Rays 8, Phillies 0: Jerad Eickhoff sizzles, offense fizzles

Rays 8, Phillies 0: Jerad Eickhoff sizzles, offense fizzles

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies have had their starting pitching rotation lined up for weeks, so it was no surprise to the men in that rotation when manager Pete Mackanin announced Sunday that Jeremy Hellickson would get the ball on opening day in Cincinnati in two weeks (see story).
Jerad Eickhoff was the runner-up for the opening day nod and will start the second game of the regular season. 

On Sunday, he looked like a guy who is ready.
The wide-shouldered right-hander struck out nine and walked none in six innings of two-run ball against the Tampa Bay Rays.
"He was outstanding," Mackanin said. "He struck out the 3-4 hitters six times, which is huge. The other thing that was really impressive, he's been working on a changeup and he threw a lot of them today. He changed speeds really well."
Eickhoff, 26, came to the Phillies in the July 2015 trade that sent Cole Hamels to Texas. In terms of upside, Eickhoff was widely considered the fourth-rated prospect in the deal behind pitcher Jake Thompson, catcher Jorge Alfaro and outfielder Nick Williams.
So far, Eickhoff has been the top producer on the Phillies' end of the deal. He led the staff in starts (33), innings (197 1/3) and ERA (3.65) last season.
"I always knew what I could do," he said. "I was just kind of thrown in [the Hamels deal]. People say that. But I knew what I could do. I knew my mentality and how I go about my business so I had confidence in that. To be given the opportunity and to be able to succeed as I have thus far, I've been very fortunate with that, very blessed to have that. It's a continuing process and I'm always looking to get better."
Perhaps the best testament to Eickhoff's emergence as a stalwart on the Phillies' staff came from Hellickson, who on Sunday said Eickhoff deserved the opening day start more than he did.
"I think a lot of Jeremy and he's done so much in this game, so for him to say that that's very cool to hear," Eickhoff said. "He deserves it as much as anybody. It's fun to watch him go about his business and go through a lineup like he does. It's a tremendous honor for him for sure."
Eickhoff has pitched his way into being a foundation piece in the Phillies' rebuild.
His chance will come.
"Yeah, one day," he said. "I hope so. But I'll be looking forward to seeing Jeremy out there on opening day."
The game
Eickhoff got no offensive support and the Phillies lost 8-0. The Phils had just three regular players in the starting lineup and did not have a baserunner until Tommy Joseph came off the bench and smacked a one-out double in the eighth.
The Phils finished with just two hits.
"Nobody wants to be on the losing end of a no-hitter," Joseph said. "So I guess it’s nice to not get no-hit. But it still doesn't feel too hot to get the loss either."
Joseph had not played in four days after being hit in the left hand by a pitch.
"Thankfully, Tommy Joseph came through," Mackanin said. "Other than that, no offense to talk about.
"We're not this bad. We're going to improve offensively."
Up next
The Phillies have an off day Monday. They travel to Fort Myers to play the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday.

Best of MLB: Ivan Nova tosses 3-hitter as Pirates shut out Marlins

Best of MLB: Ivan Nova tosses 3-hitter as Pirates shut out Marlins

MIAMI -- Ivan Nova pitched a three-hitter and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Miami Marlins 4-0 on Saturday night.

John Jaso homered and drove in two runs, Jordy Mercer knocked in a run, and Gregory Polanco had two doubles for the Pirates, who have won three straight.

Nova (3-2) struck out seven and did not walk a batter in the 95-pitch masterpiece. He retired 11 in a row at one point.

Nova continued his impressive start to the season, which includes walking just one batter over 27 innings as he lowered his ERA to 1.50 while tossing his second complete game and the eighth of his career.

Dan Strailey (1-2) nearly matched Nova through five innings allowing only one run before running into trouble in the sixth when he allowed a base hit followed by three consecutive walks including Francisco Cervelli with the bases loaded ending his outing (see full recap).

Conforto's 2 home runs power Mets past Nationals
WASHINGTON -- Michael Conforto hit two home runs and slumping Jose Reyes also connected, leading the New York Mets over the Washington Nationals 5-3 Saturday.

The banged-up Mets had lost six in a row when they began this series at Nationals Park against the team with the best record in the majors. Behind their power and bullpen, the Mets beat Washington for the second straight day.

