PHILADELPHIA -- Two hot pitchers will square off when the Arizona Diamondbacks and Philadelphia Phillies continue their four-game series on Saturday afternoon in Citizens Bank Park.
Arizona right-hander Zack Greinke (9-3, 3.75 ERA) has won his last six starts and Phillies right-hander Jerad Eickhoff (4-8, 3.40) his last two.
Greinke signed a six-year, $206.5 million contract with the Diamondbacks in the offseason after spending the three previous years with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He lost his first two starts this year, however, to Colorado and the Chicago Cubs, and through five starts allowed 21 earned runs in 30 2/3 innings for a 6.16 ERA.
Since then, he has surrendered 18 earned runs in 63 innings covering nine starts for a 2.57 ERA. During his winning streak, his ERA is even lower (2.05), and the last time out he worked seven innings in a 3-2 victory over the Dodgers, allowing two runs and seven hits while striking out six and walking two.
It was the first time he faced his former team, and according to the account on Major League Baseball's official web site, Greinke was serenaded not only with cheers from the home fans in Phoenix but also a sprinkling of boos from those Dodgers fans in attendance.
"The fans were pretty loud today, so that made it more so of an intense game," Greinke said, according to MLB.com.
Eickhoff, acquired from the Texas Rangers in the Cole Hamels trade last July 31, showed promise late last season but started this one 2-8.
He has, however, allowed one run on five hits in 13 innings while winning his last two starts against two good offensive clubs -- the Chicago Cubs and the Toronto Blue Jays. He has struck out 13 and walked six during that span.
The difference, Eickhoff said after the victory over the Cubs, is a greater reliance on his slider.
"I think I've always been comfortable with it," he said. "I think it just came down to throwing it more. I knew it was going to be a successful pitch for me. ... That was a huge thing, just a third pitch to think about for the hitters (along with his fastball and curveball)."
His slider was again an important part of his arsenal against the Blue Jays.
"We have a game plan," Eickhoff said, according to MLB.com. "We kind of deviate from that or change from that as the game progresses or how I'm feeling.
Especially having that fastball command, it wasn't the best that I've had, but it was enough to keep them off balance and throwing that slider was huge in those fastball counts."
The Phillies are in desperate need of a pick-me-up. They lost 10-2 to Arizona on Friday night and have dropped four straight, eight of nine and 21 of 27.
Offense has been a season-long problem, and Philadelphia's pitching has faltered lately as well. The Phils allowed five homers in a 13-2 loss to Toronto on Thursday and six Friday. The last four games have yielded 17, a franchise record for a span of that length.
"We need to work on making hitters uncomfortable," said Adam Morgan, Friday's losing pitcher.