Rhys Hoskins

Phillies have work cut out vs. MLB’s most underrated ace

Phillies have work cut out vs. MLB’s most underrated ace

Last night was a cap-tipping game based on how excellent Kyle Freeland was, using his cutter to jam or freeze Phillies right-handed hitters on the inside corner and to front-door their left-handed hitters. 

Tonight, the Phillies face an even tougher opponent, a pitcher who may be the most underrated ace going right now. 

When: 8:40 p.m. — Pregame Live at 8

Where: NBC Sports Philadelphia and streaming live on the MyTeams app and NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com

Pitching matchup: Vince Velasquez (0-0, 2.25) vs. German Marquez (2-1, 2.00) 

Soon to be a household name

Marquez has been one of the five best pitchers in baseball since last August. In his last dozen starts of 2018, Marquez had a 2.24 ERA with 110 strikeouts in 80 innings. That included seven shutout innings with 11 K’s against the Phillies last September at Coors Field. 

This season? More of the same. Marquez is coming off of a one-hit shutout of the Giants Sunday. 

Marquez’s fastball averages 96 mph but his slider and curveball are even more dangerous. Since last August, his opponents are 6 for 100 against his curveball (seriously) and 19 for 115 against his slider. That’s a combined .116 batting average. 

Both are swing-and-miss pitches that hitters have trouble lifting. 

This is why Marquez was recently paid. He signed a five-year, $43M extension the first week of April. 

Cold 3-4

The Phillies are 3-3 since Saturday but in those six games, Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins are 6 for 45 (.133) with one combined RBI. Neither has had the right timing down at the plate. 

J.T. Realmuto is hot, hitting .351 with 11 RBI in his last nine games, but the Phillies are still yet to have their 3-4-5 hitters clicking at the same time. 

Velasquez’s turn

Velasquez pitched well in his first two starts against the Nationals and Marlins but tonight is a different sort of test. 

In three career starts at Coors Field, Velasquez has a 6.14 ERA with 19 hits allowed and 10 walks in 14 2/3 innings. He’s nibbled when pitching in Colorado because of the harm that can be done when you miss over the plate there. Nibbling is when Velasquez is most frustrating and least effective. He has the arsenal to overpower the Rockies’ lineup once or twice through the order, but the leash probably won’t be long unless he’s dealing. 

Zach Eflin last night did what a pitcher needs to do at Coors Field: keep the ball low. He induced a season-high 11 groundballs and was victimized only on pitches at the belt or above. The four times the Rockies made contact in that location, they had three hits off Eflin, including the Ryan McMahon three-run homer.

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AL team interested in Aaron Altherr? Aaron Nola seeks mechanical fix

AL team interested in Aaron Altherr? Aaron Nola seeks mechanical fix

A few newsy matters before Tuesday night’s Phillies-Mets game:

• Rhys Hoskins is out of the starting lineup for the first time this season. Manager Gabe Kapler had been planning a day off for his cleanup hitter and a minor injury to Hoskins’ left ankle provided him the opportunity.

Hoskins jammed the ankle sliding into second base in the first inning of Monday night’s game. He finished the game and committed a costly error in the 11th inning of a 7-6 loss. An X-ray after the game was negative, but Hoskins reported to the ballpark Tuesday with some swelling in the ankle so Kapler held him out.

“Nobody is concerned,” Kapler said. “Nobody is concerned about him long term.”

Kapler said Hoskins would be available to pinch-hit Tuesday night and he expected him back in the starting lineup on Wednesday.

“I don’t foresee this being any longer than today,” concurred Hoskins.

Hoskins hurt the ankle sliding into second on the back end of a double steal. Noah Syndergaard, the Mets’ pitcher Monday night, can be run on. But, in retrospect, Kapler said putting on the play was not a good idea.

“That’s on us as a staff,” he said. “We’ll clean it up.”

• With Hoskins out, Maikel Franco moved across the diamond and started at first base.

Scott Kingery started at third base.

With a lefty, Steven Matz, on the mound, Odubel Herrera got his first night off. Right-handed hitting Aaron Altherr started in center field.

The start could end up being a showcase of sorts for Altherr. Roman Quinn is healthy and nearing the end of his rehab assignment at Triple A. To make room for Quinn, the Phillies would likely shed an outfielder and Altherr and Nick Williams are the candidates. Williams can be sent to the minors. Altherr is out of options and could be a trade candidate. Word is the Detroit Tigers like him and could be a fit.

