So the Phillies got hammered yesterday. But there is some good news: That was their last Facebook game for two weeks. The Phillies will welcome the Braves to South Philly tonight to start a three-game series and a chance to recover from a tough series against the Diamondbacks. And who better to get the Phillies back on track than Aaron Nola? He has 11 strikeouts and just one walk in his last 13 innings. He’s on a roll. Friday night, he’ll face Braves righthander Julio Teheran in a rematch of opening day. It’s safe to say Nola will throw more than 68 pitches this time.
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Hey, Phillies. Meet Ronald Acuna
If it wasn’t for baseball’s contract rules, the Phillies would have already faced Ronald Acuna six times this season. So thanks, MLB. The Braves rookie sensation reached the majors Wednesday and hit a 416-foot homer Thursday. Acuna entered the season as the No. 1 prospect in baseball, and the outfielder looks every bit like the player who tore through the minor leagues the last three seasons. He climbed last season from high A to double A to triple A, and his OPS increased at each level.
Acuna, who is just 20, was stashed at triple A for the first few weeks of the season so the Braves could delay his eventual free agency by a season. The Phillies planned to do a similar move with Scott Kingery until they signed him to a six-year contract at the end of spring training. The Braves and Phillies seem to be on similar timelines for contention. Both franchises went through vigorous rebuilds and look ready to emerge within the next season or two. Acuna, who will not be a free agent until after the 2024 season, could be a thorn in the Phillies’ side for quite a while. Friday will be an introduction.
Aaron Altherr has seemed to break out of the funk with which he started the season. It’s now Carlos Santana’s turn to break his. The Phillies blamed Santana’s early struggles on bad luck as they pointed to his high exit velocity and low batting average on balls in play. It looks as if Santana is starting to find some luck. He doubled Thursday and has seven hits in his last 25 at-bats.
Bob Brookover took a look at the Phillies’ weakness at the back of the rotation, writing, “How can the Phillies possibly go from worst to first or even a wild-card playoff berth when they are sending Ben Lively to the mound every fifth day?” The Phillies will get a boost next month when Jerad Eickhoff returns from the disabled list, but as Brooky writes, Eickhoff still has something to prove, too. The starting rotation has a glaring hole.
Scott Lauber checked in on Mickey Moniak and explained why the Phillies started him at high-A Clearwater this season when his performance last season indicated that he should repeat at single-A Lakewood. Moniak said he’s still confident despite some early struggles. Scott talked to some scouts, who seem to be pretty down on the former No. 1 overall pick.
The Phillies have won in the minor leagues for the last few seasons and believe that success is starting to pay dividends in the majors. Joe Jordan, the team’s director of player development, said “winning is a part of developing players,” and Andrew Knapp said last week that the Phillies are able to win so many one-run games because they were doing it in the minors. Jordan also discussed Gabe Kapler’s recent visit to Reading.
Tonight: Aaron Nola pitches, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday: Nick Pivetta starts, 6:05 p.m.
Sunday: Vince Velasquez celebrates the Phanatic’s birthday, 1:35 p.m.
Monda: Jake Arrieta starts in Miami, 7:10 p.m.
Stat of the day
Rhys Hoskins leads the majors in on-base percentage with a ridiculous mark of .495. A Phillies hitter hasn’t finished a season with an OBP higher than .450 since 1930, and it’s unlikely Hoskins can maintain this pace. His success is a credit to his plate discipline, as Hoskins averages the seventh-highest pitches per plate appearance (4.34) in the majors. He has reached base in 13 straight games and has walked in nine of his last 11 games. Hoskins is 13 for his last 41 with three doubles, two homers, and 10 RBIs.
From the mailbag
At what point does the team start to consider making Vince Velasquez a closer? Seems his “stuff” is better suited for that role. Plus, being as stretched out as he is, and his ability to handle a bat, he could be used for 4-, 5-, even 6-out saves. – email from George T.
Answer: This has been a popular thought for a few seasons as Velasquez struggles to pitch deep into games. And I don’t think the thought is wrong, I just don’t think it’s time to make that change yet. The Phillies need starting pitchers — as evidenced by Thursday’s loss — and they owe it to themselves to see if Velasquez can stick in the rotation. His already electric fastball seems to be reaching another level. Kapler said this week that the fastball is “off the charts.” You don’t want to give up on that pitch too early. And the Phillies don’t really have the luxury to do that, anyway. If we’re having these same conversations in July, then maybe it’ll be time to think about moving Velasquez to the bullpen. For now, keep him in the rotation and keep an eye on how he attacks with that fastball.