Vince Papale to Brock Stassi: 'We call that the last laugh'

Vince Papale to Brock Stassi: 'We call that the last laugh'

Former Eagle Vince Papale, the inspiration for the movie "Invincible," paid a visit to Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday afternoon to meet Phillies outfielder Brock Stassi. Papale wanted to give him a copy of the film "Invincible" -- a movie Stassi has yet to see -- and talk to another Philadelphia athlete who has played the underdog role.

Papale said he couldn't help but get choked up when he first saw the video of Stassi being interviewed after he made the Phillies' roster (watch above).

"Brock's story came on and I started doing one of these," Papale said as he reached to wipe the fake tears from his eyes. "So I got my wife Janet and I said, 'You gotta come in and see this.' And I texted my son Vince down at Delaware and said, 'You see this guy? He's just like us.'

"I contacted (Phillies publicity director) John (Brazer) and texted him right then and said I wanted the film rights for this."

Stassi, a long shot to make the Phillies' roster, was the feel-good story of the spring. The six-year minor leaguer had a spring training to remember, hitting .306 (19 for 62) with six home runs and 17 RBIs.  

As always, when an underdog makes an impact in Philadelphia, there will be association to past Philly underdogs like Papale or legendary movie character Rocky Balboa.

"I did get a few ["Invincible" references on Twitter]," Stassi said of when he made the team. "A lot of people made that reference and I am honored to even be put in the same category as him."

Papale assumed the role of a reporter and posed a question to Stassi: "What kept you going?"

"Ever since I was drafted, I've believed in myself that I would be here one day," Stassi said. "And after my first spring, I was in extended spring training and that's a place you don't want to be when you are 22 years old at the time. And I ended up learning a lot about myself because you're playing on the back fields in spring training in the middle of the day, in Florida, in front of about five people, so it's really self-motivating.

"And that's kind of where I started to get the hang of pro ball and started believing in myself then. Because my first year was rough. My first year in Williamsport, had a terrible year. But, it ended up working out. It made for a lot of doubters. And it's fun proving people wrong."

Papale smiled and assured Stassi: "We call that the last laugh."

Tonight's lineup: Another start for Aaron Altherr ... if Phillies play

Tonight's lineup: Another start for Aaron Altherr ... if Phillies play

Aaron Altherr's audition continues Tuesday night — if the Phillies play, that is.

It's been raining in Philadelphia since early Tuesday morning and as of 2:30 p.m., the forecast called for 70 percent rain until 7 p.m. and then 90 percent until 9 p.m.

With how frequently the Phillies and Marlins play, this game wouldn't be difficult to reschedule if it's rained out.

A possible make-up date is Monday, Aug. 21. The Marlins return to Citizens Bank Park for a three-game series Aug. 22-24, but both teams are off the day before the series begins.

Until first pitch, it is the home team's call whether or not to postpone the game. Then, the power transfers to the umpires.

Back to the lineup: For Altherr, it would be a sixth straight start. Howie Kendrick's oblique injury has provided the 26-year-old outfielder another chance to play regularly, and so far, so good for Altherr. He's 9 for 21 with three doubles, a homer, four RBIs and seven runs scored over his last six games.

Altherr is also the Phillies' best defensive outfielder, so if he continues to hit it will be tough for Pete Mackanin to pull him out of the lineup when Kendrick is ready to return. That's where Kendrick's versatility comes into play — he could play first base or second base on any given night, opening up a spot in the corner outfield for Altherr.

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Aaron Altherr, LF
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Tommy Joseph, 1B
6. Michael Saunders, RF
7. Cameron Rupp, C
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Vince Velasquez, P

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Vince Velasquez looking for another solid outing

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Vince Velasquez looking for another solid outing

Phillies (9-9) vs. Marlins (10-8)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

Monday off-days always feel better for a team after a successful weekend.

The Phillies had one against the Braves, sweeping them out of South Philadelphia to reach .500. Atlanta has lost six in a row.

This week, the Phils welcome in the Miami Marlins, the only division team they've yet to face.

1. A different 9-9
The Phillies had the same record through 18 games last season but got there in a different way. Last April's run was fueled by strong starting pitching and a 7-2 record in one-run games.

The 2016 Phillies were 9-9 with a minus-23 run differential. The 2017 Phillies are 9-9 with a plus-seven run differential. 

Pete Mackanin admitted Sunday that this record just feels different.

The Phillies are 6-2 in their last eight and have allowed 3.4 runs per game over that span. And that's against lineups that include Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, a red-hot Ryan Zimmerman, Jay Bruce, Yoenis Cespedes, Freddie Freeman and Matt Kemp.

The upcoming schedule is tough -- after hosting the Marlins, the Phillies have a seven-game road trip to face the Dodgers for three games and the Cubs for four.

