Phillies (26-28) vs. Brewers (25-29)
7:05 p.m. on NBC 10
The Phillies, losers of a season-high seven straight, will send Vince Velasquez to the mound Friday to stop the bleeding against the Brewers in the second game of a four-game series.
Here are five things to look for:
Complete coverage of the Fightin' Phils and their MLB rivals from NBC Sports Philadelphia.
1. Wily Nelson
The Phillies' sputtering offense gets no help Friday night when Brewers’ de facto ace Jimmy Nelson takes the mound.
Nelson leads the Brewers in ERA (2.88), strikeouts (59) and innings (72). Those numbers are a bit deceitful, however.
The 26-year-old, in his fourth major-league season, ranks in the top 15 among qualified pitchers in walks (28) and pitches per innings (14.6). This bodes well for the Phils if they can stay patient at the plate, which is harder said than done for most of the team.
2. Inside the skid
By this time last season, the Phillies already had two losing streaks of seven games and were about to kickoff a nine-game losing swing.
So at least there’s been some improvement in that aspect.
This current seven-game skid has been particularly hard to watch from an offensive standpoint. The Phils' bats have mustered just 12 runs in those seven games and their pitching has come back down to earth after its torrid run to start. Particularly alarming is the number of home runs the pitching staff has given up lately — a big reason for the losing streak.
As a team, the Phils have surrendered 15 homers during the skid. It’s tough to win games when opponents have more home runs than the Phils have total runs scored in any stretch.
3. On the rebound
Would the real Vince Velasquez please stand up?
Velasquez, the centerpiece of the Ken Giles trade, has had a rollercoaster season on the mound, looking like an ace some days and a fifth starter on others. In 10 starts, he has pitched more than six innings just once and has thrown five or less innings four times.
The 23-year-old is at his best when he is pounding the strike zone with his fastball and striking batters out, but when his fastball command is off, the runs pour in. His last two starts — pitching against very good offenses in Detroit and Chicago — show just that. Velasquez did not make it out of the fourth inning in both starts, giving up nine hits in each and five home runs total. For Velasquez and the Phils to get back on track tonight, the righty has to have his pinpoint control that he displayed early in the season.
4. Players to watch
Phillies: Really going out on a limb here, I know, but let’s go with Odubel Herrera. Herrera has been the team’s most consistent hitter this season and simply finds a way to get on base. Herrera ranks fifth in the league in on-base percentage and with how wild Nelson can be, Herrera should be able to wait for his pitch or draw a few walks.
Brewers: How about Jonathan Lucroy. He’s having a very impressive season, especially for a catcher, but has been nearly unstoppable over the last week, hitting .524 with six of his last 11 hits being extra-base hits. Lucroy is a career .483 hitter in 14 games at Citizens Bank Park with four home runs, 12 RBIs, 16 runs scored and six walks. The guy just kills the Phillies at the plate. He will be a great deadline pickup for any team interested.
5. This and that
• Velasquez has pitched at least seven innings just once in 29 career starts.
• Over the last week, the Phillies rank last in MLB in runs scored and on-base percentage and rank 29th in hits and batting average.
• Nelson has a career 4.76 ERA in first innings, the worst of any inning. The Phillies have not scored a run in the first inning in their last 12 games.
• In two career starts against the Phillies, Nelson has allowed just six runs on 11 hits — six of which were doubles.