If you were hoping to see Vince Velasquez shake off an inconsistent outing against the Reds last week, then you probably became a stoic over the last few hours. Watching Velasquez we are all gaming novices at an arcade party. These at-bats, these games, these teams are but baubles behind the arcade counter. When the birthday party is over we must leave them behind without a second thought or wallow in vain desire.
Velasquez epitomized his outing tonight in the fifth inning, his last, when he walked his counterpart, Zack Wheeler, who was trying to bunt Travis d’Arnaud over to second. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Vinnie deftly winged a fastball high, inducing Wheeler to pop a bunt foul but unplayable. Hoping to limit the damage of hitting d’Arnaud to start the inning, VV kept trying to find that same pitch again. He missed each time running the count to 3-1. Did he then give in and groove a fastball for Wheeler to bunt? His inconsistent control makes it impossible to say.
That walk snapped Vinnie’s brief glimmer of a competent outing. He had a quick 1-2-3 4th and limited the Mets to 5 baserunners and 2 runs over 4 innings, using 7 Ks to offset his typically wavering command. If he had cruised through the bottom of the Mets order in the 5th, VV would have had a chance to finish 6 innings and perhaps even garner a quality start.
Instead, Velasquez loaded the bases with nobody out and the heart of the Mets order approaching with his pitch count climbing toward 90. That he managed to squeeze out of the inning having only allowed 3 runs to cross the plate is something of a wonder. When Asdrubal Cabrera singled in 2 in front of Yoenis Cespedes, it seemed certain that the game would become a second straight rout. But credit VV for battling. He worked Cespedes and Bruce into flyballs and escaped the inning only allowing one more run. Sadly for him, his ERA again sits at 9.00.
When VV left the game, the Phillies trailed 5-0 and had barely dented Zack Wheeler’s fastball-heavy arsenal. For most of his outing Wheeler kept the Phillies hitters off-balance. He seemed to always have them guessing wrong, either ahead of his slider and change-up or behind the fastball. The Phillies were not striking out at an astronomical rate, but they were unable to make solid contact but for a few balls-in-play. (And only one of those turned into a hit.)
So, when Zack Wheeler entered the 6th, he must have tasted a 7 or 8 inning outing. As it turns out, he didn’t make it out of the 6th. Although he barely worked coming into the inning, his control and command slipped out of gear. Freddy Galvis slammed a line drive into Lucas Duda’s glove to lead of the inning. From there, Wheeler lost his...axles. Stassi, hitting 9th after a double switch to replace VV and Tommy Joseph, ripped a single to right; Cesar Hernandez roped his second hit to center; and Odubel Herrera walked. Wheeler then was lifted for Hansel Robles. The bases were loaded for Maikel Franco, who reminded us all what it is to hope on a star. On Robles’s first pitch, Franco crushed a grand slam over the high wall in CBP’s left-center field. With a third of the game to play, the Phillies suddenly were down just a run.
Sadly, the Phillies drew no further blood. Their bullpen denied the Mets any insurance but the Mets, in turn, denied the Phillies any debt forgiveness. The game ended 5-4 Mets and they completed a sweep in Philadelphia. May this one be the last for a long time. Certainly, two of these games were close enough to have gone the other way.
While Velasquez’s performed frustratingly again, we ought not overreact. After all, we are living through another season of trials.
Vince Velasquez has pitched 6 or less innings in 23 of his 26 career starts with the Phillies.— Matt Breen (@matt_breen) April 13, 2017
What is the purpose of a year like this but a chance to let him work it out?— Matt Winkelman (@Matt_Winkelman) April 13, 2017
With each VV start (but not only VV), we probably should heed Camus’ mythological advice: we have to imagine Sisyphus, as the boulder crests over the hill and falls into another valley, happy.