Vince Velasquez solidified his spot in the Phillies’ starting rotation. Now it’s Nick Pivetta’s turn.
One night after Enyel De Los Santos won his major-league debut in an impressive spot start, Velasquez came off the disabled list, matched up with New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom, and delivered six scoreless innings. Never mind that the Phillies lost — 3-0 in 10 innings — and settled for a split of the four-game series at Citi Field. Velasquez muted any speculation that De Los Santos could nudge him from the rotation by flashing a mid-90s fastball and mixing in his secondary pitches in his first start since getting hit on the forearm by a line drive June 30.
Pivetta could do the same Thursday night when he takes the mound in Baltimore. He owns a 7.34 ERA since June 1 and hasn’t gone deeper than five innings in six of his last seven starts. Will he help solidify his standing by silencing the O’s in his final start before the all-star break? Or will he toss another clunker and open the door for De Los Santos’ return?
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Franco getting ‘a little push’ from trade talk
Thanks to torrential rain May 15 in Baltimore, the Phillies will get one more look at Manny Machado in a makeup game Thursday night. The next time they see the Orioles star, he might be playing shortstop for the Dodgers. Or the Diamondbacks. Or the Yankees.
Or, who knows, maybe Machado will be holding a red-pinstriped No. 13 jersey in a press conference at Citizens Bank Park.
None of that is Maikel Franco’s concern.
With the trade deadline 19 days away, Franco has been at the center of the rumors, both directly and indirectly. The Phillies are looking for more offense from the left side of the infield, multiple major-league sources confirmed, and have been linked to the Royals’ Mike Moustakas, the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre and, of course, Machado, among others. Trading for a third baseman would displace Franco, who has drawn interest from the Padres, according to a recent report from Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
But a funny thing has happened on Franco’s way out of town. The 25-year-old has gotten hot at the plate, going 22 for 55 (.400) with six doubles and three home runs in 18 games since he was benched June 22 in Washington. Franco is hitting the ball in the air more frequently and has played with more energy on the bases and renewed focus on his defense. Franco recently was dropped to the No. 8 spot in the order in the hopes that he might see more pitches. So far, it appears to have worked.
“I think he had a little fire,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I think there was a little push there that had him say, ‘Hey, I’m going to lock down and be a good baseball player and show everyone in Philadelphia that I have that in me.’ We have to respect that.”
The Phillies have seen stretches like this before from Franco, who made his major-league debut back in 2014 and hit 14 home runs in 304 at-bats in 2015. They’re still waiting for him to be more consistent. Maybe it will happen; maybe it won’t. Maybe Franco will be a part of the Phillies’ next great team, or maybe he would benefit from a fresh start somewhere else.
But for the time being, Franco is playing carefree. After clocking a home run Tuesday night, he slowed his trot and made a slight hand gesture before he rounded third base. Franco explained that it was an inside joke with Mets shortstop Amed Rosario and third baseman Jose Reyes, both of whom he considers friends.
“All you can do is go out there and play the game the right way,” Franco said. “If something like [a trade] happens, you have to stay positive. Nothing bothers me. Nothing changed. I just want to be me. I just want to try to do my best that I can. Right now, everything is going well.”
A close pitch didn’t go the Phillies’ way in the 10th inning, and one pitch later, Brandon Nimmo slugged a three-run walkoff homer. Tough way to lose a game, as Matt Breen writes.
It’s not a coincidence that Aaron Nola has become one of the best pitchers in baseball as his change-up has developed into a legitimate weapon. I examined the evolution of the pitch, from Nola’s years at LSU until now.
Rhys Hoskins isn’t an all-star, but the Phillies left fielder has been selected to compete in the Home Run Derby on Monday night. In the first round, he will face Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar, who is tied for the league lead with 23 home runs. The rest of the field: Bryce Harper (Nationals), Max Muncy (Dodgers), Alex Bregman (Astros), Kyle Schwarber (Cubs), Javier Baez (Cubs) and Freddie Freeman (Braves).
In deciding to start Aaron Nola on regular rest Saturday rather than pushing him back to Sunday, manager Gabe Kapler left open the possibility that the Phillies ace could pitch in the All-Star Game. Nice gesture by Kapler.
Amid reports that the Yankees might be interested in trading for Manny Machado, columnist David Murphy writes that he’s coming around on the idea that a midseason move for the Orioles star shortstop is actually a good idea for the Phillies.
Reading right fielder Jan Hernandez homered in the Eastern League all-star game Wednesday night in Trenton, and our Ben Pope was there to talk to him about it.
Tonight: Nick Pivetta gets the start in a makeup game in Baltimore, 6:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: The Phillies open a three-game series in Miami, 7:10 p.m.
Saturday: Aaron Nola Day! Phillies ace faces the Marlins, 4:10 p.m.
Sunday: Zach Eflin starts the last game before the all-star break, 1:10 p.m.
Monday: Rhys Hoskins swings for the fences in the Home Run Derby, 8 p.m.
Tuesday: Nola represents Phillies at the All-Star Game in Washington, 7:30 p.m.
Stat of the day
For Carlos Santana, the first half of the season has been a walk in the park. Actually, lots of walks in lots of parks.
It’s only July 12, but Santana already has worked more walks (74) than any other Phillies player at this point in a season since Ryan Howard drew 75 walks in 2011. Santana has more walks before the All-Star break than any other switch-hitter in franchise history and the fourth-most of any switch-hitter, trailing only Mickey Mantle (91 walks in 1957), Tony Phillips (81 in 1993) and Lance Berkman (75 in 2004). He’s on pace to finish the season with 133 walks, which would break Lenny Dykstra’s franchise record of 129.
From the mailbag
Question: Love Extra Innings! I read it every day! My question comes in the form of reports that the Yankees have serious interest in Manny Machado at the trade deadline. Should that worry us as Phils fans that our chances of signing Manny become slimmer next offseason? Do you see that happening with him going to New York? And let’s say it does, maybe the Phils look to upgrade at shortstop next season for Didi [Gregorius] and see what they want for him? Keep up the great work! –Nick M., via e-mail
Answer: Thanks, Nick, for the kind words, for reading and for your question. To paraphrase Franklin Roosevelt, the only thing you have to fear is fear itself. It’s certainly possible Manny Machado winds up with a team other than the Phillies next season, but if that happens, it won’t have much to do with where he gets traded. Machado could fall head over spikes with Los Angeles or Milwaukee or New York over the next few months, but he almost certainly will sign with whichever team offers him the largest nine-figure contract in the offseason.
If that’s the Phillies, he probably comes here; if it’s the Yankees, he likely goes there. The Phillies have the money to make it happen, to say nothing of the opportunity at Machado’s desired shortstop position, so fans need not fret too much over where he winds up finishing the season.