Some odd scheduling has seen the Phillies play three series against the National League East rival Atlanta Braves in the first month of the season. The Phils now get a three-week break from the Braves and that’s a good thing.
The Phillies absorbed their sixth loss in nine games against the Braves this season in a 10-1 drubbing at chilly Citizens Bank Park on Sunday (see first take). The Braves beat Vince Velasquez for the third time in less than a month, mauling the right-hander for seven hits, including two homers, and six runs in four innings.
“Lack of performance on my end,” Velasquez said.
The right-hander heard some boos. He has an ERA of 5.70 in six starts. It is 9.24 in three starts against Atlanta this season. The Braves have outscored the Phillies, 32-6, in Velasquez’ three starts.
Overall, the Phillies are still looking at a very good month of April, particularly from where they came — 66-96 last year. They head into the final game of the month, Monday night in Miami, with a 16-11 record, the same mark, actually, as the Braves. However, much of the Phils' record has been forged against weak teams. The Phils are 8-1 against Cincinnati, Miami and Tampa Bay. They are 4-10 against Atlanta, Arizona and the Mets. They are also 4-0 against Pittsburgh, a club that entered Sunday leading the NL Central. The Phillies opened the homestand with a sweep of the Pirates then won just two of the remaining six games. Atlanta won the final two games of this series, handing the Phils consecutive losses for the first time since the first week of April. The Braves have outscored the Phillies, 54-30, in nine games.
“We feel we match up very well against the Braves. We have a lot of confidence every time we play them, for sure,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I think very directly they have just played better than us in the games that we have played them. Not much more to say about it. They have gotten big hits, they have pitched a little better and they have been the better team in the games we have played against them.”
The Braves jumped out to a 6-0 lead on Velasquez in Sunday’s game. Jake Thompson followed Velasquez with 3 2/3 innings of three-run ball and was sent back to Lehigh Valley after the game. Kapler let Thompson hit in a five-run game with one out in the seventh because he wanted Thompson to provide some length — i.e., preserve the bullpen. Thompson then needed help getting through the eighth and Kapler at first chose valuable Luis Garcia over Drew Hutchison. Garcia had to pick up 29 pitches, which may render him unavailable Monday.
Phillies’ hitters produced just five hits.
“Tough day across the board," Kapler said. "We just didn’t get the big hit and (Atlanta) did."
Part of the reason the Phils did not get the big hit was that they racked up 13 strikeouts, five against reliever Jesse Biddle, the former Phillies’ first-round draft pick who was called up by the Braves earlier this month. The Phils have reached double-digits in strikeouts 18 times in 27 games.