Phillies-Marlins 5 Things: Velasquez Looks to Even Series

Phillies (22-17) vs. Marlins (21-17)
7:05 p.m. on CSN

The Marlins showed off their power in Monday's series opener while the Phillies failed to come up with the big hit for a second straight game. The result was a 5-3 loss in which the Phils went 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base, making them 4 for 31 with RISP and 26 left on base since Sunday.

Can they get back on track offensively tonight?

1. Everybody (else) hits
The Phillies are 10-7 at Citizens Bank Park this season despite being out-homered 23-9. They have 35 extra-base hits in those 17 games while their opponents have 63.

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The Phils are hitting .230/.299/.338 at home; their opponents are hitting .239/.304/.430. So it's not that their opponents are getting so many more hits - in fact other teams are averaging exactly one more hit per game than the Phils have at CBP - but it's the type of hits. Other teams are making CBP look like the hitters' haven it's been for most of its existence, but the Phillies haven't had the power to match.

Last night, Miami's Marcell Ozuna and Justin Bour each went deep. Christian Yelich hit two doubles, as did Adeiny Hechavarria. All told, the Marlins had seven extra-base hits to the Phillies' one.

And yet still, the Phils were in position to tie the game in the ninth inning if they could have mustered just one more big hit. If anything, last night again exemplified the difference between the singles-hitting Phils and their opposition. The Phillies need a string of hits, or a lot to go right, to score runs. Their opponents can usually do it with one swing, regardless of how effective Phils' pitchers have been this season.

2. Velasquez on the hill
Vince Velasquez (4-1, 2.70) faces the Marlins for the second time in 11 nights. He's coming off back-to-back games of six innings and four runs. The Phils lost his first in Miami and won his second in Atlanta.

Against the Marlins back on May 6, Velasquez allowed two runs in the first and second innings and then cruised from there. Yelich crushed a two-run homer off of him in the opening frame, and an inning later Velasquez allowed a couple of two-out hits. From there, Velasquez retired nine in a row and induced a double play against the final batter he faced.

Through seven starts, the first-year Phillie has 49 strikeouts, 13 walks and has allowed three home runs in 43⅓ innings. Lefties have hit .181 against him and righties have hit .208 for an overall opponents' batting average of .194.

When Velasquez last faced Miami, he threw 48 fastballs, his lowest total of the year. He threw a season-high 14 sliders that night, which jives with the gameplan Jerad Eickhoff discussed on Monday night. The Marlins struggle against sliders, so expect more of them from Velasquez tonight.

Miami has hit .308 this season against fastballs and .281 vs. curveballs but just .228 against sliders.

The slider away is Giancarlo Stanton's notable, career-long weakness. He often fails to lay off of it, swings wildly and despite his massive size, his arms aren't long enough to reach it. Eickhoff made Stanton look silly a few times last night, striking him out twice.

3. Confidence vs. Chen
The Phillies faced Marlins left-hander Wei-Yin Chen in that game Velasquez started and they hit him well. Chen allowed four runs on 11 hits over five innings and didn't strike out a single batter. The Phillies should enter this matchup tonight confident they can make solid contact against the 30-year-old veteran and unafraid of running deep counts.

That performance was a rarity for Chen, who went 27-14 with a 3.44 ERA in 62 starts for the Orioles in 2014 and 2015 en route to landing a five-year, $80 million contract with Miami this past offseason. It was only the second time in 124 career starts that Chen failed to strike out a batter. Chen followed that game by striking out 12 Brewers last Wednesday, but Milwaukee is more of a swing-and-miss team.

Current Phillies have hit an even .300 against Chen (12 for 40) with three doubles and a homer. Odubel Herrera is 3 for 3 against him; Maikel Franco is 2 for 6 with a double and a homer; and even Peter Bourjos has reached base in four of six plate appearances against him.

4. Herrera won't stop
Three more hits in his final three at-bats raised Herrera's batting average to .343, the highest its been at any point in his two major-league seasons. That .343 BA ranks sixth in the majors, and Herrera's .453 on-base percentage is second in MLB to only Bryce Harper (.456).

Harper is the most feared hitter in the game and has been intentionally walked nine more times than Herrera has. Does that make what Herrera's done more impressive? You could certainly make the case.

Herrera already has one more walk (29) in 170 plate appearances than he had all of last season in 537 PAs. And, again, this is not a small sample size we're looking at. If you go back to last June 28, Herrera has hit .341/.416/.470 in 475 plate appearances.

And he does it against all pitchers, too, lefty or righty, power or finesse, young or old.
Herrera's 10 walks are the most for any left-handed hitter this season against left-handed pitchers.

5. This and that
• Andres Blanco and Emmanuel Burriss are the Phillies' emergency catchers while Cameron Rupp remains day to day with a sore left ankle.

• Tyler Goeddel is 7 for 14 after starting his big-league career 7 for 44.

• Tommy Joseph will get another start tonight against the lefty. The Phillies are scheduled to face seven consecutive righties after tonight, but included in that stretch is a three-game series in Detroit, which would allow the Phils to utilize a designated hitter and keep him in the lineup.

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