2. Velasquez looks for two in a row
Vince Velasquez pitched much better than his line last Wednesday at Citi Field. After averaging a major-league worst 21.3 pitches per inning in his first two starts, he needed just 84 pitches to complete six innings.

He was through 5 2/3 scoreless before Bruce beat him for a three-run homer.

Velasquez just had everything working against the Mets. He threw more than twice as many sinkers (11) than he threw in his first two starts combined (five). He had three 1-2-3 innings.

It was surprising to see Velasquez strike out only two batters in a whiff-prone Mets lineup, but it was no coincidence that by getting quicker outs he was able to go deeper into a game. Velasquez has struck out two or fewer batters in just three of his 27 starts with the Phillies and one of them was the game against the Cubs last season in which he lasted just one-third of an inning. It was a rare performance for him last week.

Velasquez faced the Marlins three times last season and went 1-0 with a 2.50 ERA. He struck out 20, walked seven and allowed two homers in 18 innings. 

The only time he faced them in Miami, he allowed four runs in the first two innings before settling in to pitch four scoreless. (That was the game that ended with Giancarlo Stanton's titanic blast off Hector Neris.)

In the two other meetings, Velasquez pitched five shutout innings with 10 strikeouts and gave up just three hits and one run in seven innings two months later.

Christian Yelich has hit him the hardest, going 3 for 8 with a triple and two homers. Martin Prado is 3 for 9 with two doubles. Stanton is 0 for 6 with three strikeouts.

The Prados of the world can give Velasquez trouble because they don't swing and miss much.

3. Scouting the Fish
The Marlins are on the third and final leg of a rough road trip, travel-wise. They started out as far away from Miami as possible with a series in Seattle, then went to San Diego and wrap it up in Philly before heading home.

After losing three of the first four games of the trip, they ended the San Diego series with back-to-back wins.

Phillie-killer Marcell Ozuna is having a heckuva month, leading the majors with 21 RBIs. He's hit .306 with six homers and two doubles.

Stanton is heating up, which is bad news for the Phillies. He's 9 for 17 over his last four games with four homers, seven RBIs, two walks and one strikeout. He's obviously seeing the ball very well at the moment.

The book on Stanton, as always, is to beat him with low-and-away sliders. If the pitch starts in the middle of the plate he has a lot of trouble laying off of it. He's so big and extends his arms so far that he often thinks he can reach pitches he can't.

J.T. Realmuto has quietly become one of the game's most consistent offensive catchers. He's hit .344 in the early going.

Second baseman Dee Gordon is always a threat to swipe a bag when he reaches. He's hit .288 with a .313 OBP so far and has stolen four bases in five tries.

Yelich, who bats third, is always a tough out. 

The Marlins' lineup is deep.

4. A rare lefty starter
It seems like there are fewer left-handed starting pitchers than ever before, especially in the NL East. The Nationals have played all 19 games against right-handed starters. The Braves have faced only one, while the Phillies and Marlins have seen three.

On Tuesday, the Phillies face 31-year-old southpaw Wei-Yin Chen, who the Marlins signed away from the Orioles two offseasons ago with a five-year, $80 million contract. 

Chen disappointed in his first season in Miami in 2016, going 5-5 with a 4.96 ERA in 22 starts. He allowed 22 home runs, a surprisingly high mark at a ballpark as cavernous as Marlins Park.

In three starts this season, Chen is 2-0 with a 3.94 ERA. He's coming off seven no-hit (yes, no-hit) innings last Tuesday in Seattle. He gave up six runs and two homers in three innings the previous start.

The Phillies beat up on Chen the last time they saw him, scoring four runs on 11 hits over 5 1/3 innings. 

Current Phils have hit .378 off of him with five doubles and three home runs in 81 at-bats. Switch-hitting Daniel Nava is 7 for 17 with a homer and could get a start. Cesar Hernandez is 5 for 12 with two doubles. Freddy Galvis is also 5 for 12 with a double. Maikel Franco is 4 for 12 with a double and a homer.

5. This and that
• Monday was a much-needed day off for Hector Neris, who has labored through his last two outings, needing 49 pitches to get six outs. He's allowed runs in back-to-back games after starting the year with eight scoreless appearances.

• The Phillies' 1-2-3 hitters this season have a combined .384 on-base percentage. (This includes all players who have batted in one of those three spots.)

• In 58 career games against the Phils, Ozuna has hit .310 with 18 doubles, seven homers and 29 RBIs.

• We always notice it when they do, so let's also notice when they don't. Stanton has not been a Phillie-killer throughout his career, hitting just .252 against them with 19 homers and 44 RBIs in 86 games. Compare that, for example, to his numbers against the Nats: .301, 28 homers, 66 RBIs in the same number of games.

In four of his seven seasons, Stanton has hit .217 or worse against the Phillies.