PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs broke out the bats on Wednesday night as they snapped a six-game losing streak by hammering visiting Norfolk, 11-5.
The Iron Pigs hit four home runs in the win (including the 29th of the season by now left-fielder Rhys Hoskins) but overlooked in the offensive explosion was an impressive starting pitching performance by Tom Eshelman.
The 23-year-old right-hander went six innings allowing just a run on six hits. He walked one and struck out five. He threw 77 pitches with an amazing 62 of them going for strikes.
“Just trying to get back to what I was doing pre-DL stint (hip) and pre-Buffalo (last start where he allowed eight runs in four innings),” Eshelman said after the game. “I just kind of looked at some stuff, looked at myself in the mirror and just kind of get back out there doing what I did to start the year here and trying to get back to that.”
Eshelman, who was acquired by the Phillies in December 2015 from Houston in the Ken Giles trade, has had an outstanding 2017 campaign. He started the season with Double-A Reading (3-0, 3.10 ERA) before being promoted to the Iron Pigs. In 14 starts with Lehigh Valley, Eshelman is 8-3 with a 2.78 ERA. Overall on the season, Eshelman has thrown 123 innings, striking out 87 batters while walking just 17. He has not walked more than one batter in any start this season. He talks about what he feels has keyed his success this year.
“Moving the ball around,” he says. “I think that’s the biggest thing, kind of making hitters feel uncomfortable on the inside half and getting them off the fastball. I think that’s big for me because I’m a fastball dominant guy, so that’s been the big thing for me. And having my fastball move, too. So those two things have been key for me.”
Eshelman is fun to watch pitch. He attacks with a plan and he works really fast which he says is no accident.
“I always try to get the game going fast,” he says. “I went to a school where it was fast paced, as far as college (Cal State Fullerton), we were a fast-paced school and tried to get the game done as fast as possible. That’s my big thing is to keep the tempo up and that will produce runs for you and get your defense working.”
Eshelman was drafted in the second round by Houston back in 2015 after an incredible run at Fullerton. In 52 appearances (50 starts) with the Titans, he went 28-11 with 321 strikeouts and just 18 walks in 376 1/3 innings. His 1.65 ERA is the lowest in school history.
The Iron Pigs will host Charlotte on Thursday night.