April 28, 2016

Danny Salazar's opponent batting average is the best in baseball, yet his opponent on-base percentage still trails the next pitcher he'll face by nearly 40 points.

Vince Velasquez has also been tough to hit and done so with a reasonable level of control, something Salazar will try to emulate Sunday to deny the streaking Philadelphia Phillies a three-game home sweep of his Cleveland Indians.

After Saturday's 4-2 win, the Phillies (14-10) are in position to match a six-game winning streak from May 13-18 of last season as their top since 2012. Odubel Herrera was 2 for 4 for a second straight game and is batting .385 on an 11-game hitting streak.

"We're on a roll right now and we hope we continue with it," said manager Pete Mackanin, whose team finished with its best April record since going 18-8 in 2011 on its way to the NL East title.

The run has come with a 1.72 ERA, while the bullpen has strung together 18 straight scoreless innings over the last six games. The winning streak began with their next starter.

Velasquez (3-1, 1.78 ERA) has started his first season in Philadelphia with plenty of promise and threw his first career shutout in his second start, but the right-hander has regressed some since with eight runs - five earned - in 10 1/3 innings over his last two starts.

He gave up three and five hits in six innings of Tuesday's 4-3 win in Washington. Velasquez's .174 OBA and .232 OBP both rank among MLB's top 10, prompting his manager to bring up a name from that 2011 team.

"I'm not comparing him to (Roy) Halladay, but I didn't like the way he pitched and he only gave up three runs," Mackanin told MLB's official website. "I remember sitting with (former Phillies coach) Sam Perlozzo after a game and I'd say, 'Boy, (Halladay) was terrible tonight and he only gave up three runs.' That's how good he was."

The 23-year-old faced Cleveland once last year with Houston and gave up two runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings of a 2-0 loss with Michael Brantley going 2 for 3 with a home run.

Salazar (2-1, 2.35) has seen his walks catch up with him a bit more in his last two starts with five runs allowed in 11 2/3 innings after working through them in his first two starts to give up one in 11 1/3. Most recently, he surrendered three runs and three hits with four walks in 4 2/3 innings of a no-decision in Monday's 4-3 loss in Minnesota.

The right-hander has walked 13 and allowed just 11 hits and never more than three for a .139 OBA. His OBP is flirting with doubling that at .269 as he's one of four pitchers issuing more than five walks per nine innings. Twenty-one of his first 40 pitches were balls against the Twins, and his 17.9 pitches per inning is up from an already-high 16.5 career mark entering the year.

"He barely got to where he was throwing more strikes than balls," manager Terry Francona said. "That's just a hard way to have sustained success, where you can go deep into a game. Because, with the stuff he has, he should get deeper."

The Indians (10-11) have dropped four of five after starting this nine-game road trip with a three-game sweep in Detroit. The rotation has a 5.74 ERA in the last five, which have all been one-run games.

At the plate, Lonnie Chisenhall was 3 for 4 Friday after going 2 for 18 in his first six games back from a wrist injury that cost him the start of the season.

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