Phillies see the two sides of Vince Velasquez in home-opening loss to Nationals

Phillies see the two sides of Vince Velasquez in home-opening loss to Nationals


The two sides of Vince Velasquez -- alternately fascinating and frustrating -- were on display in the Phillies' home opener Friday.

There was all that potential, the electric right arm and the crackling fastball, warming up a cold day with 10 strikeouts.

But there was also the maddening inconsistency and the inability to economize pitches and locate them precisely in big situations.

The Phillies provided some entertainment in their first game of the new season at Citizens Bank Park when they scored six unanswered runs in the late innings to nearly erase a big deficit against the Washington Nationals. In the end, however, their comeback came up short and they suffered a 7-6 loss to fall to 1-3 after four games (see Instant Replay).

There were plenty of ifs and buts in this one, but when it was over, Velasquez put the loss on himself.

"It was just a lack of performance on my end," he said. "It's frustrating to have a show like that at the end and not come out on top because of my performance."

The "show" that Velasquez spoke about was the six runs the Phillies scored in the final four innings, the outburst highlighted by Aaron Altherr's two-run homer in the seventh and Freddy Galvis' two-run homer in the ninth.

The "lack of performance" that he spoke about was his own work. Yeah, his rocket arm produced 10 strikeouts. But his lack of command caused his pitch count to swell to 94 and he didn't make it past the fourth inning. And in those four innings, he gave up a pair of two-run home runs.

Bryce Harper got him on a full-count changeup in the first inning. Daniel Murphy got him on a 2-2 fastball in the third inning.

On both occasions, there was a man on base via a walk.

And both times, Velasquez missed his spot with a pitch.

The changeup to Harper was thigh-high on the inner half of the plate.

The fastball to Murphy was right down the middle.

"If the changeup to Harper was on the outside of the plate, it might have been a different result," manager Pete Mackanin said.

Velasquez had been up on Murphy, 0-2, but could not put him away.

"Murphy is just a great hitter," Velasquez said. "It's hard to get that guy out. That fastball was right over the middle. I was all over the place. I couldn't command my fastball."

All of the Nationals' seven runs came on homers. Joely Rodriguez came in for Velasquez in the fifth and gave up a three-run homer to Jayson Werth (more on him here). It was Werth's 101st homer as a National and his 20th against his old team and it gave his club and 2016 NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer a 7-0 lead.

Going to the bullpen in the fifth inning is just too early, but in this case, it was a necessity.

"It's very frustrating giving up two home runs the first few innings and not giving your guys an opportunity to come out on top," Velasquez said. "I give our guys credit for battling the way they did, but I need to go deeper into the game."

Velasquez is 24 and still a developing pitcher on a developing team. It would be worth filing this performance -- the good and the bad -- to see if he grows from it down the road. It could end up being a learning experience.

"He knows what he has to do, but it doesn't come overnight," Mackanin said.

Scherzer -- 8-1 lifetime against the Phillies -- gave up just two runs over 6 2/3 innings. The Phillies scored four times against the Nats' bullpen and might have had more if Brock Stassi hadn't been nailed trying to move up to third on a ball to the backstop in the seventh. The ball shot hard off the backstop allowing Washington catcher Matt Wieters to catch it and fire to third to get Stassi. Mackanin absolved Stassi of any blame.

"Galvis, after the inning, was like, 'I've been playing here for however many years and that's the first time I've seen that happen,'" Stassi said. "I was like, 'Hmm. Figures it happens to me on my first game here.'"

In the eighth, the Phils got the first two men aboard then went down quietly against reliever Koda Glover.

Tommy Joseph popped out to end that threat. He has started off the season 0 for 13. Maikel Franco is 2 for 16 and Michael Saunders is 1 for 10.

Meanwhile, Odubel Herrera is 6 for 14 and Howie Kendrick is 5 for 13 (more on Herrera here).

So there is some good and some bad. Sort of like Velasquez's outing Friday.

Report: Maikel Franco 'more than available' in trade talks

Report: Maikel Franco 'more than available' in trade talks

With just over a month to go before the July 31 trade deadline and the Phillies well in the league's basement, Matt Klentak is reportedly looking to the future. 

The Phillies have made underachieving third baseman Maikel Franco "more than available" in trade talks, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.

In a make-or-break year for the 24-year-old, Franco has struggled mightily, slashing just .221/.280/.645 and has grounded into the most double plays in all of MLB. 

As's Jim Salisbury wrote during spring training, if Franco doesn't show promise and improvement in 2017, the Phillies could target Manny Machado as their third baseman of the future in free agency this offseason.

As Salisbury has long said, the Phillies are unsure if Franco is a future building block and a trade is possible.

If the Phillies were to trade Franco before the deadline, they sure would be selling low on a player who has shown spurts of consistent power hitting.

