlin Castro slipped to a knee when he tied it with a two-run drive that capped a three-run burst in the ninth off Brad Brach. Then in the 10th, Holliday hit the Yankees' fifth homer of the evening with one out off Jayson Aquino (1-1) and was mobbed at the plate (see full recap).

Red Sox get to Arrieta early, beat Cubs
BOSTON -- Against Chicago Cubs ace Jake Arrieta, the Red Sox didn't have time for a slow start Friday night -- not exactly a strength for them this season.

Andrew Benintendi helped Boston solve that issue, and the club just had to hang on from there.

Benintendi hit a solo homer off Arrieta to spark a five-run first inning and Boston beat Chicago 5-4.

The Red Sox had just seven first-inning runs this season entering Friday (see full recap).

Soto's 2-run single leads White Sox past Tigers
DETROIT -- Mike Pelfrey put his emotions aside and helped his new team, the Chicago White Sox, beat his old team, the Detroit Tigers.

Pelfrey, who was released by the Tigers near the end of spring training, started Friday's game at Detroit and left after 4 2/3 innings with the game tied. Geovany Soto then had a two-run single in the eighth, helping the White Sox beat the Tigers 7-3 at Comerica Park.

"There's no bitterness," Pelfrey said of facing Detroit. "Those guys were good to me. Obviously, spring training didn't end the way I wanted, but that's on me. I don't think I lived up to my end of the bargain," (see full recap).