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NL-best Rockies open series at skidding Phillies

PHILADELPHIA -- The top team in the National League heads east for a four-game series against a struggling opponent as the Colorado Rockies visit the Philadelphia Phillies starting Monday.

Colorado rolls into the City of Brotherly Love with a 28-17 mark that is best in the NL, having won or tied each of its last seven series dating to three straight losses to the Washington Nationals from April 25-27.

That includes taking two out of three from Cincinnati over the weekend, capped off by a 6-4 win on Sunday that saw four Rockies go deep, including starting pitcher Kyle Freeland, who belted the first homer of his career.

It has been the exact opposite lately for the Phillies, who have lost their last seven series since lifting their record to 11-9 on April 27.

Philadelphia (15-26) hit another low on Sunday, dropping a 1-0 game at Pittsburgh that saw the game's only run score on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch. It was the Phillies' 17th loss in the past 21 games, and they have scored more than five runs only once in their last nine contests.

Several expected key Phillies contributors have struggled, including Odubel Herrera (.236/.289/.643) and Maikel Franco (.225/.286/.670). The two batted in the third and fourth slots for most of the first six weeks but recently were dropped into the No. 6 and No. 7 holes.

"At some point, players have to understand that you have to earn hitting up at the top of the lineup," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "You have to earn it. If you want to play, you have to hit. If you want to hit up in the order, you have to hit."

For the series opener, Colorado will call up rookie Jeff Hoffman from Triple-A Albuquerque to make his second major league start of the season and his third appearance overall. On May 11, Hoffman (1-0, 5.40 ERA) picked up his first career win against the Los Angeles Dodgers, giving up three runs in 5 1/3 innings of a 10-7 win.

He has made seven starts this season for Albuquerque, going 3-2 with a 3.46 ERA.

"Just part of the business," Hoffman told the Denver Post of popping up and back from Triple-A to the majors. "I had a good support staff around me, and they helped keep me in a good place, either here or down in Albuquerque."

A former first-round pick (ninth overall) of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2014, the East Carolina University product made six starts and eight appearances overall for the Rockies at the end of last season, going 0-4 with a 4.88 ERA, though he gave up seven runs on three different occasions.

Hoffman will be facing the Phillies for the first time.

"He's coming along fine. His changeup has been good. He's throwing his curveball for strikes," Rockies director of pitching Mark Wiley told the Denver Post over the weekend. "But he's got some things that he has to improve on. His pitch sequences need to not be predictable."

The Phillies will counter with Jerad Eickhoff (0-4, 4.53 ERA), who is still looking for his first win of the season. His last time out, he finished six innings for the first time in five starts, but he still took the loss, giving up three runs (two earned) on seven hits on Tuesday against the Texas Rangers.

"He looked closer to himself than he has been for his past two or three starts," Mackanin said.

In two career starts against the Rockies, both last year, Eickhoff went 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA.

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