Phillies: 3 players to watch in series finale vs. Marlins
By Hunter Doyle
Here are three Philadelphia Phillies to watch in the series finale.
After a bounce-back 7-1 victory versus the Miami Marlins on Saturday, in which Zack Wheeler dominated, the Philadelphia Phillies will look to take home the series this afternoon. With just a 60-game season, every series will be crucial. The Phillies need to get off to a hot start, especially with a difficult home-and-home series with the New York Yankees up next. Let’s take a look at three players to keep an eye in Sunday’s series rubber match.
1. Vince Velasquez needs to go deep in today’s game for the Philadelphia Phillies.
On the mound, Vince Velasquez will try to reinvent himself once again, as he’s added a cutter to his repertoire this year. He hopes this will finally be the key to getting back to his 2016 form in which he had a great first half. Last year against the Marlins, Vince was hot and cold. He had one quality start in which he allowed one earned run in six frames, but he also had another start in which he allowed an embarrassing seven earned runs in 2 1/3 innings. His third start was a little bit of both, as he allowed four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings.
Overall, Velasquez allowed 13 hits, 12 earned runs, and six walks while striking out 12 in 12 2/3 innings opposite the ‘Fish’. What stands out the most is that he threw 223 pitches across those frames. That is an average of about 18 pitches per inning.
Velasquez has always struggled to go deep into games for the Phils, and with how inexperienced the bullpen is this year, he will need to be better in 2020. It needs to start on Sunday, with him pitching into at least the sixth inning and changing his luck versus Miami.
2. Will Didi Gregorius go deep again for the Philadelphia Phillies?
Shortstop Didi Gregorius is off to a hot start in the red pinstripes. He’s got three hits in his first seven at-bats; two of those have been huge home runs. The first was a game-tying deep ball in the season opener and the second one was a moonshot that put the Phils up 1-0 before the rest of the bats got going in game two. Everyone be watching to see whether he can make it three days in a row with a big fly.
The Phillies have also struggled with runners in scoring position to start the season. They’re just one for nine (.111 AVG) in that category in their first two games. Some of that can be associated with rust, but they need to capitalize if they want to take the series.
Gregorius can certainly help in that area. While some like to point out that 2019 was a down year for him, he still came through with runners in scoring position, hitting .308 with a .990 OPS, five home runs, and 48 RBI. He’s batting fifth on Sunday, so hopefully the guys in front of him can give him an opportunity to get Velasquez some run support.
3. Can Bryce Harper come up big for the Philadelphia Phillies in the series finale?
The three-hole hitter for the Phillies has been a little rusty in his first two games. He’s still been getting on base, but he’s just one-for-five with his only hit being a bunt single to beat the shift. There’s good news for Bryce Harper today, since Marlins starting pitcher Jose Urena was scratched and Robert Dugger will be starting in his place — who has just seven games of experience in the majors.
There’s also no need to panic about Harper’s slow start. In his first two games in 2019, Harper was just one-for-six (.167 AVG). In his third game, he went two for three with a solo home run and two walks. In 2018, he started out a little better going two for six in his first two games but went two for four in his third game with two solo home runs and a walk. Hopefully on Sunday he can do the same and start to barrel some baseballs to put the Phillies ahead.