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House Cleaning: D'backs 4, Phillies 1

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When faced with a dirty apartment--crusty enough to bum you out but not pose any health risks--you have two choices: wait until a health risk develops or clean it out preemptively. But what if you don't have the cleaning supplies yet?

You probably don't need to see where the ball is to know where it is.
You probably don't need to see where the ball is to know where it is.
Hunter Martin/Getty Images

To be honest, I did not watch this game closely...or, once Jerad Eickhoff was lifted, at all. My parents are coming to town for Father's Day. So, I spent the afternoon cleaning. Fortunately for me, that activity provides an apt metaphor for what the Phillies need to do in order to stop losing this much. The lineups each day are dingy. They are mostly place-holders, whether young or old: Peter Bourjos, Cody Asche, Cesar Hernandez, Jimmy Paredes, Cameron Rupp, Ryan Howard. The team will get better when those place-holders are cleaned out. But the Phillies currently lack the cleaning supplies. There are prospects close but not yet ready to take over. And until then, we have to find reasons to watch that have nothing to do with winning.

Some of those reasons are the young players who seem like starters on a competitive team. Players like Odubel Herrera, who opened the scoring in today's game in the first inning, when he hit a molten rock ejected from Mr. Vesuvius over the left-center field fence.

That closed the book on Phillies scoring in this game. It almost closed the book on Phillies hits too. The Phillies averaged .55555556 baserunners per inning, which corresponds to well less than one-run on an expectation chart. Sooooo, the Phillies beat the odds today, from a certain point of view (the same one from which Darth Vader murdered Anakin Skywalker).

Another hitter who gives us a reason to watch, Maikel Franco, continued to make that reason suspect with another poor performance at the plate: 0 hits on 3 at-bats and 1 strikeout. It is very difficult to know what is wrong with Franco, what has changed between his stellar debut last season and this season's striving just to be mediocre. It is either his approach, his mechanics, or both. What is concerning is that the problem has persisted as long as it has. Every player has to make adjustments in order to continue to be successful in MLB. The most worrying aspect of Franco's struggles is that he doesn't seem able to make adjustments to what he's seeing now. We know that he can make adjustments because he had to do that at every level in order to make his aggressive, high-contact, high-power approach work against better and better pitching. Let's hope he hasn't hit a wall.

On the other side of the ball, Jerad Eickhoff looked excellent until his 3rd time thru the order. He mixed his 4-pitch arsenal early, and his breaking pitches looked particularly sharp. Although he ran deep counts because his command remains slightly inconsistent, those counts often ended on whiffs. For half of the game he made me believe he'd turn this one over to the bullpen with a 1-0 lead. Of course, I wasn't confident the bullpen would hold that lead. But getting to the bullpen with a lead would be like a win for this team, right? Eickhoff's only flaw throughout the game was that he gave up hits in every inning. Even as he mowed down most of the Diamonbacks hitters, including striking out Paul Goldschmidt twice, at least one would manage a hit, get on-base, push the lineup further through the order, and get more and more looks for each hitter at Eickhoff's stuff. Eventually, Nick Ahmed found a pitch to drive to the same spot Herrera deposited a ball earlier. And shortly after that, Paul Goldschmidt got some revenge with a two-run blast. Those were the only 3 runs Eickhoff surrendered. But they made for a frustrating end to an otherwise stellar outing where he proved to be a person who can do both: strikeouts and pitcher-fielding-position.

One note about Eickhoff's outing: it looked to me like he was throwing more change-ups and that they were effective as foil to both his fastball and his slider. The velocity difference between his fastball and change-up is not large. But it has good tailing action. More importantly, his change-up is almost the same speed as his slider but breaks to his arm-side rather than this glove-side. That portends the ability to keep hitters off-balance in addition to his plus breaking pitches, which already garner him a goodly number of whiffs. Keeping hitters off-balance more might mitigate some of the hard contact he has given up throughout the season, making him less reliant on strikeouts to get through the order safely. All this is to say, Eickhoff is a work in progress but one tending in the right direction.

At this point, I stopped watching entirely in order to procure supplies to make dinner (pasta carbonara) and then make cocktails (Jack Rose). I gather that things got a little worse, that watching the game became more and more frustrating, but that suspense had long been drained despite a relatively close score. Severino Gonzalez's new-found flame-ball couldn't keep Jake Lamb in the yard. The Phillies collected a few hits. But aside from a Jimmy Paredes double, those hits hardly mattered. If you are reading this recap, I hope it is because you took your family to the pool to beat the heat without cowering from it inside, rather than watch this game.