Why Phillies’ Vince Velasquez believes prioritizing contact over K’s will make him better
Of the 18 outs that the Phillies starter recorded, only four were strikeouts. That's by design.
MIAMI -- Vince Velasquez was both efficient and effective on Sunday for a second consecutive start. It seems the Phillies right-hander has learned that the former often serves as the primary cause when he’s able to achieve the latter.
Velasquez said he has made a concerted effort to get quicker outs. Rather than always trying to go for strikeouts, he's satisfied with getting weak contact earlier in the count.
Through three innings against the Marlins, he faced the minimum nine batters, struck out only one, but threw just 32 pitches. Of the 18 outs he recorded, only four were strikeouts. He got five groundouts, including one double play, and four flyouts, and completed six innings in only 81 pitches.
"It's just a matter of being a pitcher now," said Velasquez, who didn't give up a hit until Brian Anderson's sixth-inning solo homer in the Phillies’ 14-inning, 3-1 victory. "I'm not trying to overpower guys. It's just locating your pitches and letting [hitters] do their thing. It's just a matter of making those quality pitches. You make a quality pitch, chances are they might roll over, they might pop up."
Velasquez has allowed three runs on six hits and three walks in 11 innings over two starts.
Call it a hunch
Although infielder Scott Kingery made a rare start, manager Gabe Kapler opted to keep Cesar Hernandez in the lineup and give third baseman Maikel Franco a breather. The reason: Kapler cited Hernandez’s track record against Marlins starter Jose Urena (7-for-26, one triple, two homers entering the game) and the belief that his swing was better suited than Franco’s to handle Urena’s sinker.
On cue, Hernandez went 2-for-5, including a solo homer on a two-strike slider from Urena in the fourth inning.
Thirteen of reliever Hector Neris’ 14 pitches in the eighth inning were splitters, continuing a trend in which he is relying almost exclusively on his best pitch. Neris has thrown 81 splitters out of 110 pitches this season, a 73.6 percent frequency. He threw 49.1 percent splitters last season, 51.3 percent in 2016 and 49.8 percent last season. ... With a sixth-inning double, Bryce Harper kept his on-base streak intact. He has reached in all 14 games this season. ... MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and actor/singer Jamie Foxx will participate in the Phillies’ pregame ceremony Monday night to commemorate Jackie Robinson Day. … Aaron Nola (1-0, 6.46 ERA) will look to get back on track in the series opener against the Mets. He will be opposed by right-hander Noah Syndergaard (1-1, 4.74).