Velasquez beats Mets 1-0 in debut, giving Phillies 1st win
NEW YORK (AP) Vince Velasquez's first pitch in his Philadelphia Phillies debut was a fastball. So was his second and his third.
The 23-year-old right-hander opened with 16 consecutive fastballs against the New York Mets, all from 92-95 mph. He struck out a career-high nine over six innings and Ryan Howard's opposite-field home run in the fifth inning off Bartolo Colon provided enough offense. The Phillies won 1-0 on a chilly Saturday night for their first victory this season.
Velasquez (1-0) said his goal was ''to go out there and make a statement, to show that we got this win, to show that we're capable of winning and we're not losers.''
''If we were 0-5, we're just going to hold our heads down low,'' he said.
Acquired in the seven-player offseason deal that sent closer Ken Giles to Houston, Velasquez struggled through a 26-pitch first inning that ended with Neil Walker's flyout with two on. New York didn't put two runners on in an inning after that as Velasquez combined with four relievers on a three-hitter.
Velasquez didn't have anything up his sleeve on the 41-degree night but rather something toasty in his pants: 2-by-3-inch heat packets.
''I had them in my back pockets when I was out there,'' he said, ''so I'd touch my butt a little bit and proceed to pitch.''
Velasquez made seven starts and 12 relief appearances as a rookie last year. Helping the rebuilding Phillies avoid what would have been their first 0-5 start since 1934, he gave up three hits and three walks.
''He exudes energy,'' Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said.
Velasquez had the most strikeouts in a Philadelphia debut since Roy Halladay in 2010.
''He locked in,'' Howard said. ''He pitches pitch a chip on his shoulder or pitches kind of with an attitude, if you will.''
Hector Neris, Daniel Stumpf, David Hernandez and Jeanmar Gomez combined for hitless relief, sealing just the second win for the Phillies in their last 12 games at Citi Field. Gomez got three outs with six pitches for his second career save, his first since July 2014 with Pittsburgh. He retired Wilmer Flores on a game-ending lineout to shortstop Freddy Galvis.
''A laugher,'' Mackanin joked. ''I knew we were going to win as soon as Freddy caught that ball - that last ball.''
Pitching in short sleeves and without an undershirt, the 42-year-old Colon (0-1) allowed five hits in six innings, walked none and struck out seven - including six looking. His fastball reached up to 92 mph.
Howard's home run, on an 88 mph pitch, went to the opposite field and cleared the original 16-foot green wall in left.
''The pitch just stayed towards the middle,'' Colon said.
Philadelphia Odubel Herrera missed a hit-and-run sign in the sixth, leading to Cesar Hernandez getting caught stealing at second. Hernandez failed to run home from third in the ninth, when Maikel Franco hit a slow roller and third Wilmer Flores bounced the throw to first. A day earlier, Hernandez ran into an inning-ending double play when Herrera's popup dropped after the infield-fly rule was invoked.
''We've seen it before with him,'' Mackanin said. ''We just have to keep on him and point them out to him, and hopefully he'll learn from them. He's a good player, but he's got to polish it up a little bit.''
Howard's homer was his 45th against the Mets, the most among active players, and the first off New York this season.
Phillies: Franco was 1 for 4 after missing Friday's game. He was hit near the left elbow by a 92 mph pitch from Cincinnati's Ross Ohlendorf in the ninth inning Thursday.
Matt Harvey (0-1), who lost last weekend's opener at Kansas City, starts for New York in Sunday's series finale against Jeremy Hellickson (0-0). Hellickson allowed one run - not earned - over six innings in the Phillies' opening loss at Cincinnati.