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June 28, 2016

Velasquez impressive in return (as are bats) in win over D-backs

The Phillies left Citizens Bank Park a week earlier unsure when Vince Velasquez would be ready to rejoin the team and wondering if their offense would resurface at some point before the All-Star break.

The team has had encouraging developments on both fronts in the seven days since departing South Philly for their nine-day West Coast trip. Suddenly, the Phillies are scoring runs (on Monday, they came one run away from scoring more in one game than they had in their last six home games, combined) and Velasquez looks like the promising starter with the electric right arm again.

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In his first start since landing on the disabled list earlier this month with a right biceps strain, Velasquez struck out the first batter he faced and dialed it up to 96-MPH in the opening inning to set the tone and his offensive teammates went crazy in the second half of the game as the Phils rolled to a 8-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Monday night.

Velasquez struck out seven, walked no one, and allowed just five hits (all singles) in five shutout innings. 

According to game score, a stat developed by Bill James, Monday night was Velasquez's best game since May 17 and his fifth best start of the season. Velasquez had a game score of 67 vs. a Diamondbacks team that made Citizens Bank Park look like their own personal batting practice venue less than two weeks ago.

And the Phillies offense gave Velasquez more than enough support. They scored six runs in the sixth inning, which is one more run than they had scored in their last four games at Citizens Bank Park.

Peter Bourjos helped fuel the six-run seventh with a double.

*Updated: Bourjos is hitting .423 (22-for-52) in June. The embedded tweet was calculated after his seventh-inning double.

  • Maikel Franco drove in the game’s first run with a blistering single just beyond the reach of Arizona shortstop Nick Ahmed, who made a full-extension diving attempt at the ball, before the Phillies offense broke out and after Velasquez and Robbie Ray traded zeroes for five innings.

The hit not only put Velasquez in line for a win in his return to the mound, but it also increased Franco’s modest hit streak to four games; it’s the longest streak he’s had in a month. Franco has obviously had a very underwhelming first three months into his first full big league season.

But returning to the site of the venue when his dark horse National League Rookie of the Year candidacy came crashing down with a pitch to the hand (from then-Diamondback Jeremy Hellickson), perhaps Franco is getting ready to heat up with the weather. It is a long season: the Phils won’t reach the midway point in the 162-game schedule until Friday.

Franco is hitting .320 (8-for-25) in the last week with a home run, a triple, two doubles, and seven RBI in seven games. All of those seven games have occurred on the road, which shouldn’t be surprising considering the insane splits the 23-year-old slugger has this season at home and on the road:

     • Franco at Citizens Bank Park this year: .187/.220/.291 with three home runs, 30 strikeouts, and six walks in 36 games.
     • Franco away from CBP this year (entering Monday): .297/.380/.570 with nine home runs, 24 strikeouts, and 17 walks in 35 games.

  • Not great news on the farm: Nick Williams was benched again toward the end of Monday night’s game for disciplinary reasons. This is the third instance Williams has had in June, something we mentioned last week as a possible deterrent to calling him up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley in an attempt to wake up a comatose big league offense.

Funny game: the Phillies have averaged 6.29 runs per game in the week since that story ran. (The Phils were averaging 2.5 RPG in the two weeks prior to that story).

  • Over the weekend, Phillies team president Andy MacPhail made a rare appearance with the (traveling) media. Among other things, MacPhail told reporters that the Phillies rebuild has gone “better than (he) anticipated” when he was hired a year ago.

"I'm actually more encouraged today than I ever would have dreamed I would have been after my first month with the Phillies, a lot of through Ruben's efforts at the trade deadline,” MacPhail told reporters this weekend in San Francisco.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21