Velasquez shines and Phillies stay hot; down Cardinals 6-2

Vince Velasquez impresses again as Philadelphia wins
There's never been a question about Vince Velasquez's stuff because it's electric, but there's been plenty of justified criticism about his ability to succeed as a mid-rotation starter for a team on the rise. He's struggled at times with high pitch counts and locating his pitches, maddening those that believe in his talent.

The righty is doing his best now though to silence the critics, piecing together his best performance of the season on Thursday night in a 6-2 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. He tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings, scattering five hits while striking out five. He walked a pair.

Velasquez is now riding a hot streak as one of baseball's best pitchers this month. He's 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA over his last three starts and has struck out 21 over 17 1/3 innings. He's limited opponents to a .180 batting average over the same span.

“It’s just starting to come together for him,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler told reporters afterward. “We’re trying to figure out what we see in Vinnie that leads to this kind of success. I guess it doesn’t really matter. As long as he’s having it.”

What's different?

“I’m just having a different mentality going into the game,” Velasquez told reporters afterward. “I feel like I’m going into a comfort zone of my own. That’s something you’ve got to have and cherish. And build on.”

Velasquez was shelled in Atlanta in his first start of the season, surrendering seven runs and failing to get out of the third inning. He then pieced together three quality-starts before faltering to Arizona and Atlanta after surrendering 10 runs in a combined 8 1/3 innings.

The storyline in all of his defeats included failure to locate pitches and ridiculously high pitch counts, particularly early in contests.

“A lot of obstacles are thrown at you and you’ve just got to learn to adjust,” Velasquez said. “That’s the whole part of this game is making adjustments. And it seems like things are turning around.”



Including Velasquez's effort, Phillies' starters have a combined 1.99 ERA over the last 11 games. Even more impressive is the 95 percent left on base percentage for the starters over that span, a mark 10 percent higher than the next best team (Houston).

At 25-16, the Phillies sit nine games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2011 season. The club has the second-best record in the National League and sits a half-game behind Atlanta in the NL East.

Carlos Santana broke a scoreless tie in the fifth, drilling a Luke Weaver fastball over the fence in centerfield for his eighth homer of the season. Aaron Altherr chipped in with a two-run single to highlight a three-run eighth. Pedro Florimon popped a two-run homer in the final frame.

Odubel Herrera finished the night 2-for-4 with a walk and a double, extending his on-base streak to 43 games.

"I don't try to pay attention to that," Herrera told reporters afterward. "I'm just trying to play hard, get on base and do what I do to help us win."

The two clubs resume their four-game set Friday night with Jake Arrieta opposing Michael Wacha.
_____________________________________________
Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

No comments: