Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez started off Wednesday afternoon’s matinee at Busch Stadium by hitting a relatively lazy fly ball to center field. St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Dexter Fowler put the ball away without any trouble, but not before it carried all the way to the warning track. That made you think this afternoon’s getaway game could turn into an offensive shootout, but that’s not what transpired.
Instead, both Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff and Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty were very economical through the first four innings, using just 101 pitches combined. Even when the scoring got started in the top of the fifth inning, it was of the small-ball variety.
J.T. Realmuto led off the top of the fifth inning with a walk, bringing Odubel Herrera to the plate. Herrera laced a double into the left-center field gap, which allowed Realmuto to score all the way from first base. That was the first of four runs that the Phillies would score in the top of the fifth inning Wednesday.
Following a Nick Williams single, which allowed Herrera to advance to third base, Maikel Franco hit a weak ground ball between shortstop and third base that should have been a relatively easy play for third baseman Matt Carpenter. The only problem? Carpenter and shortstop Paul DeJong didn’t communicate, which allowed Herrera to score, Williams to move to second and Franco to reach base safely at first:
No, I don't.
Phillies lead it by two and have two on with one down! pic.twitter.com/BCwy1HK2Iw
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) May 8, 2019
The fourth Phillies run came off the bat of Hernandez, who sprayed a ball down the left field line, allowing Williams and Franco to score. Despite some defensive and base running blunders early in the 2019 season, Hernandez’s batting average now sits at .305.
Ultimately, the Phillies would leave the bases loaded in the top of the fifth inning, with Realmuto, batting for the second time in the inning, flying out to end a productive inning. Still, it’s worth noting how the Phillies got into a bases loaded situation. With Hernandez on second base and two outs, Bryce Harper worked a 10-pitch walk. A 10-pitch walk in itself is impressive, but he seemed to adjust where he placed his legs in the batters box in the middle of the at-bat to account for the fact that Flaherty was trying to put him away with a slider down-and-in, just like Cardinals closer Jordan Hicks had Monday. With runners on first and second, Rhys Hoskins, who is about as locked in as you can be now, worked at six-pitch walk and kept the line moving to Realmuto.
It’s fair to say that the Phillies should have scored more than four runs in the top of the fifth inning, but the four they scored proved to be plenty, and the patience of Harper and Hoskins was noteworthy even if they didn’t ultimately score.
The Phillies would add a fifth run two innings later, when Hernandez hit one that went past the warning track and into the Cardinals bullpen:
Have a day, Cesar Hernandez!
His homer gives him three batted in on the afternoon.
Phillies lead, 5-0. pic.twitter.com/043PijuntR
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) May 8, 2019
Those five runs were more than enough, as on a day that the Phillies remembered the life of former chairman David Montgomery, Eickhoff turned in one of the most memorable pitching performances by a Phillies pitcher in the last half decade. Eickhoff pitched eight scoreless innings against the Cardinals, allowing just three hits, two of which came in his final inning of work. John Stolnis of The Good Phight used to refer to Eickhoff as “the human metronome,” because you knew that every time he pitched, you were going to get a quality start. Eickhoff, 28, is back to being that and then some, as he now has a minuscule 1.50 ERA in 30 innings in 2019.
The Phillies, meanwhile, will begin a stretch of 17 games in 17 days Friday night in Kansas City. They’ll enter that stretch with a 21-15 record, which places them comfortably atop the National League East.
Shibe Vintage Sports Starting Pitching Performance
For years, the Phillies could count on St. Louis native Ryan Howard clobbering the ball when the Phillies played in St. Louis. Jerad Eickhoff – though he did have two sacrifice bunts Wednesday – didn’t impact the game in quite the same way as Howard would, but he turned in a dominant performance against the team he grew up rooting for.
Through four innings, Jack Flaherty looked as though he could pitch seven or eight innings Wednesday. By the end of the fifth inning, the extremely talented 23-year-old had thrown over 90 pitches, while allowing four runs, three of which were earned.
Phillies Nuggets Player of the Game: Jerad Eickhoff
With all due respect to Cesar Hernandez, Eickhoff authored a brilliant start on an extremely difficult day for the Phillies family. His start was a reminder of how effective of a pitcher he can be after 2018, which was essentially a lost season. But more importantly, it was a reminder of how sports can serve as a unifier during times of grief.
- Friday May 10 at Kauffman Stadium vs. Royals
- 8:15 p.m. ET
- NBC Sports Philadelphia
- SportsRadio 94 WIP
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