In the 2nd game of their 4-gamer in Miami, the Phillies sent rookie Jerad Eickhoff to the mound.
The 24-year old, acquired in last month’s Cole Hamels deal with Texas, was the 13th different starting pitcher used by the club in this season of change.
He was also the 5th of those to take the hill with their rookie status intact, making their first starts on a big league mound, following the earlier starting debuts of Severino Gonzalez, Phillippe Aumont, Aaron Nola, and Adam Morgan.
While those previous rookies have produced mixed results to this point, the performance turned in at Marlins Stadium by Eickhoff (1-0) was anything but mixed.
The righthander dazzled from the start, shutting out the Marlins over 6 strong innings. He allowed just 5 hits, striking out 5 and walking just 1 batter. 52 of his 75 pitches went for strikes.
The Phils’ offense came to life against the Marlins own 23-year old rookie Kendry Flores, who was also making the first start of his MLB career after making a handful of appearances as a reliever this season. Flores (1-2) allowed 5 earned runs on 7 hits while walking a pair of batters.
It was the top of the 4th when the offense first got going, as Andres Blanco led off with a double and was singled home by Odubel Herrera to put the Phillies on top 1-0.
Ryan Howard followed with a double, and one out later a walk by Flores loaded the bases. A sac fly from Freddy Galvis then made it 2-0, and an error on the play allowed the runners to move up to 2nd and 3rd.
That error set up a nice offensive moment for Eickhoff, and the troupe of a couple dozen friends and family members in the Marlins Stadium stands there to witness his MLB debut.
Flores intentionally walked Cameron Rupp to re-load the bases, and to get to the rookie hurler. The move backfired for Miami when Eickhoff delivered a 2-run single, pushing the Phillies lead out to 4-0 with his first big league hit.
In the top of the 5th, Howard followed a one-out single by Herrera with an RBI double to make it a 5-0 game.
In the top of the 6th, with Miami having turned to their bullpen, Galvis led off with a single. Rupp followed him with another single, and when the ball ticked off the glove of left fielder Derek Dietrich and rolled away from him, Galvis hustled to 3rd. He then never slowed, as he was sent home by 3rd base coach John Mizerock when the throw came in to 2nd base. That run busted the lead out to 6-0.
With Eickhoff finally lifted in the bottom of the 7th, the Fish broke through on a solo home run off the bat of Dietrich against Jeanmar Gomez. That would be all the hosts could muster on the night.
The Phillies tacked on a final run in the top of the 9th, as Howard drilled his 3rd double of the night, just the second 3-double game of his storied Phillies career. That wrapped the scoring at 7-1 in favor of the visitors.
Per MLB.com, Eickhoff’s postgame statements demonstrated his appreciation for the moment. “It’s surreal. You grow up dreaming about this, and words can’t describe it. There’s so many people you meet that help you get here, and it’s just a testament to what they do.“
It is expected that Eickhoff will remain a member of the rotation for the balance of the season, joining fellow rookies Nola and Morgan in that role.
The trio represent the first wave of a young starting pitcher group that the Phils hope will uncover at least 3-4 long-term gems over the next year or so.