One of the reasons the Atlanta Braves have dominated the season series against the Phillies so far is quite simple to figure out. They have a lineup loaded with dangerous lefthanded hitters whenever the opposition sends a righthander to the mound. That, of course, is a problem for the Phillies because they have not sent a lefthander to the mound in a starting role since Sept. 28, 2016 and their only lefty in the bullpen is Adam Morgan, the same lefty who last made a start for them
“It’s a good lineup on a righty or a lefty,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said.
Valid point. The Braves, especially with the addition of rookie Ronald Acuna, who is a righthanded hitter, are a nightmare for any pitcher. They lead the National League in runs scored and are second in the majors only to the high-flying New York Yankees. But Atlanta is especially a nightmare for someone such as Vince Velasquez, a righthander who has had to face them three times in his first six starts.
Velasquez’s career splits against lefties have never been good, and this year, they have been abysmal. The lefthanded hitters in the Braves lineup Sunday went 5 for 11 with three extra-base hits, including a couple of home runs, while Atlanta built a 6-0 lead in the first three innings. The Phillies never recovered and lost for the fourth time in six games.
At some point, it would help them to have a lefty in the rotation, and at the moment the best candidate for that role is probably Brandon Leibrandt, who moved back into the starting rotation at triple-A Lehigh Valley on Sunday after throwing 11 innings of scoreless relief. Leibrandt threw three more scoreless innings for the IronPigs on Sunday against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
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The Fish don’t stink (at the moment)
After losing four of their final six games during a 10-game homestand that started with a four-game sweep of the first-place Pittsburgh Pirates, Miami seemed like a good destination for the Phillies. That is, after all, the home city to the Marlins, widely anticipated as the worst team in baseball because of the elaborate fire sale that former New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter oversaw in the offseason.
The Marlins, however, are in the midst of a little hot streak. After starting the season 5-17, they have won four of their last five, including two on the road against the defending National League-champion Los Angeles Dodgers. They followed up the two wins in L.A. by taking two of three at home from the Colorado Rockies. The Marlins pitching staff has allowed just 10 runs and struck out 49 in the team’s last five games. The Phillies, of course, are very good at striking out. The Marlins also walk a lot of batters and the Phillies, as you know, are more than willing to take the base on balls, too.
If you like just looking at the pictures, then this is the place for you. Even though Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Braves was a study in boredom, photographer Michael Bryant’s work on the game was brilliant as you will see in his gallery of the game.
Vince Velasquez needed only one pitch to Atlanta’s Ozzie Albies to put the Phillies in a hole Sunday, and by the time he departed after four innings, it had become a 6-0 crater. Our Matt Breen provides the dirty details. Velasquez is 0-3 with a 9.24 ERA against the Braves this season, and he is 1-4 overall with a 5.70 ERA. If the Phillies do not see improvement, the 25-year-old righthander might be removed from the rotation.
Shortstop J.P. Crawford became the first Phillies player to land on the disabled list Sunday after suffering a Grade 1 strain of the flexor pronator during Saturday night’s game against the Braves. In layman’s terms, Crawford injured his elbow, and no timetable was given for his return. Jesmuel Valentin replaced Crawford on the roster, but rookie Scott Kingery will benefit most from the shortstop’s absence. After shuffling from position to position through the first month of the season, Kingery is likely to see steady time at shortstop during Crawford’s absence. The rookie went 1 for 4 on his birthday Sunday.
The Phillies have played the Braves nine times in 27 games this season. The two teams parted Sunday with identical 16-11 records, but my eyes tell me that Atlanta, with young stars such as Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna, is the more advanced young team right now. The Phillies have lost two out of three in each of the three series they have played against the Braves and have been outscored by 24 runs in those games.
Tonight: Jake Arrieta goes against Miami, 7:10 p.m.
Tomorrow: Zach Eflin makes his season debut, 7:10 p.m.
Wednesday: Aaron Nola against the Fish, 7:10 p.m.
Stat of the day
Odubel Herrera’s snatched a Freddie Freeman home run out of the center-field shrubbery Saturday night, and it is a play you will see over and over again this season. But the Phillies center fielder is also off to the best start of his stellar career offensively, too. With a couple of walks Sunday, he extended his on-base streak to 29 games, the longest by a Phillies player since Cesar Hernandez put together a streak of the same length in 2016. Herrera has a .390 on-base average during the streak, and he also has a .390 on-base percentage this season. His .337 batting average is third in the National League.
From the mailbag
Since the Phils introduced the powder blues (which are fantastic) for Thursday games, did they eliminate the red home jerseys they used last year? If not, are there specific games they will wear the red? Is the rule of thumb weekend day games with the cream color/no pinstripes with royal blue caps? Are they the only team that would wear 3 or even 4 different uniforms at home games?
Answer: The red jerseys are out for this season. You will continue to see the powder blues on Throwback Thursdays during home games, which is a little odd because that was actually a road uniform for the team in the 1970s and 1980s. Manager Gabe Kapler and the players really like the powder blue. For the record, former Phillies outfielder Doug Glanville loved those uniforms, too.