Friday, April 15, 2016

Velasquez Has Historically Dominant Performance Against Padres

GAME RECAP: Phillies Blank Padres 3-0

Vince Velasquez's friends in California started to call him "Vinny from Philly" the moment the Phillies acquired him in December. Phillies fans will treat Velasquez as one of their own if he keeps pitching like he did Thursday afternoon in a historic performance in the Phillies' 3-0 victory over the Padres at Citizens Bank Park. Velasquez, 23, allowed three hits and struck out a career-high 16 in nine scoreless innings. He has struck out 25 in 15 scoreless innings in the first two starts of his Phillies career. "My face doesn't show it, but it was fun," Velasquez said. "I'm fully excited. Man, gosh, it's still hitting me." The strikeouts are the most by a pitcher in his first two Phillies starts since at least 1913. Hall of Fame right-hander Jim Bunning held the previous record with 20 in 1964. Velasquez, who joined the Phillies as part of the Ken Giles trade with Houston, also becomes the seventh pitcher in history to throw a shutout with at least 16 Ks and zero walks; Roger Clemens achieved the feat twice. "It looks like we made a pretty good trade," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. Padres left-hander Drew Pomeranz allowed two runs in six innings, including a solo homer and a sacrifice fly to Ryan Howard in the second and sixth, respectively. His eight strikeouts tied a career high, but the performance went for naught, as the Padres were shut out for the fifth time in their first 10 games, an MLB record. "It has a lot to do with who's on the mound, but it has a lot more to do with the level with which we choose to compete every single day," said Padres manager Andy Green. "Regardless of how difficult it is, we've got to be more competitive."

  • It is just two starts, but the Phillies love what they have seen so far from Velasquez. He struck out nine in six scoreless innings in his Phillies debut Saturday against the Mets. He followed that with an even better performance Thursday. He is the third youngest pitcher (23 years, 312 days) in Phillies history to strike out 14 or more batters in a game. Art Mahaffey (22 years, 323 days) struck out 17 against the Cubs on April 23, 1961, and Cole Hamels (23 years, 115 days) struck out 15 in Cincinnati on April 21, 2007. "It was a great day today," Velasquez said. "Everything was just kind of clicking."
  • Howard isn't supposed to play against lefties, but a shoulder injury to Darin Ruf had him in the lineup again Thursday. Howard took advantage of the opportunity. He hit a solo home run to left-center field in the first inning and hit a sacrifice fly to center in the sixth inning to give the Phillies a two-run lead. "All you can do is go up there and try to have good at-bats," Howard said. "For me, it's just about trying to take advantage of the opportunities I get."
  • "He was impressive. There's riding life in the zone with his fastball. It was explosive. Reminds me of when I saw [Nationals ace Max] Scherzer going as well as he goes, and that fastball is literally exploding through the zone." -- Green on Velasquez.
  • The Phillies have pitched three shutouts in their first 10 games for the first time since 1954, when Curt Simmons, Murry Dickson and Robin Roberts threw shutouts. Velasquez started two of the three shutouts this season. Charlie Morton started the other Tuesday night. The team record in 10 games is four. The Phillies accomplished that in 1913 with Tom Seaton (twice), Ad Brennan and Pete Alexander.
  • Velasquez's 15 scoreless innings to begin his Phillies career is the longest streak by a Phillies starter since Marty Bystrom threw 19 scoreless innings in 1980.
The Phillies open a three-game series Friday night against the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (1-0, 1.54 ERA) opens the series against right-hander Joe Ross (1-0, 1.29 ERA).


Historic Perspective – Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez turned in the most brilliant pitching performance of the young season Thursday, striking out 16 and walking none while shutting out the Padres in Philadelphia's 3-0 win at Citizens Bank Park. Velasquez also allowed just three hits, all singles. Here's a look at how his start ranked historically: It was the seventh nine-inning game in history in which a pitcher had 16 strikeouts with no runs and no walks allowed. Only one other pitcher had allowed three hits, walked none and struck out as many batters: Roger Clemens, who fanned 18 Royals on Aug. 25, 1998, in a 3-0 win for the Blue Jays. The only other active pitcher with a 16-strikeout, zero-walk shutout: Max Scherzer, who fanned 17 on Oct. 3, 2015. Velasquez's 16 strikeouts were the most by a Phillies pitcher since Cliff Lee had 16 on May 6, 2011. The only other Phillies pitcher with 15-plus strikeouts and no walks in a game: Curt Schilling on Sept. 1, 1997, against the Yankees (16 strikeouts). Velasquez's 25 strikeouts are the most by a pitcher in his first two Phillies starts since at least 1913. Jim Bunning had held the previous mark with 20 in 1964. Velasquez's 16 strikeouts were the most in a shutout by a Phillies pitcher since Art Mahaffey had 17 on April 23, 1961. Velasquez's gem gave the Phillies three shutouts in their first 10 games for first time since 1954.

