Vince Velasquez on brutal loss to Marlins: 'I'm flat-out embarrassed'

Vince Velasquez on brutal loss to Marlins: 'I'm flat-out embarrassed'

MIAMI — The Phillies rolled into South Florida feeling really good about themselves after a two-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox. Phillies pitching held one of the best offenses in baseball to just four runs in that series and now it was time to keep the party going against one of the worst offenses in baseball.

For a while Friday night, the party rocked on and everyone was having a good ol' time.

Then, out of nowhere, the septic system backed up.

Actually, there was nothing wrong with the plumbing at Marlins Park, but you get the odious imagery. Phillies pitcher Vince Velasquez let a seven-run lead get away in the third inning and the Phils went on to suffer an embarrassing 19-11 loss to the lowly Miami Marlins in the heat of a playoff race.

It was the first time the Phils blew a 7-0 lead and lost since August 2003.

“Unacceptable,” manager Gabe Kapler said afterward. “That’s a game we have to win.”

The night could not have started any better for Velasquez. He allowed just one base runner in the first two innings and took a 7-0 lead into the bottom of the third.

The Marlins tagged him for seven runs in that inning to tie the game. They also overcame a 9-7 deficit in the fifth inning on their way to hanging a 19-spot on the Phils. It’s worth noting that the Marlins had lost 16 of their previous 19 and six in a row. They’d scored just 13 runs total in that six-game losing streak.

Their offense got well against Phillies pitching. The Marlins had seven extra-base hits, including four homers. The only Phillies pitchers not to give up runs were reliever Juan Nicasio, who threw just two pitches before leaving with a sore shoulder, and utility man Sean Rodriguez, who threw two pitches in mop-up duty.

In addition to the poor pitching, the Phils played poor defense, particularly at third base, where Brad Miller and Maikel Franco both struggled. Franco made an error that helped fuel the Marlins’ five-run fifth inning. Four of those runs were unearned.

But the biggest problem the Phillies had on Friday night was Velasquez.

“I take full responsibility for the outcome of the game,” he said. “As a pitcher you want that run support. What more do you want than a 7-zero lead and you end up giving it up.

“I feel pretty embarrassed and disappointed.

“It’s a good sign that the bats are still alive. That’s a great sign that everyone is pulling through offensively. But I’m embarrassed that I couldn’t hold the lead and do my job as a pitcher and help the team on my behalf. I think as a team, we have to continue what we’re doing offensively. I’m flat-out embarrassed on my end. There should be no excuses for that.”

Kapler called it a “tough, tough loss,” and added, “We go up, 7-0, and we just didn’t make enough pitches. We weren’t able to put hitters away. We weren’t making enough plays on defense. We let a team back in the game that we shouldn’t have let back in the game. It’s that simple.

“We have to do a better job. We have to find ways to do a better job and then we have to quickly turn the page and come back and be ready to play tomorrow. Probably the most important thing we can do right now is have a short memory. Understand that this one sucks and that we have to protect an early lead and be better than that, and then come back tomorrow and be ready to play again.”

The Marlins’ seven-run rally in the third started when Velasquez hit a batter with an 0-2 pitch. Velasquez hit two batters in that inning and gave up five hits, including a three-run homer. Two innings later, Nick Pivetta allowed a go-ahead, two-run double to Neil Walker on an 0-2 pitch. Pivetta was charged with five runs in that inning, but only one was earned after an error by Franco.

Kapler probably could have gotten Velasquez out of the game sooner as the Marlins were pouring it on in the third.

“I think you wanted to display some confidence in a pitcher that’s been pretty good for us, give him a chance to get out of that, give him a chance to give us a little bit of length and not have to burn through the bullpen,” he said of Velasquez. “At that point, we had still all agreed he was our best option to get outs. He just wasn’t able to get it done.”

The Phillies, 2 1/2 games back in the wild-card race, needed to get greedy in this series, needed to play for the sweep. Now, they have to trust in struggling Zach Eflin on Saturday night before ace Aaron Nola goes on Sunday. The Phils have had a lot of problems with the Marlins this season. They are 6-8 against them. There are 35 games left and these next two games feel like must-wins.