• Kapler said Aaron Nola and pitching coach Chris Young did “a lot of work in that last 12 hours.” He added that they detected some mechanical flaws in the pitcher’s delivery.

Nola lasted just four innings against the Mets on Monday night and his performance in four starts has been subpar. He has given up 21 hits and 11 walks in 19 1/3 innings. His 7.45 ERA is the highest among qualifying major-league starters.

Kapler, who has cited command as Nola’s biggest issue, would not say what mechanical flaws were detected and Nola was not available for comment. The right-hander pitches Saturday night in Denver.

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Mets 7, Phillies 6 (11 innings): Rhys Hoskins' error dooms Phils as Aaron Nola struggles again

Mets 7, Phillies 6 (11 innings): Rhys Hoskins' error dooms Phils as Aaron Nola struggles again

BOX SCORE

The Phillies suffered a 7-6 loss in 11 innings to the New York Mets on Monday night.

The Mets scored the go-ahead run on a two-out fielding error by Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins.

The Phillies had a chance to win it in the 10th but Jean Segura, the hero of Sunday’s 14-inning win in Miami, struck out with runners on the corners.

The Mets are 46-22 at Citizens Bank Park since the start of the 2012 season.

Aaron Nola did not pitch well in his fourth start of the season. He finished third in the NL Cy Young voting last season, but has not looked like the same guy in his first four starts of the new season.

The Phils are 9-6. The Mets are 10-6.

The keys

• Hoskins could not handle a hot smash from Michael Conforto in the 11th and that allowed the go-ahead run to score.

• Down a run in the bottom of the eighth, the Phillies got the first two men on base against Jeurys Familia. With the count 3-1, Maikel Franco smoked a one-hopper to third. Jeff McNeil made a terrific play to his glove side to take away a hit from Franco and start a 5-4-3 double play.

The Phillies still managed to tie the game in the inning as Andrew Knapp and Andrew McCutchen both drew walks against Familia to load the bases. The Mets replaced Familia with Robert Gsellman and he walked Segura on four pitches to force home Odubel Herrera with the tying run. Herrera had started the frame with a single. The Phils still had the bases loaded for Bryce Harper after Herrera trotted home with the tying run. However, Harper swung at the first pitch and popped out to shortstop.

• Drew Anderson, just up from Triple A, and Adam Morgan combined on four innings of scoreless relief to keep the Phillies alive.

• Franco tied the game with a two-run homer against Noah Syndergaard in the bottom of the fourth. The Mets went ahead on a solo homer by Brandon Nimmo against Jose Alvarez in the sixth.

• The Mets scored five two-out runs against Nola. Wilson Ramos smacked a hanging curveball for a two-run single in the third and Robinson Cano belted a 91 mph sinker for a two-run double in the fourth.

Nola's night

The Phillies’ ace, coming off a season in which he pitched a career-high 212 1/3 innings, has not looked particularly good in any of his four starts. Sure, he pitched six innings of two-hit, one-run ball on opening day, but he walked five batters in that game. Nola lasted just four innings in this one. He gave up seven hits, three walks and five runs. He has given up four or more earned runs in three of his four starts this season. By contrast, he gave up four earned runs in just four of 33 starts last season.

Nola’s fastball is down a smidge from its average of 92.7 mph last year and his off-speed stuff is not as sharp as it was last year. Nola’s biggest issue has been the lack of his typical pinpoint command. He has walked 11 in 19 1/3 innings. That’s over five batters per nine innings or double his career mark entering the season. Nola’s command issues also show up in his inability to fill the zone with first-pitch strikes. He threw a first-pitch strike 69.4 percent of the time last season, second best in the majors to St. Louis’ Miles Mikolas. This season, Nola has thrown a first-pitch strike just 47 percent of the time.

Nola’s ERA after four starts is 7.45.

Sights and sounds

All the players wore No. 42 in remembrance of Jackie Robinson, who debuted in the majors on April 15, 1947.

Health check

Reliever David Robertson was placed on the injured list. Anderson was recalled from Triple A (see story).

Up next

The series continues on Tuesday night with Nick Pivetta, another pitcher who has struggled in the early season, taking the mound for the Phillies against Mets lefty Steven Matz.

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