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Velasquez leads surging Phillies to sweep

May 1, 2016

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez continues to live up to the hype.He pitched six scoreless innings Sunday afternoon in a 2-1 victory over the Indians at Citizens Bank Park. Freddy Galvis singled to score a run in the third, while Indians pitcher Danny Salazar balked in the Phillies' second

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez continues to live up to the hype.
He pitched six scoreless innings Sunday afternoon in a 2-1 victory over the Indians at Citizens Bank Park. Freddy Galvis singled to score a run in the third, while Indians pitcher Danny Salazar balked in the Phillies' second run. The Phillies swept the series, extending their winning streak to six games. It is the first time the Phillies (15-10) have swept back-to-back series since Sept. 7-12, 2012, when they swept the Rockies and Marlins.
"For us to do what we're doing right now, we're surprising a lot of people and I think that's what we expected coming in from Spring Training from Day 1," Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp said.

Salazar pitched well, but the Indians offered no help until Carlos Santana hit a solo homer in the ninth against Hector Neris, who earned the first save of his career. Salazar allowed three hits, two runs and struck out eight in seven innings.
"It was incredible, man," Neris said of earning the save. "They gave me the opportunity and I'm trying to do well for my team and myself. I'm doing something to help my team win. When I can do that, it's good. When you can do that you can be happy." More >
Velasquez deals: Velasquez, who was the key piece in the Ken Giles trade with Houston in December, walked two consecutive batters to start the fourth inning before having the Phillies' grounds crew repair a wet mound. He cruised from there, retiring the final nine batters he faced. He allowed just two hits, four walks and struck out six in scoreless innings, making this the third time in five starts he has not allowed a run. He threw 103 pitches, otherwise he might have pitched longer.
"I'm just going with the flow," Velasquez said. "I'm not trying to get my hopes up. I'm really not trying to get to a certain amount of wins or have a certain ERA. I told you guys from the beginning that my job is to help the team win." More >
Balking home: With Maikel Franco at the plate and runners on the corners in the third inning, the Phillies already had one run in on a Galvis single. Salazar began his windup, as usual, but stalled as he raised his leg and came down without throwing a pitch. It was an obvious balk and Galvis scored from third, giving the Phillies their second run of the game. The next inning, mound conditions again proved questionable as Velasquez walked the first two Indians. Following the walks, time was called and the grounds crew came out to put dry dirt on the slick mound. Velasquez retired the next three Indians in order.
"I slipped," Salazar said. "My right foot, when I was trying to push, it went back a little bit. The mound was getting a little bit wet, and [the video] shows my foot half in the dirt and half on the rubber." More >

Ruf and tumble:Darin Ruf started in left field because the Phillies wanted his bat in the lineup. But then he made a great diving catch to end the fourth inning, stranding runners on first and second.
"Initially, I kind of broke over and up," Ruf said. "I just kept that line and luckily it was the right one. It's crazy we're sitting here talking about my defense and not that I'm swinging the bat well or something. But any way you can help the team when you're struggling offensively."

Changing it up: Besides the two runs in the third, Salazar was dominant over seven innings on Sunday. His changeup was especially effective. Of the eight Phillies Salazar struck out, seven came on his nasty change -- the only one that didn't was a 94-mph heater that got Ryan Howard looking. In Salazar's breakout 2015, Fangraphs rated his change as the second best in baseball, while PITCHf/x had it third, behind Zack Greinke's on both lists and Cole Hamels' on PITCHf/x's. He threw it on 23.5 percent of his pitches on Sunday, after having thrown it 17.7 percent of the time coming into the game and 18.4 percent last season.
"I've been working on it," Salazar said. "They weren't swinging when I threw it down in the zone, so in my bullpen I was working on throwing it for a strike."
"It's unfortunate that as good as he pitched and as good as his line was, the two runs they got were enough," IndiansFrancona added.

"I choose not to look at it that way. Those thoughts do creep in occasionally and we know we need a little more offense. But, pitching and defense wins games. That's the old adage. As long as we're in the game, we feel like we can win. So, of course I would like to get some more offense out of our guys. And I think we will, little by little. For right now, I choose to believe we're as good as our record." -- Phillies manager Pete Mackanin, on concerns the winning won't last with the offense averaging only 3.3 runs per game.
Jason Kipnis' 14-pitch at-bat in the sixth inning was the longest for an Indians player since Shelley Duncan did the same against John Danks in 2012. Only Dee Gordon has had a longer plate appearance this season, singling on the 16th pitch from Metsreliever Jim Henderson on April 12.
Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera's career-high on-base streak (21 games) and hitting streak (11 games) came to an end. He went 0-for-3. The Phillies bullpen's scoreless streak was snapped at 20 innings. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the Phillies' bullpen had a scoreless streak of 20 or more innings was Sept. 1-11, 2004, when they had a 28-inning scoreless streak.
After Rajai Davis singled with two outs in the seventh, David Hernandez attempted to pick the speedy Davis off first. He was ruled safe initially, but after Mackanin challenged, replay officials overturned the call and ended the inning. The throw beat Davis back, and it was a matter of whether Howard applied the tag. Replay showed Howard's glove just grazed Davis' right arm. Mackanin now has a 50 percent success rate, going 5-for-10 in reviews.

Indians: Cleveland gets a day off to travel back home after a nine-game road trip. Josh Tomlin (3-0, 3.18 ERA) takes the hill for the Indians as they kick off an AL Central series against the Tigers at 7:10 CT on Tuesday. Tomlin has walked only two batters in 17 innings, winning all three of his starts in 2016.
Phillies: The Phillies open a 10-game road trip Monday at 8:15 p.m. ET against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, where right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (2-1, 3.81 ERA) faces right-hander Adam Wainwright (1-3, 7.16 ERA). By the time the Phillies finish the trip on May 12 in Atlanta, they will have played 16 of their last 19 games on the road.
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Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003 and for since 2009.

Evan Webeck is a reporter for based in Philadelphia.