Vince Velasquez using spring to work on timing, control

Vince Velasquez using spring to work on timing, control

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Phillies manager Pete Mackanin wants his pitchers to control the running game, and Vince Velasquez is becoming a believer in his teachings.

Velasquez said he focused on holding the ball longer and occasionally throwing a quick pitch to disrupt the timing of the runners and batters during his outing Saturday against the Blue Jays.

With Blue Jays leadoff man Kevin Pillar at first base, Velasquez held the ball longer and executed a slide step on his delivery. Pillar got a bad jump and catcher Andrew Knapp got the throw to Cesar Hernandez in plenty of time to put the tag on Pillar.

"We talk about it on a daily basis," Mackanin said. "You can make a baserunner worried about trying to steal a base or get picked off and the hitter's got to worry about if he's going to quick-pitch me. It can screw you up in the head."

After a slow start in the first inning, Velasquez got into the Blue Jays' head and retired seven of the final eight batters he faced.

Velasquez gave up two hits and a run with four strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings.

"I think everything was located down," Velasquez said. "I was impressed with the curveball. It was well located. I got swings and misses, some ground balls and that just made my fastball more electric. I got a lot of swing and misses on it. 

"Everything was located well, my changeup was low or in the dirt, just trying to change eye levels. They got the first run with me pitching to contact. I probably threw more pitches than I wanted to, but I settled in after the first inning."

Velasquez said holding the ball is becoming more natural to him and he's seeing how his subtle changes in timing can throw a hitter and a runner off balance.

"You look at [Johnny] Cueto and he has a little fancy delivery," Velasquez said. "Things like that come into play. He gets lit up sometimes and sometimes he doesn't but that's the game of baseball. You got to keep them guessing. In this game, you can't be [predictable] all the time or the hitters are going to time you."

Velasquez also showed off his competitive side when he felt like he was being squeezed by home plate umpire Junior Valentine on a couple of pitches to Pillar in the first inning. 

Pillar ended up with a single in the at-bat and eventually scored on a hit by Justin Smoak. Velasquez had a problem with two pitches and tried to let Valentine know about it.

"Did you see me coughing? That was a fake cough," Velasquez said. "I was like 'c'mon bro, wow, how do you miss that?' You go back to the computers and you watch that and tell me if that was a ball or not. That was 100 percent a strike. There were two of them, two in a row."

Velasquez was able to joke about it Saturday but conceded that he needs to make sure he keeps his emotions in check and doesn't let his displeasure with a bad call become too obvious.

Mackanin, however, likes his pitcher's competitive nature.

"We want true competitors, although you need to compose yourself," Mackanin said. "There were a couple of questionable calls that I thought might have been strikes, but you have to put that behind you and get the next hitter. It's like pitching around an error. You have to get past it."

Best of MLB: Pirates spoil Rich Hill's no-hitter with walk-off HR in 10th inning

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Best of MLB: Pirates spoil Rich Hill's no-hitter with walk-off HR in 10th inning

PITTSBURGH -- Dodgers lefty Rich Hill lost his perfect game on an error in the ninth inning, then lost his no-hitter on a leadoff home run in the 10th by Josh Harrison that sent the Pittsburgh Pirates over Los Angeles 1-0 Wednesday night.

Hill became the first pitcher since Pedro Martinez in 1995 to take a no-hit try into extra innings.

The Pirates didn't have a runner until Jordy Mercer led off the ninth with a sharp grounder that third baseman Logan Forsythe misplayed for an error. Hill retired the next three batters.

Hill (9-5) came back out for the 10th and Harrison sent his 99th pitch of the night into the first row of seats in left field, just out of the reach of Los Angeles leftfielder Curtis Granderson. Hill struck out 10 without a walk.

Juan Nicasio (2-5) picked up the win after working the top of the 10th (see full recap).

Orioles regroup after Britton’s save streak ends at 60
BALTIMORE -- Zach Britton's AL-record run of converting 60 straight save attempts ended amid the evening shadows of Camden Yards, when the Orioles closer blew a two-run lead and failed to get out of the ninth inning in a game Baltimore ultimately won in the 12th, 8-7 over the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday.

Baltimore led 7-5 heading into the ninth when Britton entered to seal the victory, just as he had been doing successfully since the final days of the 2015 season. On this occasion, however, the left-hander gave up three straight hits before a sacrifice fly by Matt Joyce tied it.

Following a walk to Khris Davis, Britton was replaced by Miguel Castro (3-1), who quelled the uprising.

Manny Machado led off the 12th with a home run off Simon Castro (1-2) to end a game that lasted 4 hours, 20 minutes.

Britton's streak began on Oct. 1, 2015, extended through all of last season and went for 11 more saves this year. He had not blown a save since Sept. 20, 2015, at Tampa Bay.

Britton finished well short of Eric Gagne's major league mark of 84, set from 2002-04 (see full recap).

Schwarber, Cubs continue surge with win over Reds
CINCINNATI -- Kyle Schwarber hit a three-run homer in the ballpark near his home, Tommy La Stella added a two-run shot while subbing for Kris Bryant, and the Chicago Cubs kept their second-half surge going with a 9-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday night.

The defending World Series champions have won eight of 10. They are 11 games over .500 for the first time this season and have their biggest lead in the NL Central, 3 1/2 games ahead of Milwaukee.

Left-hander Mike Montgomery (4-6) allowed four hits in six shutout innings, filling in for Jon Lester in the rotation. Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez and Scott Schebler homered in the ninth for the Reds (see full recap).

Instant Replay: Phillies 8, Marlins 0

Instant Replay: Phillies 8, Marlins 0


A trio of rookies stepped up and led the Phillies to an 8-0 win over the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night.

Mark Leiter Jr. spun a gem on the mound, Nick Williams reached base three times and scored three runs and Rhys Hoskins drove in five runs with a homer and a double.

One night earlier, the Marlins pounded out 27 hits and scored 19 runs in sweeping a doubleheader from the Phillies.

The shutout was the Phillies' fourth of the season. Their majors-worst record stands at 46-79.

Starting pitching report
In his fifth big-league start, Leiter pitched seven shutout innings. He held the Marlins hitless for the first five innings. The only hit he gave up was a leadoff double to Miguel Rojas in the sixth. Leiter then got three quick outs. The 26-year-old right-hander walked two and struck out five. All of the strikeouts came in the first two innings.

Marlins lefty Justin Nicolino was tagged for eight hits and six runs in 2 1/3 innings.

Bullpen report
Luis Garcia and Hector Neris completed the shutout.

At the plate
The Phillies had 11 hits.

Williams singled with two outs in the first inning and scored on an RBI double by Tommy Joseph. The Phillies hit for the cycle in the third inning and scored five runs. Freddy Galvis and Jorge Alfaro had RBI hits. Hoskins had the big blow, a three-run homer into the second deck above left field. Three innings later, Hoskins smacked a two-run double with two outs. He has seven homers and 16 RBIs since joining the club. All of the homers have come in the last 10 games.

The Marlins had just two hits.

The Phillies added right-hander Drew Anderson from Triple A Lehigh Valley as bullpen insurance. He will likely return to Triple A on Thursday. Outfielder Cameron Perkins was sent to Triple A.

The Phillies signed veteran pitcher Henderson Alvarez to a minor-league contract. He is scheduled to pitch Friday for Lehigh Valley.

Up next
The series concludes on Thursday afternoon. Jake Thompson (1-1, 4.20) will be added to the roster and pitch for the Phillies against Marlins right-hander and former Phillie Vance Worley (2-3, 4.82).

The defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs comes to town to start a three-game series on Friday night.