PHOENIX — For a rotation in flux, Vince Velasquez clearly gave the Phillies the kind of result he delivered earlier in the season on Monday night.
Coming off the disabled list and facing major-league competition for the first time since he went against the Cubs on June 8, Velasquez appeared in total control during the Phillies' 8-0 win over the Diamondbacks.
Powered by two runs in the sixth and a six-spot in the seventh, the Phillies avenged the embarrassment of the recent Arizona sweep at Citizens Bank Park with the victory before 22,567 at Chase Field Monday night.
Starting pitching report
Pounding the strike zone constantly in the mid-90s, Velasquez easily fulfilled manager Pete Mackanin’s expectations.
The right-hander from Montclair, California, lasted five strong innings. He allowed five hits, walked none and fanned seven hitters. That’s the most Velasquez struck out since he fanned 10 Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on May 17.
For the game, Arizona managed seven hits against Velasquez and relievers Edubray Ramos, Hector Neris and Severino Gonzalez. The shutout was the ninth this season by the Phillies' pitching staff.
At the plate
Run-producing singles from Maikel Franco and Cameron Rupp in the sixth snapped a scoreless tie. Sending 11 hitters to the plate in the seventh, the Phillies added six in that inning. The key hits were a two-run double from Franco and Odubel Herrera singled in a pair, each with no outs. Later in the frame, Freddy Galvis slapped a single with the bases loaded for two more off reliever Josh Collmenter.
In total, the Phillies collected a season-high 16 hits.
Acquired from Houston in the Ken Giles deal last Dec, 12, Velasquez saw the Diamondbacks with the Astros in the last series of the 2015 season at Chase Field. Despite the starter pitching just one inning and allowing a run out of the bullpen at that time, Velasquez did leave a calling card.
“[Velasquez] is a dominant pitcher," Arizona manager Chip Hale said prior to Monday's series opener. “His fastball is particularly effective coming into left-handed hitters. We’ll see how he does coming off the DL.”
Velasquez did just fine, as he improved his record to 6-2 on the season with the win.
Moving to the bullpen
Mackanin's assessment of moving left-hander Adam Morgan to the bullpen was that it serves two purposes.
First, the club had to make room in the starting rotation for Velasquez, who was coming off the disabled list. Plus, Brett Oberholtzer, the remaining lefty in the bullpen, was not putting up electrifying numbers. In 18 appearances this season, Oberholtzer, coming into Monday’s game with the Diamondbacks, was 2-1 with a 5.35 ERA and had allowed 23 runs in 38 2/3 innings.
All of which puts a premium on Morgan to produce quality appearances and fill important roles. Going forward, Mackanin envisions Morgan pitching in certain situations and against certain hitters, while, at the same time, giving the club length in subsequent days.
Prior to his demotion to the bullpen after Sunday’s game in San Francisco, Morgan was 1-6 in 11 starts with a 6.55 ERA. Now, Morgan’s move gives Mackanin a certain degree of flexibility with a reliever he now believes is capable of getting hitters out.
“[Morgan] is the kind of guy who can give you three innings,” Mackanin said. “He has a really good slider and, physically, that carries success.”
Mackanin explained that he would give Velasquez a long leash in the game, but also that he wouldn't hesitate to go to the 'pen early, perhaps in favor of Morgan. Instead, Mackanin went to Ramos as the first one out of the bullpen Monday night.
A different team
When the Diamondbacks swept the Phillies earlier this month at Citizens Bank Park, the numbers were alarming.
That four-game defeat represented the Phillies’ first home series loss to Arizona since 2007. In those four games, the Phillies were outscored by 17 runs (22-5), and the Diamondbacks smashed 10 home runs to only one by the Phillies. That was a solo shot by Herrera off of Zack Greinke during the first inning of the series' second game.
Then, the Phillies dropped road series to the Twins and Giants, and now have lost 12 straight series dating back to May 20. That’s when they took two of three from the Marlins at home.
From the Diamondbacks' perspective, Hale said he expected a much different Phillies team for the three now in the desert.
“It was a tough series for them back in Philly,” Hale said. “Everything they tried to do did not work. Now, they have a different club, and we’ll have to play good baseball. We will not beat them by just showing up.”
Is it hot or what?
When the Phillies completed their three-game set against the Giants in San Francisco over the past weekend, the weather was ideal.
For the finale Sunday afternoon, skies were crystal blue, bright sunshine enveloped the Bay Area and temperatures reached into the mid-70s. Now, the Phillies appear stuck in the searing heat of the desert, and the game-time temperature Monday night was 108 degrees. From May through September, the roof to Chase Field is closed, and the temperature inside remains constant around 80 degrees.
“Once it gets over 103, it’s just mad,” Mackanin said before Monday’s game. “People like to stay inside and listen to their air-conditioner.”
When the Diamondbacks were in Philly last weekend, temps in the greater Phoenix area hit the upper-110s.
Forecast for the remaining two games of the current series, Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, are predicted to reach 110.
Mackanin said Carlos Ruiz will catch right-hander Jerad Eickhoff Tuesday night. In his last start, Eickhoff defeated the Twins, but in that recent series in Philly against Arizona, he lost, 4-1, on June 18 to Greinke.
With the selection of Ruiz behind the plate, Mackanin indicated there could be additional work for the veteran back-stopper, and said, “I’d like give [Ruiz] more playing time than I have.”
The series with Arizona continues Tuesday at 9:40 p.m. That’s when the Diamondbacks' Greinke (10-3, 3.61 ERA), who is 7-0 and has a 2.18 ERA in his last eight starts, faces Eickhoff (5-9, 3.36 ERA). For the Wednesday matinee at 3:40 p.m., look for the Diamondbacks' Archie Bradley (3-3, 4.50) taking on right Zach Elfin (0-2, 6.28).
After a day off Thursday, the Phillies return home for a six-game homestand that features three with the Kansas City Royals and three with the Atlanta Braves.