By Annie Ross

If the Phillies have any hope of making the playoffs in 2017, their arms will have to excel.

And yesterday was a good example of their pitching depth.

Jerad Eickhoff had his best start of the spring in a 9-0 victory over the Braves in a Grapefruit League game at Clearwater.

Eickhoff, who is scheduled to start the Phillies’ second game of the season next month, allowed three hits, one walk and struck out five in five scoreless innings. He had allowed seven earned runs in eight innings in his first three Grapefruit League starts.

“I was attacking the zone a lot better today,” said Eickhoff, who pitched so efficiently he had to throw more pitches in the bullpen afterward. “I had a good feel for my pitches today. I had some good, clean innings.”

The Phillies had better luck against Braves right-hander Aaron Blair, who allowed six hits, three runs, one walk and struck out three in four innings.

Phillies left fielder Tyler Goeddel tripled to score two runs in the second. Cesar Hernandez singled to score Goeddel to hand the Phillies a 3-0 lead. Brock Stassi also tripled and homered in his quest to make the Phillies’ bench.

Blair allowed hits to four of the first five batters faced in the second inning and then retired seven of the final nine batters faced. He is projected to begin the season with Triple-A Gwinnett.

“The one inning when [Blair] got hurt, he just kind of left some two-strike pitches flat,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “But I saw some good breaking balls that had some depth and his velocity was OK. We’re working on some stuff and he’s making some strides.”

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