By Joseph Santoliquito


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Before the season, the Phillies’ offense was expected to do most of the lifting in 2019. With a top-five that consists of Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura, Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto, the Phillies were expected to generate runs in bunches.

Through some starts and stops, the Phils have scored 188 runs, which ties them for seventh overall in MLB with the Houston Astros, entering the Phils’ weekend in Kansas City.

What’s been somewhat unexpected has been the pitching, especially the recent performances of Jerad Eickhoff and Zach Eflin. Combined, the late-rotation duo is 6-4, and that may seem modest, but the Phillies are 8-4 in the last 12 starts Eickhoff and Eflin have had.

With Aaron Nola slowly evolving into “Aaron Nola” again — winning his last two starts and seeing his ERA drop from 7.45 to 4.57 — and Jake Arrieta finding some of his former magic, Phils starters have played a big role in the team’s 21-15 start.

The anchor in this mix may be the enigmatic Vince Velasquez, who is 0-2 in his last two starts, which wasn’t helped at all by blowing off Realmuto’s signs in the Phils’ 6-0 loss to St. Louis on May 6.

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Eickhoff may be an answer in fortifying the Phils’ pitching. He was brilliant in the Phils’ 5-0 combined shutout with Seranthony Dominguez, going eight innings and giving up three hits in the Phils’ 5-0 win over the Cardinals on May 8.

“He pitched with a fearlessness,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler told the media in reference to Eickhoff after the shutout. “Any pitch, any count, behind in the count, secondary pitch behind in the count. He’ll throw a slider outside of the zone when he’s confident he’s going to get a swing and he’ll fill it up too. He’ll fill up the zone with his breaking balls and utilizes his fastball really effectively.”

In his last three starts, Eickhoff, who missed most of last season with a right lat strain, has allowed just one run over 20 innings in his last three starts.

In Eflin’s last five starts at home, he’s 5-0, with a 1.05 ERA. The most impressive was his five-strikeout performance in a 2-1 win on April 7 over what looks like the very good Minnesota Twins, who at 23-12, have the best record in baseball entering the weekend.

If this holds up, the Phillies’ 3.5-game lead in the NL East could balloon by July.

Joseph Santoliquito