Conforto's two-run homer in the fifth gave the Mets a 3-1 lead and his sixth home run of the season made it 4-2 in the eighth. It was Conforto's second multihomer game in the majors -- as a rookie, he did it in Game 4 of the 2015 World Series against Kansas City.

Hansel Robles (4-0) came in to start the sixth and retired five of the six batters he faced, striking out four. Jerry Blevins then took over and fanned Bryce Harper.

Jeurys Familia, pulled Friday night in the ninth inning while Washington tried to rally, retired three straight hitters to earn his first save of the season.

Stephen Strasburg (2-1) gave up three runs in seven innings (see full recap).

Gardner busts out, Yanks hit 4 more HRs to rout Orioles
NEW YORK -- Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge and the thundering New York Yankees picked up right where they left off the previous night, steamrolling past the Baltimore Orioles 12-4 on Saturday for their fourth straight victory.

Gardner homered twice from the leadoff spot and had his first four RBIs of the season. Austin Romine, the No. 9 batter, also went deep and knocked in five runs. Judge, not to be outdone, clocked his latest colossal homer and scored four times as New York won its 14th in 17 games to boost the American League's best record to 15-7.

Michael Pineda (3-1) did not allow an earned run in 5 1/3 innings, striking out eight, and the Yankees knocked Baltimore out of first place in the AL East for the first time this season.

Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez (1-1) was tagged for a season-high seven runs -- six earned -- and five hits with three walks.

In a series-opening slugfest Friday night, the Yankees hit five homers and rallied from eight runs down for a 14-11 victory capped by Matt Holliday's three-run shot in the 10th inning (see full recap).

Instant Replay: Dodgers 6, Phillies 5

Instant Replay: Dodgers 6, Phillies 5


LOS ANGELES — The Phillies suffered a gut-wrenching 6-5 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night.

The Phillies took a 5-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning but the Dodgers tied the game on three straight, no-out solo homers against Hector Neris.

The Dodgers got two more hits in the inning before Adrian Gonzalez won it with a two-out RBI infield hit against Joely Rodriguez.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin stacked his lineup with lefty hitters and it paid off as Brock Stassi, Daniel Nava and Andrew Knapp accounted for five RBIs. But they all went by the wayside in one quick, disastrous inning.

The Phils have lost two in a row.

And this one was bad.

Starting pitching report
Zach Eflin held the Dodgers to four hits and two runs over seven walk-free innings. Both of the runs came on solo homers, one in the first inning and one in the seventh. Otherwise, Eflin retired 11 hitters by groundout and four by strikeout.

Eflin has given up just four earned runs in 19 innings over three starts this season. He has walked just three.

Brandon McCarthy gave up a season-high four runs on eight hits and a walk.

Bullpen report
Joaquin Benoit struck out Yasmani Grandal, the potential tying run, with two men on base to end the eighth inning.

Neris blew the save and took the loss.

At the plate
Stassi's second homer of the season, a three-run shot to left-center off McCarthy in the fourth, gave the Phils a 3-1 lead. He started at first in place of slumping Tommy Joseph.

Knapp started at catcher in place of Cameron Rupp. He responded with a single, double and home run. The homer was his first in the majors.

Andrew Toles led off the bottom of the first with a solo homer for the Dodgers. Rookie Cody Bellinger added a homer in the seventh.

Yasiel Puig, Bellinger and Justin Turner hit consecutive solo homers with no outs in the ninth to tie the game.

In the field
Odubel Herrera made a long run and a terrific lunging catch to take away extra bases from Puig in the fourth.

Chase Utley made an error at second base for the Dodgers.

Health check
Aaron Nola's back is still an issue. Howie Kendrick remains on the DL with an oblique injury, but he could be an option at first base when he returns if Joseph's bat continues to slumber (see story).

Up next
The three-game series concludes on Sunday afternoon. Nick Pivetta will make his major-league debut for the Phillies. He will face Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu (0-4, 4.64).

The Phillies acquired Pivetta in the trade that sent Jonathan Papelbon to Washington in July 2015. He was 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA, 24 strikeouts and just two walks in three starts at Triple A before being called up.

Reliever Luis Garcia was optioned to Triple A Lehigh Valley after Saturday night's game to make room for Pivetta.