Vince Velasquez didn't keep his team in the game Thursday night.
Heck, he never made it into the game.
The right-hander was scratched from his scheduled start about 20 minutes before first pitch because of numbness in the index finger of his right hand.
Middle reliever David Hale was pressed into service and did a creditable job holding the Miami Marlins to a run over three innings. Otherwise, the Phillies were flat and alarmingly uncompetitive in the 6-0 loss.
They had more problems on defense and racked up 15 strikeouts at the plate to increase their National League lead to 449. They have reached double digits in strikeouts in 27 of their 44 games. One night after a 1-for-9 performance with runners in scoring position, the Phils went 0 for 4 in those situations. They did not get their third hit of the night until there were two outs in the eighth.
Marlins right-hander Sandy Alcantara had a lot to do with the Phillies' struggles. He pitched six innings of two-hit ball. He walked three and struck out nine.
"When you don't hit, a team always looks flat," manager Joe Girardi said. "That's the bottom line. We had three hits and they were pretty spread out. We just never got anything going off Alcantara and that's kind of how it looks.
"I think it was him. We've seen him do that before. He can be dominating when his stuff is moving all over the place. His fastball was moving all over the place. His slider was good and he used his changeup, as well. A lot of that is his stuff. He has really good stuff and he was dominating with it tonight."
The Phillies have lost four of five and fallen back to the .500 mark at 22-22. They lost two of three in the series and are 4-9 against the Marlins over the last two seasons with a four-gamer in Miami looming next week.
Velasquez would be scheduled to pitch Tuesday in that series, but who knows if he'll be able to go.
Maybe it's time to give Spencer Howard an extended look in the rotation.
The Phillies played shorthanded again Thursday night as catcher J.T. Realmuto missed his fourth straight game with a bone bruise at the base of his left hand. The Phils have held off placing him on the injured list because he's improving but that has left Girardi with a short bench all week. The Phils used pitcher Zack Wheeler as a pinch-hitter in the third inning. Jean Segura did not start the game because he was under the weather. He did enter as part of a double switch in the seventh inning. The Phillies were down, 6-0, at the time. As Girardi went over his changes with the home plate umpire, a fan shouted, "Switch 'em all, Joe."
Defense was once again an issue for the sloppy joes. Third baseman Alec Bohm made his fifth error of the season and it led to a run in the seventh. Earlier in the game, Bryce Harper barely moved on a fly ball by Corey Dickerson that landed a couple of feet into foul territory off the right field line with no outs in the fourth. Harper appeared to indicate to teammates that he did not see the ball. Dickerson was glad that the ball dropped in. He ended up drawing a walk and scored when Garrett Cooper crushed a 421-foot, two-run homer to left off Matt Moore.
It was not a good night for two of the team's offseason additions.
Moore allowed three hits, including the homer, and two runs in two innings. His ERA is up to 7.36.
Archie Bradley, the team's big offseason bullpen addition, gave up three hits and three runs (one unearned) in 1⅔ innings as his ERA soared to 7.20. Bradley's fastball velocity has been a concern. The pitch averaged just 91.9 mph Thursday night.
Velasquez, who was scheduled to make his sixth start since replacing Moore in the rotation, popped out of the dugout at 6:30 p.m. and headed out to field to begin loosening up for the 7:05 p.m. first pitch. At about 6:45 p.m., he walked off the field and disappeared down the dugout steps. Moments later, Hale began warming up and it was officially announced that Velasquez had been scratched.
This isn't the first time that Velasquez has had an issue with numbness in one of the fingers on his pitching hand. On August 10, 2017, he lasted just one inning in a start against the New York Mets. After that 10-0 loss, Velasquez revealed that he'd experienced numbness in his right middle finger. He had a surgical procedure a month later and was done for the season.
Velasquez has spent time on the injured list in 2016, 2017 (twice), 2018 and 2019. His latest health issue comes as he was beginning to show some consistency for the first time in his career. He carried a 2.84 ERA in five starts into the day.
It's not clear how long Velasquez will be out, but the issue could open a spot for Howard to come up from Triple A and join the rotation. The Phillies are watching Howard's workload so he's pitched just nine innings since the start of the Triple A season. He has allowed just three hits and a run while walking five and striking out 13.
Howard's workload will also be monitored closely in the majors. The right-hander, who will turn 25 in July, has pitched more than 100 innings just once in his pro career and he has a history of shoulder problems.
Nonetheless, the time might be right to give him a firm look in the rotation.