December 10, 2023

Takeaways after Vince Velasquez blows up the Phillies bullpen to lead to first loss


Photo via Philadelphia Phillies' Twitter

There goes the almost perfect bullpen story that the Philadelphia Phillies had been spinning over the last few days. It unraveled with Vince Velasquez on the bump in the team’s first loss of the new season Tuesday night. The New York Mets scored four times in the top of the seventh inning on their way to an 8-4 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phils trailed by just a run after six innings but saw the deficit of five runs after Velasquez — making his season debut — walked four batters in the seventh. All four of those walks turned into runs as the Mets built a 6-1 lead.

“I take full responsibility for the loss,” Velasquez said after the game. “Walking three, four batters is not acceptable at all. No excuses, I don’t blame anyone but myself. The whole loss is on me. Totally unacceptable.”

Velasquez’ role is to give the Phillies multiple innings in the middle of games. With several relievers (Jose Alvarado, Sam Coonrod and Connor Brogdon) not available for workload reasons, this was a spot in which Velasquez needed to come through for his team — and he did, briefly. He entered the game at the start of the sixth inning and struck out the side.

But, as has been the case a lot of times during his five-plus season stint with the Phillies, the inconsistent and unpredictable right-hander fell apart an inning later. The unraveling started with a leadoff walk to Luis Guillorme in the seventh.

“After that battle, I totally lost it,” Velasquez said. He went on to say that he had trouble pitching out of the stretch and was aiming the ball.

In all, Velasquez faced eight batters, struck out four of them and walked four of them. It’s the first time that has ever happened in MLB history.

The right-hander was booed loudly by the crowd of 10,752 as he left the game for Brandon Kintzler with one out in the seventh.

Prior to Velasquez’ awful performance, the Phils’ bullpen had been the story of the young season. Phillies relievers had allowed just one run in 13 innings over the first four games, all wins.

Velasquez made it feel like 2020, when the Phils had the worst bullpen in MLB history, all over again.

The Mets scored two more runs against the bullpen when Pete Alonso launched a two-run homer off of David Hale in the ninth.

The Phils are still off to a 4-1 start, which isn’t bad at all.

Here are three takeaways:

Anderson’s debut

Right-hander Chase Anderson, the Phillies’ fifth and final starter, is not known for pitching deep into games.

In fact, since 2016, he’s averaged under 5⅓ innings per start.

So, Anderson gave the Phils just about what they expected in his season debut and first start with the club. He went five innings and allowed just two runs, both coming on a home run by Dominic Smith with no outs in the fourth inning. Anderson walked the previous batter, Alonso. Smith hit a 1-1 fastball (92 mph) that was up and out of the strike zone. He got the good part of the bat on the pitch and smashed it oppo-taco.

After allowing those two runs in the fourth, Anderson pitched a 1-2-3 fifth inning before handing off to Velasquez. 

As the season goes on, the Phillies will need Anderson to pitch deeper into games or risk having their long relief exposed like it was in this game.

Stroman beats struggling offense

Marcus Stroman held the Phillies to three hits and a run over six innings. He walked two and struck out three. Good night by Stroman.

Offense needs to wake up

The Phillies were just one-for-11 with a runner in scoring position, and they left 10 men on base including two in scoring position in the eighth when Mets reliever Trevor May struck out Brad Miller and Roman Quinn.

In five games, the Phillies have scored just 18 runs, an average of 3.6 per game.

Up next

The series concludes Wednesday afternoon. Aaron Nola makes his second start of the season as he will face Mets lefty David Peterson.

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