In his first seven starts after a three-week stint on the disabled list, Vince Velasquez permitted 13 runs in 41 innings. He allowed three home runs. He failed to pitch deep into games, but the hints of effectiveness were enough.
Then, Velasquez faced the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers twice in a week. He allowed 14 runs in 10 1/3 innings. He surrendered six home runs. His season ERA rose to 4.14 from 3.33.
On Tuesday, Velasquez threw 111 pitches, his highest total since the 16-strikeout game in April. He is up to 113 innings on the season after throwing just 88 2/3 last season, and he knows the end is near. The Phillies will limit his innings.
But Velasquez wants a little more time.
"I don't want to stop right now, at the stage I'm at right now," he said. "I want to finish on a better note. This is a tough team. I'm glad it's the last time I'm facing them. I can't express how tough this team is. Their approach is difficult."
Both Velasquez and his manager, Pete Mackanin, saw improvement in the second start against the potent Dodgers. He avoided the sort of ambush he faced at Dodger Stadium by applying a more sensible mix to his pitches. He still flashed the powerful fastball that will always determine his fate. His 10 strikeouts were his highest number in three months. He walked just one.
Los Angeles homered on three fastballs last week. They did the same thing Tuesday.
"He made some mistakes," Mackanin said. "He needs to polish it up a little bit, that's all. ... Other than that, he pitched a lot better than he did last time we faced these guys."
The Phillies have not publicly identified Velasquez's innings limit; the team could make the decision without a set number in mind. Velasquez does not believe he has much time remaining.
He hopes to make it count.
"It's not the ending point," Velasquez said. "I want to have a few more starts. Probably three or four more starts, I would say, and finish strong."