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Phils blanked, unable to back uneven Velasquez

August 8, 2018

PHOENIX -- Vince Velasquez's moneymaker is his four-seam fastball. It is one of the better fastballs in baseball. It can be unhittable.But Velasquez attacked the D-backs differently on Wednesday afternoon in a 6-0 loss at Chase Field. He threw fewer four-seam fastballs and more two-seam fastballs -- and in the

PHOENIX -- Vince Velasquez's moneymaker is his four-seam fastball. It is one of the better fastballs in baseball. It can be unhittable.
But Velasquez attacked the D-backs differently on Wednesday afternoon in a 6-0 loss at Chase Field. He threw fewer four-seam fastballs and more two-seam fastballs -- and in the end, it didn't matter. Even if he had executed his plan perfectly, the Phillies mustered only four hits against Arizona left-hander Patrick Corbin, who struck out nine batters in 7 1/3 scoreless innings.
The Phillies lost two of three to Arizona. They will spend Thursday relaxing in San Diego before opening a three-game series Friday night against the Padres at Petco Park. The Phils need to play well to hold onto first place in the National League East, as the Braves moved within a half-game of first place with a victory over the Nationals on Wednesday night.
"This is very similar to what we always do," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "We know how to turn the page. We don't let losses linger. You're going to go into a city like Phoenix against a very good team, and sometimes, you're going to win the series and there are going to be times where they just play better. Over the course of this series, they played better than us. It's part of baseball. But we will not carry that into San Diego. We will bring strength and enthusiasm and our brand of baseball to San Diego. I'm very confident we're going to perform well there."

Velasquez allowed six hits, four runs and two walks in four innings. He struck out two. Early in the game, his four-seamer lacked its typical life. The pitch averaged 94.1 mph entering the game, but just 92.7 mph in the first inning.
It finished at 93.0 mph for the afternoon.
"I wasn't worried about the velo," Velasquez said. "I was just trying to execute my pitches in general."
"I think part of the reason the velo was down was because he was using his two-seam a little bit more," Kapler said. "I think, in general, it was comfort level. He felt comfortable with that pitch."

Velasquez threw 79 pitches. He threw 37 four-seamers (46.8 percent), his fifth-lowest rate in a start this season. He threw 17 two-seamers (21.5 percent), his third-highest rate in a start. Fluctuations in velocity and pitch usage should be expected from start to start, based upon scouting reports and how a pitcher feels, but Wednesday's usage stood out only because Velasquez has been on a roll lately.
Velasquez entered the game with a 1.39 ERA in his previous six starts and a 3.16 ERA in his previous 15. The four-seamer is a big reason why. The pitch ranked third in baseball among 77 qualified starters in whiff rate (30.2 percent). Only Jacob deGrom (30.6 percent) and Max Scherzer (30.6) have more swings and misses on four-seam fastballs than Velasquez.
Velasquez got only two swings and misses with the pitch Wednesday.
"In certain count situations, I kind of coordinated with [catcher Andrew] Knapp a little bit to possibly utilize the two-seam more and elevate more with the four-seam, but they were laying off of it," Velasquez said. "In certain hitters' counts, I tried to go with an actual secondary pitch, and they ended up connecting with the fastball when they were looking for it, obviously, in hitters' counts. Just a terrible display of executing my secondary pitches today.

"It doesn't matter if I was throwing 96, 97. If I used it in the right count, they would have been late on my fastballs. If I utilize my secondary pitches or use my two-seam a lot more, I would have got a lot more swings and misses and a lot more ground balls."
Doubled up:Cesar Hernandez singled to start the game, but he ended the first inning on a strike-'em-out-throw-'em-out double play. Nick Williams struck out swinging and D-backs catcher Alex Avila threw a strike to second to get Hernandez, who has not stolen a base since July 9 and has notched only four swipes since May. It set the tone for the afternoon.
"His pitch count was at 19 or 20 pitches," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said about Corbin. "Had they executed, or had it gone a little bit differently, we could have had a totally different story, but I thought that was a good push for him to get through that first inning. That was his toughest inning. From that point on, he really caught a tailwind."

Shortstop Scott Kingery is hitless in his past 20 at-bats, including seven strikeouts. His playing time has been reduced recently, following the July 29 acquisition of Asdrubal Cabrera from the Mets.
"I'd say, most notably, we popped him in there in the last game of a series against Patrick Corbin and ended up with his at-bat against a reliever in [Brad] Ziegler," Kapler said. "Really good pitchers on the other side. That's what I would chalk it up to."
Williams robbed A.J. Pollock of a two-run home run when he made a nice jumping catch at the right-field wall in the fifth inning. The ball left Pollock's bat at 100.3 mph and had a hit probability of 64 percent, according to Statcast™.

"For us to beat this team in a three-game series -- they came in extremely hot, they've got some strong, young starting pitching and I thought we did a real nice job to come out and win today after a tough, tough loss yesterday." -- Lovullo
The Phillies optioned right-hander Enyel De Los Santos to Triple-A Lehigh Valley after he tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings. He joined the team Tuesday, following Monday's 14-inning loss. The Phils will make a corresponding move on Friday.

Kapler indicated on Tuesday that it could be infielder J.P. Crawford, who has been on the 10-day disabled list since June 20 because of a broken left hand.
Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin (8-3, 3.61 ERA) pitches Friday at 10:10 p.m. ET in the first game of a three-game series against the Padres at Petco Park. The Friars selected Eflin with the 33rd overall pick in the 2012 Draft. They traded him in December '14 to the Dodgers, who traded him the next day to the Phils to complete the Jimmy Rollins trade. It is Eflin's first start against the organization that drafted him. Jacob Nix will start for San Diego, making his MLB debut.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.