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Phillies' Velasquez strikes out 16 in 3-hit shutout

Vince Velasquez took a deep breath before he dared the Padres to hit one more of his fastballs. He raised his tan glove to his face. Those in the ballpark - including Wil Myers, the batter - knew what would come next.

The Phillies' Vince Velasquez is seen in a double-exposure image as he pitches during the sixth inning against the Padres on Thursday, April 14, 2016.
The Phillies' Vince Velasquez is seen in a double-exposure image as he pitches during the sixth inning against the Padres on Thursday, April 14, 2016.Read more

Vince Velasquez took a deep breath before he dared the Padres to hit one more of his fastballs. He raised his tan glove to his face. Those in the ballpark - including Wil Myers, the batter - knew what would come next.

"I reached back," Velasquez said. "I wasn't really looking at the radar gun. I was just trying to get a last strikeout and celebrate."

It was 3:34 p.m. Thursday, and Velasquez had done it. Myers swung and missed, and Velasquez raised his arms to cap a 3-0 Phillies win over San Diego. The brazen, 23-year-old Californian did not smile. First, he felt relief. He swung his golden right arm through the air. He walked a few steps toward home plate, thrust his arm again, and grinned.

Velasquez struck out 16 in a three-hit shutout. He walked none. You wanted interesting baseball, Philadelphia? Meet Vince Velasquez.

"My face doesn't show it, but it was fun," Velasquez said 15 minutes after Myers whiffed at the final fastball. "I'm fully excited. Man. Gosh, it's still hitting me."

It will take some time to process this. The Phillies have played baseball for 134 years, and a performance like Velasquez's is singular. Just two Phillies pitchers, Chris Short and Art Mahaffey, have ever struck out more batters in a game.

Velasquez is the third pitcher age 23 or younger since 1913 to strike out 16 and walk none in a shutout. The others? Dwight Gooden and Kerry Wood. The 25 strikeouts this season by Velasquez, the centerpiece of a winter trade with Houston, are the most by a pitcher in his first two Phillies starts since at least 1913.

"It looks like we made a pretty good trade, I'd say," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "How much fun was that to watch?"

"A young Zack Greinke right there," pitching coach Bob McClure said. "That was like watching the same thing."

"That was incredible," righthander Aaron Nola said. "I felt like it was automatic. It looked like a video game."

The Phillies have pitched three shutouts in the season's first 10 games for the first time since 1954. This dominance by the rotation cannot sustain. So what? These rebuilding Phillies are exciting. For now, they are a .500 team with the formidable Washington Nationals coming to town to play three games this weekend. It will be a test, and that is something to celebrate even if contention is years away.

Velasquez could grow into a star for the Phillies, and he may never pitch as fine a game as he did Thursday. The Padres, the first team in baseball history to be shut out five times in its first 10 games, were a susceptible opponent. Velasquez obliterated them.

One Padres runner reached second base. Seven innings ended with a strikeout. San Diego batters swung and missed at Velasquez's fastball 20 times. Catcher Cameron Rupp kept calling for the fastball because Velasquez possessed such a strong command of it. Seventy percent of Velasquez's pitches were fastballs. The Padres were clueless.

"His fastball, I mean, it had every bit of life that it had to it," Rupp said. "It got to a point where I was thinking to myself, 'I kind of want to mix in a breaking ball here, but I don't need to.' He was blowing everybody's doors off with it."

At 1:07 p.m., the sun shone inside a half-empty ballpark, and Velasquez announced his presence with a 95-mph fastball that missed a little low. He threw 15 more fastballs in the first inning, and three Padres struck out. It was the start of something beautiful.

Velasquez's 109th pitch traveled 97 mph. His 110th pitch was 97 mph. The 113th pitch, a 96-mph fastball to Myers, zoomed across the plate. The 18,079 fans at Citizens Bank Park roared. Velasquez has yet to allow a run this season.

Ryan Howard, in the lineup only because Darin Ruf's left shoulder was still sore, accounted for two Phillies runs. He crushed a Drew Pomeranz belt-high fastball to left-center for a solo homer in the second inning. Pomeranz, a lefthanded pitcher, had held lefties to a .493 OPS in his career. The platoon with Ruf is designed to prevent Howard from seeing lefties. Baseball.

As the Phillies batted in the bottom of the eighth, Velasquez panicked. He began to think about the enormity of it all. Three more outs.

"My emotions," Velasquez said, "were running high." He had to settle.

"You've just got to breathe," he said.

Take a deep breath, and remember this moment, when anything seemed possible for Vince Velasquez.

mgelb@philly.com

@mattgelb

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