Vince Velasquez continues to be a strikeout artist. One of the best the Phillies have seen in Citizens Bank Park, statistically. But the long ball is starting to hurt him.
Again, Velasquez showed the overpowering stuff general manager Matt Klentak was raving about earlier in the week, but the Cardinals tagged him with his third consecutive multi-homer game and the home team had no offense in a 9-0 loss Sunday in South Philadelphia.
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The Phillies were shut out for the first time since a 5-0 loss July 26 in Miami and for the sixth time this season.
They also failed to register an extra-base hit for the sixth time this season.
The Cardinals outhit the Phillies, 13-9.
Starting pitching report
Velasquez was shaky from the get-go, allowing a leadoff single in the first inning before working full-count walks to Stephen Piscotty and Matt Carpenter to load the bases for Brandon Moss. Moss nearly blew the game open before the bulk of the crowd settled into the seats, driving an 0-1 fastball to the wall in center, but Odubel Herrera’s leaping catch resulted in just one run scoring.
Velasquez got a pop out and then struck out Jhonny Peralta to escape the first inning only allowing one run. He threw 28 pitches in the frame.
A 1-2-3 second inning - with two Ks - came and went with just 11 pitches.
He had retired eight straight before Moss stepped into the batter’s box to lead off the fourth inning. This time, the former Phillie didn’t miss, driving Velasquez’s first pitch, a breaking ball, into the seats in left field for a solo shot.
A Peralta single and a Jedd Gyorko double had runners on second and third with one out in the inning. Velasquez was able to strike out Randal Grichuk, but he then fell behind opposing pitcher Mike Leake 3-0 before allowing a two-run, two-out single on a 3-1 pitch that gave the Cardinals a 4-0 lead.
Velasquez, who gave up three homers in each of his last two starts, was hurt again by the long ball in the fifth. Piscotty jumped all over a 1-2 curveball for a 5-0 St. Louis lead.
Velasquez completed six innings, allowing five runs on seven hits. He struck out seven and walked two, throwing 106 pitches (65 strikes) in the process. He fell to 8-6 on the year while his ERA rose to 4.31.
David Hernandez, making his first appearance in four days, threw a 1-2-3 seventh inning, fanning two Cardinals in the process.
Frank Herrmann came on in the eighth inning and was battered for four runs in just 2/3 of an inning. Gyorko blasted an opposite field two-run shot to put the Cardinals up 7-0. Two batters later, after Grichuk reached on a wild-pitch strike three, Jeremy Hazelbaker belted a two-run homer off the facade of the second deck in right field.
Herrmann needed 35 pitches to record two outs. He threw three wild pitches.
In mop-up duty, Severino Gonzalez got the Phillies out of the eighth inning and pitched a scoreless ninth.
At the plate
The Phillies made Mike Leake and his near-5 ERA look like a pitcher who has been spending his whole season earning the five year, $80 million deal he signed last offseason.
They mustered seven singles off him in seven innings.
The Phils' best chance to score came in the bottom of the sixth. A sharp single off the bat of Maikel Franco led of the inning before Ryan Howard smacked a liner up the middle that got deflected and allowed Franco to reach third.
But the Phillies couldn’t scrape a run across and cut into what was then a 5-0 St. Louis lead.
Carlos Ruiz popped out to second base. Herrera hit a fly ball to center that was too shallow to score Franco. And Freddy Galvis grounded weakly to Moss at first base to end the threat.
Leake threw a 1-2-3 seventh inning. He struck out eight Phillies, including Cesar Hernandez and Howard twice.
Herrera and Franco were the only Phillies hitters to have multi-hit days.
In the field
The best defensive play of the game was Herrera’s leaping catch that helped Velasquez escape the first inning with just limited damage.
The Phillies are off Monday before starting a two-game series in Chicago against the White Sox on Tuesday. Jake Thompson (1-2, 8.79 ERA) takes the mound against LHP Carlos Rodon (3-8, 4.26).