Phillies-Marlins 5 Things: Vince Velasquez's Start Worth Watching Closely - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Phillies-Marlins 5 Things: Vince Velasquez's Start Worth Watching Closely

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    Phillies-Marlins 5 Things: Vince Velasquez's Start Worth Watching Closely
    CSNPhilly.com
    Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Vince Velasquez's start worth watching closely

    Phillies (17-32) at Marlins (19-30)
    7:10 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

    Following another dismal offensive performance, the Phillies move into Game 2 of their three-game series against the Marlins, who have nearly as poor a record but a much better lineup. 

    Unless the Phils win tonight and tomorrow afternoon in Miami, it will be 10 straight series losses. 

    Let's take a look at tonight's action:

    1. More than just a stray performance?
    Vince Velasquez (2-4, 5.55) was solid his last time out, lasting only five innings but allowing just a run with seven strikeouts. 

    He used a fastball-heavy approach, throwing heaters on 72 of his 94 pitches. He said after the game that his gameplan was to "stick to your strengths," which for Velasquez means a lot of mid-90s fastballs, especially when ahead in the count.

    Velasquez's pitch count again soared last Thursday because the Rockies fouled off 28 pitches. With two strikes especially, Velasquez turned to a high fastball and Colorado's hitters fouled many of them off.

    It was encouraging to see Velasquez minimize damage last week in a way that he hasn't for much of the season. His opponents have hit .313 with a .997 OPS this season with runners on base and .313 with a 1.087 OPS with men in scoring in position.

    This is a Marlins team Velasquez has stymied in the past. He beat them back on April 26 at Citizens Bank Park when he allowed three runs over 6⅓ innings. That was his last quality start; he has two in nine tries.

    Velasquez faced the Marlins three times last season and went 1-0 with a 2.50 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 18 innings.

    Current Fish have hit .233 off him. Giancarlo Stanton is 0 for 8 with three walks and three strikeouts. Marcell Ozuna is 2 for 9 with a pair of K's. 

    Christian Yelich has made some loud contact, going 3 for 11 with a triple and two home runs.

    2. Frozen lineup
    Since May 21, the Phillies are 2-7 and have the majors' worst batting average (.174), on-base percentage (.246) and slugging percentage (.294).

    Their .540 OPS is 60 points lower than the next-worst team over that span (Orioles: .600).

    Game by game, week by week, things seem to get progressively worse for this club.

    Over the last week, Aaron Altherr and Andrew Knapp are the only Phillies to hit better than .269.

    The Phils' were a middle-of-the-pack offense in April, placing 15th of 30 teams in runs scored, 11th in batting average, ninth in slugging and 13th in OPS. It seemed the offense had taken a step forward with a few additions and the tutelage of Matt Stairs.

    But as usual in baseball, things have balanced out this month. In May, the Phils are 28th in runs and OBP, 26th in batting average and slugging.

    3. Another average opponent
    The Phillies have been bested lately by every mediocre starting pitcher they face, from Chad Kuhl to Tyler Anderson to Tim Adleman to Edinson Volquez.

    They face another one tonight in Marlins right-hander Justin Nicolino (0-1, 5.40).

    Nicolino is two starts into his 2017 season after making 25 the last two seasons with the Marlins, drifting in and out of the rotation. All told, he's 8-11 with a 4.57 ERA and 1.39 WHIP, but against the Phillies he's gone 1-0 with a 2.74 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 23 innings.

    In fact, if you remove the Phillies from the equation, his career ERA rises from 4.57 to 4.87.

    Nicolino averages 90-91 mph with his fastball and sinker, and he also throws a changeup, curveball and cutter. The last two times he's faced the Phillies he's gone heavy on the sinker.

    Cesar Hernandez has had the most success vs. Nicolino, going 4 for 9 with a triple. Maikel Franco is 3 for 7 with a home run. All other active Phillies have hit .205. 

    Nicolino barely strikes anyone out. Aside from Odubel Herrera, active Phils have zero K's against Nicolino in 51 plate appearances.

    4. What's happened in Miami?
    When you look at the Marlins' lineup, it's hard to figure how they have one of the worst records in baseball entering the month of June. Stanton has had a solid season, as have Ozuna, Justin Bour and catcher J.T. Realmuto. Dee Gordon has been his typical self, and Christian Yelich's numbers are down but not terrible (.741 OPS).

    The Marlins just really, really miss Jose Fernandez.

    The rotation has been a mess all season. Left-hander Adam Conley, who showed promise in 2016, has a 7.48 ERA in six starts. Tom Koehler has a 7.04 ERA in eight starts. Others have been in and out of the rotation - Vance Worley, Odrisamer Despaigne, Jose Urena.

    Volquez was their opening-day starter but didn't pick up his first win until last night.

    Wei-Yin Chen is making $16 million per season but is out with an elbow injury and there's no timetable for his return.

    Altogether, the Marlins' rotation has a 5.02 ERA and has walked 4.5 batters per nine innings.

    5. This and that
    • The Phillies have the majors' worst road record at 7-19. They've dropped 14 of their last 17 road games.

    • The Phillies were nine games better at this point last season (26-23).

    • The difference in the Phils' pitching through two months last season compared to this season is glaring, and it's really all you need to know about why things have gone the way they've gone much of the season.

    At this time last year, the Phillies' pitching staff had the following numbers:

    • 3.83 ERA
    • .237 opponents' batting average
    • 60 HR allowed
    • 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings
    • 2.9 walks per nine innings

    This season?

    • 4.82 ERA
    • .269 opponents' batting average
    • 77 HR alloewd
    • 7.1 strikeouts per nine
    • 3.2 walks per nine