Tale of two as Velasquez battles rough start; Phillies complete sweep

Philadelphia pitcher Vince Velasquez helps Phillies to win
It was only the second inning but Vince Velasquez was already entering dangerous territory before Alen Hanson deposited a four-seamer into the right-field seats to give the Giants a 3-0 lead.

But something changed.

His velocity ticked up and he began to hit his spots, putting the ball seemingly wherever he wanted.

"He was able to locate his pitches better," said catcher Jorge Alfaro through the club's translator. "At first he was a little all over the place, but then he was able to locate his pitches. The fastball was the same way, expect the location. He was able to locate his pitches."

Velasquez went on to strike out nine of the next 13 batters he faced and settled into a grove, then the Phillies offense put up a four-spot in the fourth and never looked back to secure a 6-3 victory on Thursday and a four-game series sweep over the Giants at Citizens Bank Park.

Gregor Blanco put the Giants ahead in the opening frame, taking Velasquez deep on just the second pitch of the game.

Aaron Altherr worked a leadoff walk to open the fourth and eventually scored on a Rhys Hoskins single. Odubel Herrera doubled in the frame setting the table for Carlos Santana who delivered a three-run shot to left. The Phillies now had a 4-3 lead and never looked back.

"We continue to have big innings and I've stressed this since spring training ... the ability to have a big inning, and one of reasons that happens is because we see a lot of pitches," manager Gabe Kapler said. "I'm going to continue to hit that theme. The top four in our lineup see a ton."

Herrera drove in a run in the fifth and seventh innings, both via singles. His 3-for-4 effort at the plate extended his on-base streak to 39 games.

As for Velasquez, he finished the afternoon with a season-high 12 strikeouts on 101 pitches.

"There's a brilliant pitcher in there and every time we look out at him, no matter what the outcome of the game is, we always see that that brilliant pitcher exists," Kapler said. "It wasn't there in every moment today, but it was there in flashes."

Injury Update
Pat Neshek encountered a setback while rehabbing his flexor strain and tweaked his forearm. He may now miss up to another month. The 37-year-old has yet to pitch an inning with the Phillies this season after being placed on the disabled list on March 30.

Mark Leiter Jr. collected five strikeouts over 1 2/3 innings on Wednesday in a rehab outing with Class A Clearwater. He walked one and didn't surrender a hit. He too is dealing with a flexor strain issue.

Up Next
The Phillies welcome the Mets to Citizens Bank Park for a three-game set. The two clubs met previously during the first week of April with the Mets taking both contests. The series opener was rained out and rescheduled as part of a doubleheader on July 9.

Jake Arrieta is set to start Friday's contest. He'll oppose lefty Steven Matz.
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Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

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