The Phillies beat the Cubs tonight, which, after going 0-4 and getting outscored by 14 runs in four previous games against them, was starting to feel like something of an absolute impossibility. But tonight, with Jerad Eickhoff looking closer to post-2015-deadline Eickhoff than 2016 Eickhoff, the Phillies were able to quiet the formidable Cubs offense enough for their meager facsimile of a team to emerge victorious.
As an unimposing, scrawny 6'3" former collegiate runner, I've been told that, should I ever find myself challenged to some manner of barroom brawl, I would be best served to assume the characteristics of a particularly deranged and insane person. The goal of assuming that stance would be to deter any actual violence in a sort of mutually assured destruction. Some jacked, angry, drunk bar patron likely will not want to go toe-to-toe with someone he believes will go to all lengths to inflict damage. Maybe this is effective, maybe it isn't. I hope to never have to find out.
But if I wanted some evidence of the effectiveness of this strategy, the way the Phillies--me--went about things with the Cubs--jacked bar patron--tonight provides some encouragement. To that end, Jerad Eickhoff came out with his 2015 stuff. Through four innings, he recorded seven strikeouts while allowing only one baserunner. In those same four innings, the Phillies offense put up two runs. The first came in the first after Freddy Galvis hit a two-out double and Maikel Franco got him home with a single to right field. In the fourth inning, Ryan Howard, finally starting again after Tommy Joseph all but took his job, hit a vintage Howard dinger to right.
Through those first four innings, the Phillies had two runs, four hits, and drew two walks. That's six Phillies touching bases to the Cubs one. The Phillies set the tone of the visibly overmatched, yet potentially insane weaker side in a bar fight. They were going to scratch, claw, and gouge out eyeballs. Maybe the Cubs wanted no part of that fight.
In the fifth, the Cubs made a tentative move to engage the Phillies in the brawl. Ben Zobrist led off with a walk, which was followed by a Tommy La Stella single to advance him to third with no outs. Miguel Montero grounded into a double play that allowed Zobrist to score, but, let's be honest, that's the most feeble way to score. The Cubs clearly had no interest in picking this fight.
That was the only run Jerad Eickhoff, the Galleria of Pitchers, would allow over his seven innings. Eickhoff exited with a 2-1 lead. He struck out eight Cubs while only allowing two hits and two walks.
The Phillies did their part in the bottom of the seventh to help Eickhoff lock up the incredibly meaningful pitcher win. Carlos Ruiz hit a one-out single and advanced to second on a stolen base (!) and then to third on a wild pitch. With two outs and Chooch on third, Odubel Herrera, aka, The Phillies Entire 2016 Offense, came up and hit a ground ball by fine Italian delicacy pasta diving La Stella to extend the Phillies lead to 3-1.
With the game set to go to the eighth and Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez looming, victory seemed as safe as it is ever likely to get against this Cubs team. But, Hector Neris decided that today was going to be his day to be really bad. After an error by Cesar Hernandez--I come to bury Cesar--and two singles, the Cubs had the bases loaded with no outs. The Cubs, it seemed, had finally recognized that the Phillies early posturing was nothing more than an assumed affect to avoid actual confrontation. With leverage high (5.07 leverage index, where 1 is neutral), Jeanmar Gomez came in looking to get out of the eighth and, hopefully record a six-out save.
He allowed a sacrifice fly to Dexter Fowler to allow one run to score, but with runners still on first and second with Jason Heyward due up, he was far from out of it. However, he got Heyward to hit a grounder to Andres Blanco that required him to slide to stop. From his knees he flipped it to Galvis at second, who made a strong throw to first to get Heyward for the double play to end the inning.
The Whitey-Freddy double play that saved tonight's game against the Cubs. pic.twitter.com/mHpYyDUMnW— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) June 8, 2016
That wasn't the end of the stress for the Phillies though, not even close. In the 9th inning, the Cubs managed to get runners at first and third with two outs with David Ross up at the plate. With Gomez now deep into his second inning of work, this game didn't quite feel over yet. On an 0-1 count, Gomez got Ross to ground out softly to Freddy Galvis on a sinker to record a two-inning save.
Tomorrow afternoon will, fortunately, be the Phillies last game against the Cubs in 2016. If they can manage to win tomorrow, they'll have gone 2-4 against the Cubs. Although that doesn't sound great, that would represent a worse performance than the Cubs have seen against the league as a whole this year--their winning percentage is over .700. It's John Lackey versus Vincent Velasquez, so there might actually be a chance of that happening. What a time to be alive!