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Phillies' pitching plans with Spencer Howard ready to put heat on Vince Velasquez

Phillies' pitching plans with Spencer Howard ready to put heat on Vince Velasquez

The Phillies made a slight adjustment to their pitching rotation after Friday night's rainout.

Jake Arrieta will stay on his regular fifth day and pitch Saturday night in what now is the first game of a four-game series against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park.

Vince Velasquez, who had been scheduled to start Friday night, will move back and start one of the games in Sunday afternoon's doubleheader. Top prospect Spencer Howard is expected to make his major-league debut in the other game Sunday.

"I'm not ready to make an official announcement until tomorrow, but if nothing changes, you can expect it to be Spencer Howard," Phillies manager Joe Girardi said Saturday afternoon.

It wasn't immediately clear why the Phillies flip-flopped Arrieta and Velasquez. The Braves simply moved Friday night's scheduled starter, Kyle Wright, back a day after the rainout. 

The game was called 45 minutes before first pitch and it's possible that Velasquez had already started his pre-game stretching in the clubhouse or training room. Maybe the Phillies wanted to give him a day to reboot before he went through the routine again. Maybe it's possible that they wanted to sync up he and Howard and get them on the same day to facilitate the option of having Howard take over that spot in the rotation. Or maybe it's possible that the Phillies simply decided that Velasquez, who would have gone 11 days between starts had he pitched on Friday, could handle a couple more days. Long periods between starts can hurt a pitcher's effectiveness. With Arrieta pitching Saturday night, the Phils now have the chance to get four of their five starters on a five-day schedule.

Arrieta made his first start in nearly a year Monday night at Yankee Stadium. He pitched five innings and allowed three runs, two on a pair of homers. Arrieta walked none and struck out four. The right-hander believed the start was something to build on. Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin also turned in starts that ranged from promising to excellent this week so the rotation is at least showing some signs of coming together.

Velasquez remains a different story. The enigmatic right-hander made a terrific showing in summer camp then blew a 4-0 lead in his first start on July 26 and lasted just three innings in a loss to Miami.

On the surface, especially with Howard coming, the leash does not appear to be very long on Velasquez. But, remember this: After Sunday's doubleheader, the Phillies still have five more doubleheaders to play before the 60-game schedule is complete so they're going to need at least six starters for a good chunk of the rest of the season. It would greatly behoove the Phillies if Velasquez and Howard were capable of delivering quality starts.

Friday night's quick postponement caused consternation with some fans who were looking forward to cracking a brew, lighting a cigar and watching the Phils. In ordinary times, Major League Baseball and the Phillies would have waited out the rain and started the game late. But COVID-19 protocols called for a quick postponement. For reasons of social distancing, MLB does not want large groups of players and staff congregating in clubhouses and dugouts for long periods of time. So the game was postponed quickly and everyone was sent home.

MLB's sensitivity to avoiding long rain delays became heightened last week when Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo took to Twitter to chastise the Cincinnati Reds for having a long delay before a game that was eventually postponed.

Sunday's doubleheader will be seven innings. That's also part of the COVID protocol. At the moment, 14 of the Phillies' 60 games (23 percent) will come in doubleheaders.

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Phillies schedule: Phils-Braves postponed because of inclement weather, doubleheader Sunday

Phillies schedule: Phils-Braves postponed because of inclement weather, doubleheader Sunday

Friday night's series opener between the Phillies and Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park has been rained out.

It was a "quick bang" as they say in the baseball business, no waiting around for the bad weather to clear out. That's part of the health and safety protocol for the COVID-impacted 2020 season. Major League Baseball does not want players and staff sitting around for long periods of time in enclosed areas like a clubhouse.

The postponement will be made up as part of a doubleheader Sunday afternoon at 1:05 p.m. Game 2 begins 40 minutes after Game 1 ends. The Phillies have 53 games remaining on their schedule and six of them will be played as part of doubleheaders. They already played a doubleheader Wednesday night, splitting with the New York Yankees.

Jake Arrieta will start for the Phillies Saturday against the Braves. Vince Velasquez will start one of the games of the doubleheader Sunday. The starter for the other game is still TBA. The Phils could promote prospect Spencer Howard to make the start. More on that as it becomes available.

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