Phillies-Diamondbacks 5 things: Erratic Hellickson facing his former team

Phillies-Diamondbacks 5 things: Erratic Hellickson facing his former team

Phillies (24-49) at Diamondbacks (47-28)
4:10 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on and the NBC Sports App

After Friday's victory, the Phillies couldn't keep the good times rolling, losing 9-2 to the Diamondbacks on Saturday night. Jeremy Hellickson will take on his former team in Game 3 of the four-game set, opposing spot starter Randall Delgado.

Here are five things to know for Sunday afternoon:

1. Hellickson vs. his former 'mates
A year after he was traded by his original franchise, the Tampa Bay Rays, Hellickson was dealt by the D-backs on Nov. 14, 2015 to the Phillies for minor leaguer Sam McWilliams. 

McWilliams is a 21-year-old righty in Single A for the D-backs right now, but his value is basically a bonus for Arizona: Hellickson was basically salary dumped on the Phillies, who bought low on the veteran righty.

While the 30-year-old lost his only start against Arizona last season, he went seven innings while allowing just three runs. And he provided a fair amount of value to the Phillies, pitching to a 3.71 ERA over 189 innings. 

He leads the team with 15 starts this season, but he hasn't lived up to the promise of last season nor the qualifying offer he signed in the offseason. He has a 4.61 ERA and has allowed 16 home runs in 84 innings, all while watching his strikeout rate dwindle to a career-low. 

Hellickson is actually coming off one of his better starts this year. He allowed just one run to the Cardinals in seven innings, even striking out four batters. He left with the game tied, but the Phillies' bullpen surrendered seven runs in a loss. The veteran righty hasn't won a start since May 19.

Hellickson has relatively good numbers against the current Diamondbacks squad, buoyed by a 1 for 11 mark from backup catcher Jeff Mathis. Paul Goldschmidt is 0 for 2 with three walks and a HBP against him, while Jake Lamb is 2 for 3 with a home run.

2. Randall on the spot
Delgado has seen his role on the D-backs staff flip-flop over the last month. He's moved from the bullpen to the rotation back to the bullpen.

And now he's back in the rotation. 

Delgado is making a spot start to keep the pitching staff fresh in the middle of a stretch where the team plays 13 games in 13 nights. He's not unfamiliar to starting, having worked in the Braves' rotation to begin his career. However, he started just once in the 2015 and 2016 seasons combined before making four starts this season. 

In his four starts, he was 0-1 with a 3.15 ERA over 20 innings, striking out 20. He threw just 25 pitches in his last appearance, which came in a two-inning relief appearance on June 21. He was stretched out to more than 90 pitches as a starter, but he will be 16 days removed from his last start. Therefore, the D-backs' bullpen will be on notice.

Delgado hasn't started against the Phillies since 2013 and holds a 3.29 ERA over 27 1/3 innings in nine total appearances against them. No current Phillie has faced him more than six times with Howie Kendrick going 0 for 5 with a walk against the righty. Maikel Franco is 3 for 3 with two home runs and a double.

3. The road ahead
Sunday's contest will be just the third game of a nine-game road trip for the Phillies. On Monday, they play the wraparound series finale against the D-backs and their ace, Zack Greinke, before traveling to Seattle for a two-game series.

The Phillies haven't played at Safeco Field since June 17-19, 2011. In that three-game set, the Phils lost two of three. The winning pitchers for the Mariners in that series, Michael Pineda and Jason Vargas, have been solid this season in the American League, albeit for the Yankees and Royals respectively. 

After the quick two-game set, the Phillies will play three games at Citi Field before returning home. The Phillies are 2-4 against the Mets, who they haven't faced since April. The Mets are just 33-41 this season and could field an All-Star team with their disabled list. 

Once the road trip ends, the Phillies play a pair of lackluster teams in the Pirates and Padres for seven games at Citizens Bank Park before the All-Star break. The Pirates are 35-40 while the Padres are 31-44. 

4. Players to watch
: Freddy Galvis has picked up at least two hits for the fourth straight game. The switch-hitting shortstop has gone 9 for 18 with three doubles, one triple and a homer during that stretch.

Diamondbacks: After going 1 for 4 with a walk and a run scored on Saturday, Paul Goldschmidt is batting .331/.448/.610 on the season. That line has All-Star written all over it.

5. This and that
• Ben Lively became the first Phillies pitcher to hit a home run since Chad Billingsley vs. the Mets in 2015. Bet you didn't expect a Billingsley reference in these game notes!

• Saturday was the Phillies' first loss at Chase Field since Aug. 11, 2015. The starter for the D-backs in that game? Jeremy Hellickson.

• Going into Saturday, the Diamondbacks rotation led all of baseball with 9.5 Wins Above Replacement and a 3.51 ERA.