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Phillies Pitchers ‘Still Have a Lot of Work to Do’ in Solving Home Run Epidemic

[CSNPhily] Gabe Kapler gets in a quick pump at Fenway before Phillies complete sweep
CSNPhilly.com

Phillies pitching gurus want Vince Velasquez to throw fastballs, high fastballs, the kind that launch-happy hitters have trouble catching up to.

Vinny Velo followed orders on Wednesday night. For five innings, he powered a fastball that topped out at 95.4 mph past San Francisco Giants hitters. He racked up six strikeouts over that span, including two to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the third inning.

Velasquez was living the high life on his fastball.

Until he died with it.

In a scoreless game, Velasquez walked the first batter of the sixth inning then served up a two-run home run to Buster Posey. Those were the only runs the Giants would need but, for good measure, they tagged on three more in the inning and beat the Phillies, 5-1.

Phillies hitters had a tough time with right-hander Jeff Samardzija, who allowed just three hits over six scoreless innings. The Phils had just five hits in the game and just one for extra bases. Conversely, the Giants hit three home runs – all in the sixth inning. After Posey's homer chased Velasquez from the game, lefty Adam Morgan gave up a solo shot and a two-run shot.

Phillies pitchers have allowed three or more homers in a game 27 times this season and given up 181 homers in all, most in the NL and third-most in the majors. They are on pace to blow past the team record of 221, set in 2017.

The Giants entered the game with just 111 homers. Only the Miami Marlins had hit fewer in the NL.

The Phillies coaching staff has been working to cure the team's epidemic of home runs allowed and the club did not allow one during the recent five-game trip to Pittsburgh and Detroit. Wednesday's night barrage led manager Gabe Kapler to say, "Well, tonight was an indication that we still have a lot of work to do. I'll leave it at that."

The defeat came just a few hours after Wednesday's trade deadline. The Phils, entrenched in the NL wild-card chase, capped off a couple of weeks of marginal additions by acquiring outfielder Corey Dickerson from the Pirates.

"We're excited," Rhys Hoskins said. "We saw firsthand a couple weeks ago that Corey can hit and we're excited to get him.

"But like I've said time and time again, we like the group of guys that we have in here. We're confident in this bunch. We've just got to get rolling. That's all it is."

Velasquez threw 90 pitches on Wednesday night and 70 of them were fastballs. With a runner on first base in a scoreless game in the sixth inning and the count 2-1, Posey was clearly sitting fastball. Why wouldn't he be given the rate Velasquez was throwing the pitch? Velasquez got the pitch up in the zone, ostensibly above the swing path, just as Phillies officials want him to. But this fastball was just 92 mph and Posey was able to catch up to it and belt it out of the park.

Was Velasquez tired in that inning?

"No," he said. "I think it's more location rather than velocity at this point. You can't go wrong with location. I would take that pitch any time. Fastball up in the zone, well located. He's just a good hitter and did what he did."

Hoskins watched Posey's game-changing line drive leave the park from his perch at first base.

"Vinny was really good," Hoskins said. "He made one – it wasn't even a bad pitch. I went back and watched it right after the game and he hit the target, up and on the inside part of the plate. We've been stressing heaters up here. Vinny has the stuff to throw the ball by people, get some weak contact up in the zone, but, unfortunately, there's also the risk of damage up there, as well. He blew fastballs by guys the whole game and one time Posey got to it and that was the difference in the game."

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