PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez talked to himself following a rough two innings in Thursday afternoon's 6-3 victory over the Giants at Citizens Bank Park. He had allowed three runs, including two home runs. It looked like another early exit in another disappointing effort for the team's most enigmatic
PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez talked to himself following a rough two innings in Thursday afternoon's 6-3 victory over the Giants at Citizens Bank Park. He had allowed three runs, including two home runs. It looked like another early exit in another disappointing effort for the team's most enigmatic starter.
"'Forget it,'" Velasquez told himself.
"But you've got to forget it and keep moving on and get a little more aggressive to the point where you could control it and not get wild and out," he continued. "It's just going into my little comfort zone and pretty much putting the foot down."
Velasquez flipped a switch and dominated the rest of the way, helping the Phillies sweep the Giants in a four-game series for the first time in 1982. The victory improved the Phillies to 22-15, temporarily putting them in a virtual first-place tie with the Braves in the National League East -- the latest the Phillies had been in first place in a season since the end of 2011. The Braves later beat the Marlins, 9-2, on Thursday night, putting Atlanta back in sole possession of first by a half-game.
Velasquez retired 15 of the final 17 batters he faced. He struck out 11 of them (and 12 on the day) as his four-seam fastball jumped from 93.1 mph through the first seven batters he faced to 94.2 mph through the final 17.
"Look," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said, "there's a brilliant pitcher in there. And every time we look out at him, no matter what the outcome of the game is, we always see that that brilliant pitcher exists. And it wasn't there in every moment today. But it was there in flashes.
"What I'm speaking to specifically is a calm, relaxed demeanor on the mound that leads to a very fluid and athletic and graceful delivery that leads to good stuff and swings and misses. It really is that simple. There was a time that I thought that Vinny, we wanted to turn up the volume with Vinny. Just stay on the gas pedal and really get after it. And I think to some degree that's true. But it needs to come in a different way for him. And it needs to come in a very relaxed fashion."
It needs to come eventually on a consistent basis. The Phillies believe they have a chance to make the postseason. They need good starting pitching to get there. Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff could be activated from the DL before the end of the month. Just a couple of weeks ago it seemed like Eickhoff would replace Ben Lively or Zach Eflin, who replaced Lively last week. But Eflin is 1-0 with a 0.71 ERA after two starts. If he continues to pitch well and Eickhoff is ready to face big league pitching, the Phillies might look elsewhere to fill a spot.
"What we saw today, [Velasquez] was less fidgety," Kapler said. "There wasn't a whole lot of anxiety. It was a calm, relaxed attack. I think that's what will lead to success long term and consistency long term for Vinny."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Hoskins, Santana ignite four-run fourth:Rhys Hoskins singled with runners on second and third and no outs in the fourth inning to score a run and cut the Giants' lead to 3-1. Carlos Santana then ripped a three-run homer to left field to hand the Phillies a 4-3 lead. Santana has homered four times in the past seven games, including three of the four games in this series.
Santana struggled the first month of the season.
"This is not my first time in my first month struggling," Santana said. "I'll be good, I'll be fine. I'm not worried about the past. I'm worried about the present and right now everything is positive." More >
Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera doubled to right field in the fourth inning to extend his on-base streak to 39 games. It is the eighth-longest streak in franchise history. Willie Montanez is seventh with a 40-game streak in 1974. Mike Schmidt holds the all-time mark with a 56-game streak in 1981-82.
"I think we're seeing him lay off more pitches than he has in the past," Kapler said about Herrera. "The walk rate is up a little bit, and I think he's hitting in a really good spot in this lineup with some real damage behind him."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Aaron Altherr worked a leadoff walk in the fourth inning to spark the four-run rally. Entering the game, the Phillies had drawn 33 walks in 306 plate appearances (10.8 percent) to start an inning, according to Inside Edge. It was the fourth-best rate in baseball. The league average is 8.1 percent.
HE SAID IT
"They're all big arms. They're all at 95-plus [mph] and have good secondary pitches." -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy, on the Phillies' starters, who posted a 1.46 ERA (four earned runs in 24 2/3 innings) in the series while striking out 40
Phillies right-hander Jacob Arrieta (3-1, 3.15 ERA) faces Mets left-hander Steven Matz (1-3, 4.23 ERA) in the first game of a three-game series beginning Friday at Citizens Bank Park at 7:05 p.m. ET. Arrieta allowed just one run in six innings Sunday against the Nationals, but he settled for a no-decision after the Phillies' bullpen allowed four runs in the final two innings to lose the game.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.