Just a day after Jayson Stark stated he did not think that Ryan Howard would end the 2016 season as a Phillie, “The Big Piece” connected for his first home run of the season, a solo shot off Matt Moore. But the story of the day in front of the largest crowd in Bright House Field history was home runs, and the Rays had more of them, four of them exact, as the power surge led Tampa to a 5-1 victory.
Vinny from Philly was Dealing, Relievers were Not
In the race for the fifth starter, one of the names gaining more attention by the day due to his performance is Vincent Velasquez. Velasquez, affectionately known as “Vinny from Philly”, scattered three hits and a walk, allowing just one earned, the victim of a lead-off shot from Logan Forsythe. Velasquez would settle in, striking out out and surrendering just two more hits in the next five innings.
His relief crew did not have the same magic. Edward Mujica allowed a homer to the feast or famine Steve Pearce in the sixth while Elvis Araujo allowed three earned in the eighth. Colton Murray came in with two outs in the eighth and struck out Taylor Motter before allowing Mayo Acosta to drive in Jeff Decker with a double. Jeanmar Gomez, one of the few names that seems to have a guaranteed bullpen spot heading into 2016, was the only Phils reliever to pitch a scoreless frame, punching out two in the second.
Thanks to our minor league insider Jay Floyd for this tip: Jerad Eickhoff, the game’s scheduled starter, pitched a minor league intrasquad game instead to allow everyone to get work in and posted the following line: 4IP, 3H, 1R, 4K, 2BB, 58 pitches, 37 strikes.
Bats Couldn’t String Anything Together
The hot-hitting Phils collected eight hits but could not string any offensive momentum together. Howard was the Phils’ offensive standout, going 2-4 with a double and a homer, notable because both hits were off left-handed pitching. Emmanuel Burris posted a 2-4 day with a single, a double, and a steal helping his cause (.346 BA) to snag a utility infield spot while David Lough, who started the game in right and ended it in center, picked up two singles to raise his average to .308. Darin Ruf and Ryan Jackson notched the other two Philadelphia hits, singles. The smoking hot Peter Bourjos and Maikel Franco both went 0-3 and saw their averages drop to .333 for the Spring.
Dreams of Grapefruit League Gold
With the loss, the Phillies, who are sporting the third best run differential, at 11-5 are now one game behind the Washington Nationals for first place in the Grapefruit League. The Phils will take on cross-state rival Pittsburgh Pirates tomorrow as the Phils send Charlie Morton to face Gerrit Cole.