Increasingly impressive rookie Jerad Eickhoff pitched an outstanding game on Saturday night, but the Phillies bats were non-existent, and reliever Jerome Williams coughed up an 8th inning lead as the Phils fell to the host Braves by 2-1 at Turner Field.
Eickhoff went 7 innings for the 4th time in his last 5 starts. He allowed just 5 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5 batters in lowering his ERA on the season to a fine 3.16 mark. All but one of his seven starts have been of the Quality Start (at least 6 IP, allowing 3 or fewer earned runs) variety.
But the Phillies bats were unable to muster much of anything against Braves rookie starter Ryan Weber, who handcuffed them for the second time in less than two weeks.
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In his MLB debut on September 8th, the 25-year old righty took a loss despite allowing just 2 earned runs on 4 hits over 6 innings. In this one, Weber allowed just 1 earned run on 2 hits and 2 walks over 7 innings.
The Phils did get on the board first, scoring in the top of the 2nd inning in what was actually a blown opportunity. Both Brian Bogusevic and Carlos Ruiz led off with singles. Cody Asche then rolled into a nifty 3-6-3 doubleplay turned by Atlanta 1st baseman Freddie Freeman and shortstop Andrelton Simmons, with Bogusevic scoring.
That was all the scoring, as the two rookie righties shut down the opposing offensive attacks, if you can call them that, through 7 innings. In the bottom of the 8th, Phils’ skipper Pete Mackanin elected to bring on the veteran Williams, who was recently bumped from the starting rotation.
It seemed a reasonable move at the time. The Phillies simply have no reliable relief pitching at this point to set up for closer Ken Giles. Bringing Giles in for a 2-out Save opportunity was the only other realistic option. But at this point in a losing season, there is no need to burn him out.
So Williams it was, and to the surprise of few Fightins fans, the big righty coughed up the lead. It began with a leadoff single by the Braves best hitter, leadoff man Nick Markakis, who grounded a base hit up the middle for his second knock of the night.
Williams then put himself into trouble by walking Hector Olivera on a full count pitch. Freeman then followed by driving a ball to the wall in left field. Darnell Sweeney ran it down, but his glove crashed into the wall just as the ball entered it, and he was unable to hold on. As the ball rolled loose, both Markakis and pinch-runner Pedro Ciriaco scored, and Atlanta had the lead.
In the top of the 9th, new closer Arodys Vizcaino came on for the Braves and gave up a one-out double to Andres Blanco, putting the tying run in scoring position. But he then retired Sweeney on a liner to short, and struck out Odubel Herrera looking on a 3-2 pitch to end the ball game.
With the loss, the Phillies moved 3 games ahead of the Braves in the “race” to the bottom of the MLB standings. So there is a silver lining, as the club’s “Magic Number” to clinch the top overall pick in the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft dropped to 10 after the defeat. They’ll have a chance to lower it even further by getting swept in Sunday’s finale.