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August 21, 2016

Velasquez's struggles continue as Cardinals rout Phillies in soggy series finale

Phillies MLB
082116_Velasquez-Vince_AP Laurence Kesterson/AP

Vince Velasquez was scheduled to start on Tuesday night. Now he'll pitch Wednesday, a day prospect Nick Pivetta had been penciled in to make his MLB debut.

A day after coming a triple shy of hitting for the cycle, leadoff batter Cesar Hernandez was one of just two Philadelphia Phillies starters -- the other was shortstop Freddy Galvis -- who failed to record a hit as his team fell to the St. Louis Cardinals, 9-0, on Sunday at Citizens Bank Park.

Righty Vince Velasquez got the start for the Phillies and while he completed six innings for the first time this month, his recent inability to keep the ball in the park continued during the rain-soaked loss. 

Against the Cards, Velasquez allowed a pair of solo shots to Brandon Moss and Stephen Piscotty -- and nearly surrendered a first-inning grand slam to Moss, who had to settle for a deep sacrifice fly thanks to this grab by centerfielder Odubel Herrera.

Velasquez's final line looked like this: six innings, seven hits, five earned runs, seven strikeouts, and a pair of walks (on 106 pitches, 65 for strikes).

In his last three starts (16 1/3 innings), the 24-year-old has surrendered 19 earned runs on 25 hits, including eight home runs (4.42 HR per 9 innings). By comparison, Velasquez (8-6) had allowed just 11 home runs on over his first 19 starts, or 102 2/3 innings (0.97 HR/9).

It shouldn't surprise you to learn that he's been hit with the loss in each of those starts, including Sunday -- his last win came back on July 8.

After going eight straight games without a starting pitcher throwing at least six innings, the Phillies rotation has now gone four straight in which they've given six-plus innings, including Jeremy Hellickson's seven strong innings in Saturday's 4-2 win. And that, coupled with a pair of upcoming off days this week, is good news for what had up until recently been a largely overworked bullpen.

Velasquez was followed by David Hernandez, who pitched a scoreless seventh inning to keep it at a five-run deficit before giving way to Frank Herrmann. He didn't fare quite as well; after recording two quick outs, things escalated rather quickly. 

Hermann allowed a double to third baseman Jhonny Peralta followed by a home run to second baseman Jedd Gyorko that sent most of those remaining from the announced crowd of just over 20,000 scampering to the exits. Those who remained got to see Randall Grichuk strike out swinging only to reach first via a wild pitch, Herrmann's second of the inning. Another wild pitch allowed Grichuk to move to second before pinch hitter Jeremy Hazelbaker hit the second two-run shot of the inning, putting St. Louis up 9-0 and ending Herrmann's day. 

His line? 2/3 of an inning, four earned runs on three hits (including a pair of home runs) and a strikeout (that wasn't really an out). Not great.

Severino Gonzalez pitched a scoreless inning and a third to finish the game for the home team.

But it didn't really matter how well they pitched, because the Phillies struggled to get anything going on Sunday. Sure, everyone but Galvis and Hernandez recorded a hit, but only Maikel Franco and Herrera had more than one -- they each finished with a pair of hits but their second didn't come until the bottom of the eighth and ninth, respectively, when the outcome was no longer in doubt and the rain really began to fall.

Cardinals starter Mike Leake (9-9) scattered seven hits over seven scoreless innings while striking out eight and walking just one. 

Even when there was momentum, like in the bottom of the sixth when Franco and Ryan Howard led off with back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners with no outs, the Phillies came up empty. After Carlos Ruiz popped out to second base for the first out, Herrera sent a fly ball to the outfield, but Franco didn't tag despite his team trailing by five runs at the time and it being just the second time all day they'd had a man 90 feet from scoring. The next batter, Galvis, grounded out to end the inning.

That's just kind of day it was for the Phillies.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin