Phillies

Phillies-Marlins: What you need to know

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Phillies-Marlins: What you need to know

Phillies (27-25) vs. Miami Marlins (29-22)7:05 p.m. on CSN

The Phillies return home from a successful 5-2 road trip for three weekend games with the Marlins and four with the Dodgers.

The Phils have won six of eight, but Miami brings in a streak of its own the Fish have won five of six and were 21-8 in May. The next-best NL team in the month of May was the Reds, at 16-12.

The Marlins are coming off of a three-game home sweep of the Nationals that brought them to within a half-game of first place. Miami won each game by two runs and Heath Bell picked up back-to-back-to-back saves. The struggling Bell (7.20 ERA) has closed out seven games since blowing his fourth save of the year on May 4.

Starting pitchers
Kyle Kendrick (1-4, 4.10 ERA) hopes to use Fridays assignment to prolong his recent success. In his last five starts, Kendrick has a 1.64 ERA, a 54 percent groundball rate and 21 strikeouts to just five walks.

Dating back to the last July beginning with a start against the Marlins -- Kendrick has a 2.65 ERA in his last 15 starts. Hes also averaged 5.9 innings per game, a solid average for any fifth starter.

Kendricks done a commendable job against the Marlins of late, too, allowing just three runs in his last 18 innings.

Hell be opposed by lefty Mark Buehrle, who still looks strange outside of a White Sox uniform. The Marlins 58-million-dollar man is 5-4 with a 3.26 ERA in his first 10 National League starts. Hes posted a stellar 1.12 WHIP and has walked just 11 batters through 69 innings.

Buehrle has faced the Phils four times in his career, but his loss on April 12 was his first visit to Citizens Bank Park. Buehrle allowed three runs in 6 13 innings that afternoon. Shane Victorino and Ty Wigginton each hit solo home runs.

Note of interest
The Phillies are 20-7 against the Marlins dating back to Sept. 2010 and are 8-1-1 in the last 10 series.

Key matchup(s)
Hanley Ramirez and Giancarlo Stanton are each blazing hot. Ramirez is hitting .354 since dropping below .200 earlier this season and Stanton in May hit .343 with 12 home runs (first in majors) and 30 RBI (third).

Kendrick will have to be careful with both, and he's actually handled both in his career. Ramirez and Stanton are a combined 9 for 37 (.243) off KK with two home runs.

Jose Reyes, though, is 10 for 25 (.385) off Kendrick with a double, triple, two homers and three walks.

Few Phillies have faced Buehrle more than a couple of times, but Placido Polanco is 15 for 38 (.395) off him and Wigginton has four extra-base hits in 22 at-bats.

Sound off
Do you see the Marlins as a bigger threat than the Nationals?

E-mail Corey Seidman at cseidman@comcastsportsnet.com

Another gem for Vince Velasquez, who's finally conquering his league-worst pace

Another gem for Vince Velasquez, who's finally conquering his league-worst pace

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Vince Velasquez has been locked in since mid-June, which has been crucial for the Phillies with Nick Pivetta headed in the other direction.

The Padres couldn't touch Velasquez Sunday night, managing just two hits and a walk in his seven shutout innings (see first take). That's been a common theme for Velasquez over his last six starts, a span in which he has a 2.38 ERA and .134 opponents' batting average.

These last two starts in particular, Velasquez had pitched with a faster pace and more efficiency. Against the Mets and Padres — granted, the two worst offenses in the NL — he's thrown an average of just 13.2 pitches per inning.

He's picked up his pace on the mound, too, which was necessary. Velasquez entered Sunday night's game with the slowest pace in between pitches in all of baseball at 27.5 seconds.

"I think that's what has pretty much been the big turnaround for me," Velasquez said after his gem. "Finding that tempo and pretty much driving it through the game."

"That was as good as he's been all year," manager Gabe Kapler said. "The tempo, the pace and the energy levels were right on.

"It's the combination of keeping his rhythm and his pace but not losing control of his body. It's somewhere right in the middle. ... When he gets runners on base, he's done a really good job of holding runners on. The pickoff (of Freddy Galvis) was notable but just as important, he does a great job holding the baseball. As a runner at first base, you have difficulty timing your jumps and before you know it, your body shuts down naturally.

"Across the board, I think he's been an exceptional athlete for us on the mound."

The Phillies are finally seeing signs of growth from Velasquez. He's looked like more of a pitcher and less of a thrower lately. He hasn't been running the insanely deep, foul-ball fueled counts while in search of a strikeout.

Velasquez's next start will be a more accurate gauge of whether he's truly turned a corner because it comes at Great American Smallpark in Cincinnati against a potent Reds lineup.

Despite the weakness of the Padres' offense, Velasquez did win a high-pressure battle in the sixth inning Sunday against former All-Star Eric Hosmer, by far the most dangerous hitter in San Diego's lineup. With two men on, two outs and the Phillies up 1-0, Velasquez battled back from a 2-0 hole to induce a shallow flyout to left field.

The Phillies went on to win 5-0 but that was the biggest spot in the game, the kind of moment when a well-placed knock from Hosmer could have changed the complexion of the rest of the night.

"He really has seemed to flourish when we've asked him to pitch a little bit deeper into games and he's earned the right to do that," Kapler said after Velasquez's longest start of 2018. "Two strong outings in a row, very encouraging for Vinny."

Two years and three months ago, Velasquez made his best start as a major-leaguer against the Padres, striking out 16 in a three-hit shutout. He did it with a big, upper-90s fastball that missed bat after bat.

On Sunday, Velasquez attacked in a different way. He started exactly one-third of the batters he faced with a first-pitch breaking ball or changeup. He could have been as fastball-happy as ever against a Padres team on pace to strike out more than any club in the history of baseball, but mixing it up Sunday made sense. The Padres have been one of the majors' worst teams vs. non-fastballs, hitting .202.

Pitching, not throwing.

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Phillies option Aaron Altherr and Mark Leiter Jr. to Triple A Lehigh Valley

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Phillies option Aaron Altherr and Mark Leiter Jr. to Triple A Lehigh Valley

Aaron Altherr is headed to Triple A, where he’ll get a chance to play every day and rebuild some confidence after struggling for nearly four months.

Altherr, who batted fifth in the Phillies’ opening day lineup and was a big part of their outfield arrangement to start the year, was optioned to Lehigh Valley following Sunday’s doubleheader. Last season, Altherr hit .272 with 19 homers and 65 RBI in 412 plate appearances.

Reliever Mark Leiter Jr. was also optioned to Triple A, with corresponding roster moves coming Monday.

In his lone plate appearance Sunday against the Padres, Altherr came in as a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh inning. After working a 3-1 count, he swung through two fastballs to strike out.

Altherr is hitting .171 in 248 plate appearances, with 12 double plays. He has the highest double-play rate of any player in the majors this season. 

Against lefties, Altherr is hitting just .164.

Leiter had a difficult outing in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader, allowing six hits and three runs in two innings of work. For the season, Leiter has a 5.74 ERA in 11 appearances. 

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