This week we’re counting down the top 10 moments of the 2016 Phillies season.
Here is No. 1.
1. Vinny’s sweet 16
April 14, 2016 – which seems like a lifetime ago – was the day “Vinny from Philly” was born.
In Vince Velasquez’s debut with the Phillies, the right-hander led the Phils to their first victory of the season by shutting out the Mets in six innings. In those six innings, Velasquez allowed three hits and struck out nine. At that point, we knew how good Velasquez was and that his potential was through the roof. It was an appetizer for what was to come in his next start.
The Phils were looking to pull their record to .500 as well as take a four-game set from the Padres. Ryan Howard knocked in two of the three runs the Phils scored with a solo shot and a sacrifice fly. Andres Blanco scored the third run in the seventh inning on a wild pitch.
But enough talk about the offense, because this day belonged to Velasquez.
The 23-year-old got the ball rolling right from the jump by striking out the side in the first inning. Velasquez was cruising through six innings as he recorded nine strikeouts. Of course, striking out nine in any start is exceptional, but Velasquez got stronger as the game continued. Out of the nine outs Velasquez had left, the fiery Californian reached back for a little extra by punching out seven.
Velasquez toyed with the Padres hitters. He was dotting fastballs on the black. He was blowing fastballs by hitters. He was getting hitters to chase his breaking pitches. Everything was working for him.
His 16 strikeouts were one short of the club record for strikeouts in a game, set by Art Mahaffey in 1961. And the performance added to a record month of sparkling strikeout numbers – the Phils ended April with the highest team K/9 ratio for an opening month of baseball, ever.
Of course, Velasquez didn’t strike out 16 batters every start. He suffered through his share of growing pains just like every young pitcher. But on that Thursday afternoon in mid-April, Velasquez showed us what he has in his arsenal, and when he’s at his best, it’s pure dominance.
Click here to watch all 16 of Velasquez’s strikeouts.