It All Comes Down To The Fastball –  Vince Velasquez finished a stellar Thursday afternoon with a 96 mph fastball, a 16th strikeout and a couple of emphatic fist pumps. Oh brother, what a day. "Man, gosh," Velasquez said after a historic performance in a 3-0 victory over the Padres at Citizens Bank Park. "It's still hitting me." Velasquez, 23, dominated the Padres in the second start of his Phillies career. He allowed just three hits and struck out 16 for his first career shutout. Impressive? On its own, yes. But consider where it puts Velasquez in baseball history. He joins Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Luis Tiant, Max Scherzer, Kerry Wood and Dwight Gooden as one of only seven pitchers to throw a shutout with 16 strikeouts and zero walks. The only Phillies pitchers to strike out more batters in a game are Chris Short (18 in 1965) and Art Mahaffey (17 in 1961). But nobody has struck out more batters in his first two Phillies starts than Velasquez's 25. Hall of Fame right-hander Jim Bunning held the previous mark with 20 strikeouts in 1964. "That was awesome," Phillies right-hander Charlie Morton said. "Are you kidding me, 16 punchies? Are you kidding me?" Velasquez struck out the side in the first inning on 16 fastballs. He hit 97 mph twice. "You want to establish that fastball command," Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp said of the fastball-only diet in the first inning. "But then it got to a point where I was thinking to myself, 'I kind of want to mix in a breaking ball here, but I don't need to.' He was blowing everybody's doors off with it." "See if they can hit it," Velasquez said. The Padres could not. They have been shut out a Major League-record five times in 10 games, but that does not make Velasquez's performance any less impressive. He was legit. "There's riding life in the zone with his fastball," Padres manager Andy Green said. "It was explosive, reminds me of when I saw Scherzer going as well as he goes, and that fastball is literally exploding through the zone." "I really liked how he was just challenging guys with this fastball," Morton said. "One, the ball is coming out hot. Two, it looks like he's hiding the ball really well. And just challenging guys. When you see guys take almost defensive swings like that, even after three or four at-bats against a guy, you know the guy they're facing is overpowering. They were just overmatched." Velasquez walked onto the mound in the ninth and proceeded to strike out Jon Jay on a 95 mph fastball, get Cory Spangenberg to pop out on an 86 mph changeup and strike out Wil Myers on a 96 mph fastball to end the game. "I kind of bent back a little bit, reached back a little bit and tried to get it," Velasquez said about the last strikeout. "I wasn't really looking at the radar gun. I was just trying to get a last strikeout and celebrate." The Phillies seemed perfectly giddy about Velasquez's dominant performance. They hoped for starts like this when they acquired him from Houston in December as part of the Ken Giles trade. But in just his second start? No way. "It looks like we made a pretty good trade," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said with a smile. "I don't even think of that," Velasquez said. "My job is to pitch for the Phillies and the Phillies only. They traded me, so my job is here. This is home for me, this is my home."

