Phillies Have Work Cut Out Vs. MLB's Most Underrated Ace

Last night was a cap-tipping game based on how excellent Kyle Freeland was, using his cutter to jam or freeze Phillies right-handed hitters on the inside corner and to front-door their left-handed hitters. 

Tonight, the Phillies face an even tougher opponent, a pitcher who may be the most underrated ace going right now. 

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When: 8:40 p.m. - Pregame Live at 8

Where: NBC Sports Philadelphia and streaming live on the MyTeams app and NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com

Pitching matchup: Vince Velasquez (0-0, 2.25) vs. German Marquez (2-1, 2.00) 

Soon to be a household name

Marquez has been one of the five best pitchers in baseball since last August. In his last dozen starts of 2018, Marquez had a 2.24 ERA with 110 strikeouts in 80 innings. That included seven shutout innings with 11 K's against the Phillies last September at Coors Field. 

This season? More of the same. Marquez is coming off of a one-hit shutout of the Giants Sunday. 

Marquez's fastball averages 96 mph but his slider and curveball are even more dangerous. Since last August, his opponents are 6 for 100 against his curveball (seriously) and 19 for 115 against his slider. That's a combined .116 batting average. 

Both are swing-and-miss pitches that hitters have trouble lifting. 

This is why Marquez was recently paid. He signed a five-year, $43M extension the first week of April. 

Cold 3-4

The Phillies are 3-3 since Saturday but in those six games, Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins are 6 for 45 (.133) with one combined RBI. Neither has had the right timing down at the plate. 

J.T. Realmuto is hot, hitting .351 with 11 RBI in his last nine games, but the Phillies are still yet to have their 3-4-5 hitters clicking at the same time. 

Velasquez's turn

Velasquez pitched well in his first two starts against the Nationals and Marlins but tonight is a different sort of test. 

In three career starts at Coors Field, Velasquez has a 6.14 ERA with 19 hits allowed and 10 walks in 14 2/3 innings. He's nibbled when pitching in Colorado because of the harm that can be done when you miss over the plate there. Nibbling is when Velasquez is most frustrating and least effective. He has the arsenal to overpower the Rockies' lineup once or twice through the order, but the leash probably won't be long unless he's dealing. 

Zach Eflin last night did what a pitcher needs to do at Coors Field: keep the ball low. He induced a season-high 11 groundballs and was victimized only on pitches at the belt or above. The four times the Rockies made contact in that location, they had three hits off Eflin, including the Ryan McMahon three-run homer.

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