Philadelphia Sports Day

Phillies’ Starting Pitching Passes Character Test

By Jeff Moeller

 

Yes, it was the Miami Marlins, but it was needed.

At any other point of the season, the Phillies’ four-game sweep of the Marlins may not have drawn much attention.

But this time, it was important. When the Phillies’ needed to pass a character test, they did with impressive starting pitching, and some timely hitting.

More importantly, the spotlight shined on Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, and Zach Eflin, all of whom have been inconsistent over the past few months.

Each of them needed a strong outing to not only reassure themselves, but also the organization and baseball that they are legitimate contenders.

Through Sunday’s game, the Phillies ranked eighth in MLB pitching stats with a .377 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and a 9.08 strikeout average over nine innings.

It also was needed to keep the pesky Atlanta Braves –led by MVP-type seasons from Nick Markakis and Freddie Freeman – at an arm’s length or 1.5 games in baseball sense.

Pivetta kept this team in the game before the Phillies eventually won on an emotional walk-off homer from Maikel Franco.

He pitched six innings and gave up two runs, four hits and struck out seven, certainly an acceptable night’s work.

Yet, this was a turnaround for Pivetta, who had a 6.84 ERA in his previous 10 starts. The Phillies’ brass had raised some doubts about Pivetta, looking back at his 3.26 ERA through his first 11 starts.

Velasquez, too, needed to continue to reach his potential since late June. Over the last six weeks, Velasquez has allowed five earned runs and has held opponents to a .168 batting average.

Against the Marlins, Velasquez allowed just two hits in 6.1 innings and recorded seven strikeouts.

Eflin finished the trifecta when he issued three runs and four hits over eight innings in an 8-3 victory in which four different Phillies crushed homers.

Aaron Nola fittingly finished the series with a two-run, six inning performance that was capped with Asdrubel Cabrera’s go-ahead homer in the eighth.

Now, the Phillies can hit the road for trips at Arizona and San Diego with momentum, and a staff that seemingly tightened any loose ends.

It also can feel confident with an offense that has awoken in the process, notably with the long ball.

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