Climbing The List – Ryan Howard wasn't supposed to be in the Phillies' lineup for Thursday afternoon's 3-0 win over the Padres at Citizens Bank Park. But because the other half of Philadelphia first-base platoon, Darin Ruf, is still hampered with a rotator cuff contusion, Howard found himself penciled into the No. 4 hole in Philadelphia's lineup -- even against Padres left-hander Drew Pomeranz. The veteran first baseman took full advantage of an opportunity to prove he can slug against more than righties. Howard made hard contact each of his chances against Pomeranz, registering exit velocities of 110, 96 and 103 mph in his three at-bats. He drove in the Phillies' first two runs with a home run and a sacrifice fly. "It's very encouraging," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He looks pretty good at the plate right now." The quality at-bats were made even more impressive by the left-hander on the mound. Pomeranz isn't Clayton Kershaw or Chris Sale, but his splits against left-handed hitters are impressive. Entering Thursday's contest, lefties had hit .175 against Pomeranz in his career, with a .493 OPS. Before Howard's home run, only five left-handers had homered against him in 312 plate appearances. Howard made it clear at the beginning of Spring Training that he was not a fan of the platoon. But by the end of March, he had come to terms with his role. "All you can do is go up there and try to have good at-bats," Howard said after Thursday's game. "For me, it's just about trying to take advantage of the opportunities I get." He doesn't expect Mackanin to put too much weight in one or two strong performances against southpaws, and Mackanin doesn't plan to. Mackanin said postgame that Ruf, who was able to swing the bat pregame, was available to pinch-hit and will start the next game against a left-handed starter. Howard's 360th career home run tied Gary Gaetti for 82nd on the all-time list. One more will tie Joe DiMaggio. "I had no clue," Howard said. "The names that are coming up, it's kind of a rarefied air. It's an ultimate honor to even be put in the same category as those guys." As for active players? Only seven have more home runs than Howard. Carlos Beltran is closest, with 394, while Alex Rodriguez's 688 leads the pack.

Henderson Honors Robinson – Having made his Major League debut in 1977, Phillies hitting coach Steve Henderson feels his appreciation for Jackie Robinson is stronger than most of today's players. But Henderson, whose debut came 30 years after Robinson broke the color barrier, is quick to add the difficulties he faced don't compare to what Robinson overcame. "If it wasn't for this guy, we wouldn't even be in the game," Henderson said. "A lot of people of color wouldn't be in the game. I'm very happy for what he did and the sacrifices he went through. "I don't know if some of these modern-day ballplayers could handle that." That perceived softness could be interpreted as a sign of progress, though. Baseball is quickly progressing, and it is a far more inclusive sport than it was even during Henderson's playing days. Yet the sport, in recent years, has seen declining participation from black athletes, forgoing it for other sports such as basketball and football. Major League Baseball, conscious of that, founded the Reviving Baseball in Inner-Cities (RBI) program in 1989. Henderson thinks Robinson would appreciate the efforts MLB is making to increase minority interest and participation in the sport. "I think he'd be very proud," Henderson said. "Because of all the stuff he went through, and the number of Major League baseball players that have come through, and a lot of black players have come through here. And we're working hard to get more." On Friday, the Phillies and the other 29 Major League teams will don uniforms with Robinson's retired No. 42 on the back. April 15 marks the 69th anniversary of Robinson's Major League debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Members of the Tuskegee Airmen, who broke color barriers outside of sports in the '40s, will be at Citizens Bank Park serving as the honor guard in pregame ceremonies. Members of the Anderson Monarchs, a local youth team named after the Negro League's Kansas City Monarchs, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. The city of Philadelphia announced it will also officially apologize for the way it treated Robinson in his first trip to the city in 1947, which included being refused service at a hotel and receiving racial slurs from then-Philadelphia manager Ben Chapman. The city will join MLB in dedicating the day to Robinson's legacy.

Today In Phils History – There are two games to remember on this day to remember beginning with Les Sweetland’s performance in 1930 when he pitched a three hit shutout and scored the game’s only run on opening day against the Dodgers. Years later in 1977, five years to the day after his Phillies debut, Steve Carlton won the first game played in Olympic Stadium over the Expos. Today is the day of the pitcher as we also mark the debuts of Pete Alexander (1911) and Jim Bunning (1964). Other debuts include Ralph LaPointe in 1947 and Wally Post in 1958. Finally, we also remember the birthdays of former Phillies Woodie Fryman (1940) and Ted Sizmore (1945) who we remember despite their brief stints in Philadelphia.

The Phillies are currently 5-5 this season putting them on pace to meet most preseason predictions. The Phillies finished the spring exceeding most expectations compiling a record of 15-11-3 (18-11-3 if you include the exhibition games against Reading and the University of Tampa). All time, the Phillies are 35-27-1 on this day. I expect the Phillies to finish in the bottom half of the division but not last in the NL East by finishing the season with a 77-85 record. Let the rebuild begin!

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