Friday, April 7, 2017

Despite late comeback, Phillies fall victim to long ball and the Nats

If you look at a box score and see a pitching line that contains 10 strikeouts you're likely to think it signifies a successful outing, but that wasn't the case for Vince Velasquez in the Phillies' home opener on Friday against the Nationals.

The right-hander needed 93 pitches to get through five innings and fell victim to the long ball, surrendering a pair of two-run home runs to Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy enabling the Nationals to coast to a 7-6 victory at a blustery Citizens Bank Park.

"The conditions were pretty heavy and it was tough to get a grip on the ball, but it's one of those things I have to learn from and get better as I go on," Velasquez said. "I was all over the place. I had no grip and no command of my fastball at all. Yeah, I got 10 strikeouts today but it wasn't enough."

Pitch counts and efficiency were an issue for Velasquez last year as he pitched beyond the sixth inning just three times.

"We talk about it and he knows he has to do that, but it doesn't come overnight," said Phillies manager Pete Mackanin. "I think with the type of fastball he has with the velocity and movement he probably leans a bit too much on that pitch, but I think he also thinks sometimes that he has to do too much and just overpower hitters. There's a time and place to do that, but there's also a time and a place to finesse."

The Phillies made things interesting late, erasing a seven-run deficit over the final four innings and drew to within a run in the ninth on a two-run home run by Freddy Galvis, but Nationals' closer Blake Treinen left Cesar Hernandez - the tying run - stranded at first to secure the win.

"I certainly wanted to win that game, but I'm happy with how the guys battled back," said Mackanin. "To be down 7-0 with [Max] Scherzer pitching and for the guys to come back the way did, including against their closer, it's huge and a good omen for the things to come."

Trailing 7-1 entering the seventh, Brock Stassi and Tommy Joseph opened the frame with back-to-back walks. Scherzer then uncorked a wild pitch while facing Cameron Rupp that bounced to the backstop then directly to catcher Matt Wieters. Wieters fired down to third and Stassi was thrown out trying to advance. Rupp went on to strike out but Galvis then laced a double to plate Joseph. Aaron Altherr then belted a two-run home run to bring the Phillies to within three.

"If we didn't get that bad break where  the wild pitch came right back to Wieters it may have been a different ballgame," Mackanin said. "I can't blame him for going on that play."

Maikel Franco, Michael Saunders, and Tommy Joseph, the 4-5-6 hitters in the Phillies' lineup, were hitless on the afternoon. Combined, the trio is hitting .076 (3-for-39) over the first four games of the season.

"Guys just aren't feeling too comfortable at the plate right now," Mackanin said. "They try too hard and outsmart themselves, but little by little you'll see improvements. Cesar hit the ball really hard today, Freddy also looked good hitting the ball hard today, but some of the other guys just don't seem to be comfortable at the plate."

For the Nationals, Scherzer lasted 6 2/3 innings and surrendered two runs on four hits. He collected seven strikeouts and walked a pair. At the plate, Harper and Murphy each had two hits apiece.
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Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

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