Jerad Eickhoff had quite a night last night, giving up five home runs to the Diamondbacks in a loss that had people scrambling to find similar performances among the futility of the Phillies archives.
Last pitcher before Jerad Eickhoff to give up 5 HR and get 9 outs or fewer: Anibal Sanchez on 8/6/17 vs. the Orioles....Only other Phillie was the always entertaining Vicente Padilla on 4/19/05 vs. the Mets.— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) June 11, 2019
As every good paragraph does, this one will begin with the phrase, “Okay, okay; but in Vicente Padilla’s defense...” and continues with me saying, “he probably still had that tendinitis he was battling at the time, in addition to his other medical condition, never feeling an emotion.”
And you know what else? Gavin Floyd came in after Padilla that day in 2005, and he gave up eight runs in that game, too. And he walked three guys. And the Mets scored in all of the first six innings, and won 16-4. Wow, that day sucked.
Anyway, my point is, sometimes things go okay. And sometimes, you become the guy whose given up the most relentlessly surrendered home runs in Phillies history.
Padilla had a very specific policy in regards to speaking with reporters, one that prevented him from speaking with reporters, which was, “I do not speak to the reporters.” As Kevin Roberts of the Camden Courier-Post wrote with the self-righteous anger only summonable by a scorned sports writer,
“Pressure? Ha. Padilla doesn’t know the meaning of the word. Although, since Padilla still is insisting he doesn’t speak English as a means of avoiding questions after he pitches, it’s possible he doesn’t know the meaning of a lot of words.”
Padilla had given interviews in the past, thus the confusion about his language skills. According to the Inquirer, during his time with the Phillies, Larry Bowa had begged Padilla to throw something other than a fastball, and he just... wouldn’t do it. Bowa and Joe Kerrigan, the former Phillies pitching coach, tried to explain to Padilla how mixing in some off-speed pitches could confuse hitters with alternating velocity, and he just gave them the same wordless, soulless gawp with which he’d been grimacing at everyone else for 200 years.
Charlie Manuel told reporters after the game, “I didn’t see any signs of [Padilla] getting upset.” This was very normal. It was even more normal in upsetting situations. Padilla didn’t show a lot of signs of anything at anytime.
And yet, the Phillies had, in July 2000, sent Curt Schilling to the desert to win a World Series with the Diamondbacks in exchange for luminaries like Travis Lee, Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa, and Padilla. Not quite viewed as the next Schilling, due to his reluctance to speak, Padilla did arrive in Philadelphia with the expectation of anchoring the pitching staff effectively enough to give the Phillies a shot at the postseason. It had been five years, and those expectations were crumbling. Looking around at the rest of the rotation, it was not a golden era: Floyd hadn’t looked much better, Brett Myers was still pretty raw, Cory Lidle would give up five home runs of his own in one game later in the season.
Sorry; I just can’t stop thinking about Bowa and Kerrigan beseeching Padilla, tears in their eyes, to please, for the love of god, stop throwing fastballs, only for him to look somehow through them, as though they weren’t even there, and Kerrigan finally breaking and grabbing him by the collar and just pleading with him to please, for once, just look at him like he’s a person; look at him so that he knows he’s alive.
Around this time, the Phillies were waiting patiently for Padilla to be anything other than a guy who gives up a record number of home runs to the Mets. The writers thought Padilla was “loopy” and “weird,” and his lack of success and refusal to speak with them led them to theorize that hey, maybe he just wasn’t that good, but maybe the Phillies could still be, even with Padilla being a painfully average at best member of the rotation.
But it was April 20. Already, they’d given up 23 home runs to opposing hitters. The Cardinals, by comparison, had given up six. Manuel tried to suggest that the heat had allowed the balls to fly further and faster. Floyd, sounding confused at this notion, disagreed.
#Phillies pitchers who allowed five or more homers in a game:— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) June 11, 2019
Jerad Eickhoff, tonight (five)
Dustin McGowan, 6/16/15 (five)
Cory Lidle, 7/25/05 (five)
Vicente Padilla, 4/19/05 (five)
Grant Jackson, 7/30/69 (five)
Bill Kerksie, 8/13/39 (six)
In search of historical poundings, we can reach a bit further back to August 13, 1939, when Wayman “Bill” Kirksieck made one of the two major league starts that would define his very meager Baseball Reference page. At 25 years old, he was, according to the papers, “lucky to escape alive” after the Giants slammed him with six home runs in four innings, and by the time his replacement, Bill Hoffman, had thrown his third wild pitch, the crowd was almost in “hysterics.”
They had 30 years to calm down before the next implosion of this magnitude, this one from Grant Jackson, in which Bob Tillman of the Braves walloped the Phillies starter with three home runs, and Hank Aaron hit his 537th career jack to pass Mickey Mantle on the all-time list.
Zipping ahead through the decades to McGowan’s five-homer appearance, we can see that it took part in a game in which the first 1-2-3 inning for a Phillies pitcher came courtesy of Jeff Francoeur, who entered the game that would end in a 19-3 loss to the Orioles once it was completely out of hand. The game was the last of a nine-game road trip on which the Phillies would win zero games. “Worst trip I’ve ever been on,” Francoeur told the Daily News.
Were the five home runs Padilla allowed that day in 2005 a new Mets team record? Of course they were. Were the eight home runs the Diamondbacks hit off Jerad Eickhoff last night also a team record? I mean, you know that they were. Ildlemaro Vargas hit one. He hadn’t hit one since April 5. It was his third one ever.
If nothing else—and there essentially was nothing else—Jerad Eickhoff was merely continuing a Phillies tradition last night against the Diamondbacks: A tradition of repeated bashings from a lineup that had his number, a tradition of pitches just not working in one specifically concentrated chunk of time, and a tradition of leading fans to wonder when the good pitchers are going to get here.
But it also took place at a moment in time in which the Phillies have spent most of the season in first place, have a wide array of all-stars (albeit under-performing ones) in their lineup, and seem a few improvements away from being able to avoid more and more losses like this in the future. Unlike when McGowan allowed five home runs, last night, nobody was waving the white flag.