Phillies 7, Diamondbacks 3: Vinny Velo gets trip off on the right note

Phillies 7, Diamondbacks 3: Vinny Velo gets trip off on the right note


PHOENIX — Vince Velasquez delivered his longest start of the season and the Phillies opened a seven-game road trip with a 7-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday night.

Velasquez pitched seven innings and gave up just two runs. He was supported by good defense, some of which he provided himself.

The Phils entered the day tied for the second wild card spot in the National League. They are 59-53.

Velasquez’ night

The right-hander has had trouble throughout his career keeping his pitch count in check and getting through an opponent’s batting order three times. Neither was a problem in this one. He got through the first six innings on 77 pitches and completed seven innings in 95 pitches. He scattered six hits, walked two and struck out just three.

Velasquez had only gotten through six innings one other time in 14 starts this season. That came on April 14 in Miami.

Coming into the game, Velasquez had held opposing hitters to a .192 batting average the first time through the order and a .194 batting average the second time through. However, the third time through the order, opponents were hitting .515. In this game, Arizona hitters were 0 for 8 with a walk against Velasquez the third time through the order.

The lineup

Looking for some offense, manager Gabe Kapler used Rhys Hoskins in the No. 2 spot of the batting order and Jean Segura in the No. 5 spot. Kapler wanted Segura’s aggressive approach and contact skills in an RBI hole. It worked. Segura had a pair of RBI singles, one in the third and one in the seventh.

Scott Kingery continued to hit in the No. 6 hole. He hit a first-pitch homer (No. 14) in the second inning and doubled in the sixth. Kingery hails from Phoenix and was playing in front of many family and friends.

Phillies hitters were just 5 for 26 with runners in scoring position over the weekend against the White Sox. The Phils lost two of three in that series. They were 5 for 19 with runners in scoring position in this one.

Vinny the athlete

Velasquez might be the best athlete on the Phillies' roster. He showed it last year when he gunned down a runner while throwing left-handed. He showed it again Friday night when he was forced into duty in left field and threw out a runner at the plate. He did it again in the fifth inning of this game when he bounced off the mound for a bunt by opposing pitcher Merrill Kelly. Velasquez fielded the ball cleanly, wheeled and fired to third base to start a 1-5-3 double play.

An inning earlier, first baseman Rhys Hoskins made a nice play to start at 3-6-3 double play behind Velasquez.

More defense

Did we mention that the Phillies played some good defense in this one?

Left fielder Adam Haseley made a great read and ran a good, quick route to run down a hard line drive by Carson Kelly to the gap in left-center to end the bottom of the seventh inning with a man on base and preserve a 5-2 lead.

An inning later, Hoskins made another nice play on a hot smash by Ketel Marte to get an out.

Where’s Dickerson?

Newcomer Corey Dickerson had a two-run homer and an RBI single on Sunday but was not in the lineup Monday night. What gives? Well, Dickerson is still not quite 100 percent after suffering a groin strain with Pittsburgh. Kapler said he wanted to ease Dickerson into action, but would soon turn him loose.

“He’s very close to full strength,” Kapler said.

Dickerson did appear as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Up next

Jake Arrieta (8-8, 4.44) gets the ball Tuesday night. He will face Arizona’s Mike Leake (9-8, 4.27).

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Joe Girardi doesn't see penalty for Astros players as a deterrent

Joe Girardi doesn't see penalty for Astros players as a deterrent

The calls for Astros players to get suspended have gotten louder and louder as players have descended upon Florida and Arizona for spring training this past week. From Cody Bellinger to Mike Trout to Trevor Bauer to Nick Markakis and everywhere in between, players have made clear how angry they are about Houston's cheating scandal. 

It's going to take a long time for Astros players to gain back the respect of their peers.

It's not some easy fix, though. Astros players were granted immunity from discipline in order for their cooperation in MLB's investigation. MLB cannot, after the fact, revoke that immunity and decide to suspend players knowing what it now knows. That would never fly, and it shouldn't. Whether immunity should have been granted in the first place is the big question, but that point has passed.

Joe Girardi was asked on ESPN's Golic and Wingo Show Wednesday whether he thought MLB's punishment was sufficient.

The Phillies' first-year skipper doesn't think the current punishment serves as much of a deterrent.

"There are some people that lost their jobs that really were the people that had to pay for it, but there were a lot more people involved," Girardi said. "The financial gain for the players is substantial if they have big seasons because of this, so if there's no punishment for them, I'm not sure that it stops. I'm really not sure. Because the financial gain, similar to the steroid era, is very similar. If you know it's coming and you have a big year and you're a free agent, there's a lot (of money) to be made there and players want to take care of their families.

"I'm not exactly sure what the right answer is, but I don't know how much of a deterrent it is for players right now. There's not a huge deterrent for the players and I think there has to be to make sure that it stops."

People made fun of commissioner Rob Manfred for saying this but it should be acknowledged that the public ridicule the Astros are feeling right now will actually serve as some sort of deterrent. That doesn't mean MLB made the right call, that their decision-making process has been sound or that Manfred has done himself any favors publicly. But the disrespect factor around the league and around the country is real. Guys like Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, George Springer, even a Justin Verlander — will they ever again command the respect they did before this? This is a permanent stain.

MLB recognized how difficult an investigation would have been without cooperation from key figures and went the route of immunity. It's a decision that will be questioned for years.

"If you're not in the clubhouse and you don't admit yourself that you did it, how do you take the word from another player that he was doing it? That's the hard part," Girardi said. "Like, if you get caught with something on your body, that to me definitely should be a suspension and a huge fine. But to say that someone was using it, it's his word against his word, that's pretty tough to penalize a player."

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A small step in Phillies camp for pitching prospect Spencer Howard

A small step in Phillies camp for pitching prospect Spencer Howard

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Spencer Howard, the Phillies' top pitching prospect, returned to a bullpen mound Wednesday and threw 27 pitches.

Ordinarily, a bullpen session in spring training is not news, but Howard had temporarily stopped his bullpen work after sustaining a minor knee injury — manager Joe Girardi called it a "tweak" — 10 days earlier.

Howard threw all of his pitches during the bullpen session as a gaggle of fans watched at Carpenter Complex.

"I only saw two pitches," said Girardi, who was busy bouncing around four fields. "But he felt great. That's the important thing."

Girardi said there was no timetable for when Howard would pitch in a Grapefruit League game. The Phillies are on record as saying they will take things slowly with Howard in the early part of the season. The 23-year-old right-hander is on an innings/workload limit this season and the Phillies would like to get a good chunk of those innings in the big leagues.

"Spencer has an innings limit so we have to think about this because we believe at some point he's going to play a role for us," Girardi said earlier in camp. "We can't go wear him out by June so we have to think about that. We're not going to waste a lot of innings in spring training."

It's possible that the Phillies could hold Howard back in extended spring training in the month of April so they can maximize his innings later in the season.

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