Phillies-Diamondbacks 5 things: No Cy of relief against Zack Greinke


Phillies (30-38) vs. Diamondbacks (30-39)
3:05 p.m. on CSN

Recently, it's been another day, another loss for the Phillies. Friday was no different with the Diamondbacks jumping all over Adam Morgan. Now Jerad Eickhoff takes the hill against Zach Greinke and the D-backs, hoping to end the Phillies' four-game skid. 

Let's dive into five things prior to Saturday afternoon's tilt.

1. Inside a bad June for the bullpen
While Corey Seidman wrote in Friday's edition of game notes about the rotation struggling mightily over the last few weeks, the rest of the pitching staff has had the same midseason malaise. From top to bottom, the Phillies' bullpen has been a roller coaster for the last month.

Let's look at the stats. Entering Friday, the Phillies had the fifth-worst bullpen ERA of any team over the last 30 days. In the same span, the relief corps has given up the third-most home runs of any team. For only June, the relievers have the worst bullpen ERA while giving up the most home runs and hits of any team.

There are some clear reasons this downturn came after the bullpen proved itself so dependable during the Phils' early success. For one, the starters have failed to go deep into the games, forcing the bullpen to soak up the second-most innings in MLB so far in June. With the offense falling on hard times as well, Pete Mackanin is unable to deploy his top reliever and is forced to use his rotating crew of mop-up guys instead (Welcome, Severino Gonzalez!).

But Mackanin's top guys have also begun to regress. Hector Neris' strikeout rate has declined each month while he's become more hittable (nine hits in 5 2/3 innings in June after just nine hits in 14 1/3 in May) while serving up more home runs. Mackanin said that Neris has struggled to command his dominating splitter, which would explain much of this noise.

Jeanmar Gomez has followed a similar path to Neris. Gomez doesn't have that one pitch to match Neris' splitter and hitters seem to simply see the ball better against Gomez, who also has had his ERA go up each month this season.

One issue for Gomez could be more space in between games. For instance, his blown save on Sunday vs. Washington came after a five-day layoff. Pitchers are creatures of habit and the lack of consistency for the former minor league starter could have done him in.

2. Eickhoff settling into a groove
With Aaron Nola and Jeremy Hellickson putting up some ugly numbers in their last few starts, the Phillies have no choice but turn to Eickhoff, who actually has quality numbers despite his league-leading eight losses. 

After all, losses are also a function of the offense and defense around a pitcher, both of which have been grotesque in recent games. Eickhoff has had three straight quality starts to begin June, mirroring his beginning to the season as a whole. His last two starts were truly masterpieces, considering the competition.

On June 7, Eickhoff held the MLB-best Chicago Cubs to just one run on two hits and two walks while fanning eight batters in seven innings, earning the win. He also earned the only win of a four-game set against Toronto, shutting out the high-octane Blue Jays for six frames. 

The 25-year-old righty has shown the ability to shrug off defeats and consistently get through six innings (he's done so in all but three starts). The D-backs are no joke offensively (more on that below), but Eickhoff has a chance to continue a nice little hot streak Saturday.

3. No Cy of relief
The Phillies' lineup will face one of its toughest tests this season, taking on former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke. Despite a slow start to the year (5.50 ERA in April), he's back to his normal self, dominating opponent after opponent.

Greinke has a string of six wins in as many starts going into Saturday. His three June starts have been even better than Eickhoff, giving up two runs in seven innings to his former team, the Dodgers, on Monday after 16 shutout innings to begin the month. Recently, Greinke looks a lot less like a deer in the headlights and more like the guy who anchored a top rotation with an MLB-best 1.66 ERA in 2015.

His home run rate has spiked slightly this season, giving up a home run in four consecutive starts in May after not having a streak of more than two straight games with a homer allowed in 2015. Even with the Phillies' offense seemingly inept at home, it's tough to keep the ball in Citizens Bank Park, so that remains a hope against Greinke.

As a slight aside, Greinke has been absurdly good in his two starts in day games this season. I know, I know, it means nothing. He allowed just one run in 15 innings in day games while striking out 18 batters. He's also 4-0 with a 1.54 ERA in five starts away from home.

4. Paul Goldschmidt is a pretty good hitter
This header is certainly an understatement. The man can hit the ball with authority. You would be remiss in talking about the Diamondbacks without mentioning his dominance. 

He's played in all but one game for the D-backs this season and leads the NL in games played, plate appearances and walks. He added his 13th home run of the season just three years after leading the senior circuit in long balls and a year after a 33-homer, 110-RBI season. Because he has played 100 percent of his games for the Diamondbacks, he doesn't get the attention of many other stars.

But he is certainly a star. He is truly elite across the board, even sporting special base running skills for a first baseman (75 stolen bases in his career, including 21 last year and eight already this year). On a yearly basis, Goldschmidt is producing 30 homers, 100 RBI, 15-plus steals and a plethora of walks. If you're choosing one player that you don't want to let beat you on the D-backs, it's him.

5. This and that
• The Phillies' catchers (Carlos Ruiz and Cameron Rupp) are a combined 0 for 14 lifetime against Greinke with four strikeouts. 

• The only D-backs regular with any career appearances against Eickhoff is CF Michael Bourn, who is 0 for 3 with a strikeout against him.

• On Friday, Arizona broke a four-game losing streak at Citizens Bank Park dating back to July 2014. The Diamondbacks have not won a series at CBP since a three-game sweep on May 28-30, 2007. 

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