The Philadelphia Phillies will be looking to continue their positive momentum when they host the Atlanta Braves in a doubleheader on Sunday.
The Phillies won their second in a row Saturday thanks to an impressive 5-0 victory on Saturday as Jake Arrieta and three relievers combined for a four-hit shutout.
Philadelphia is expected to hand the ball to right-hander Vince Velasquez (0-0, 12.00 ERA) in the first game with Spencer Howard set to make his major league debut in the second game. Manager Joe Girardi wouldn’t immediately confirm the order of starters for the doubleheader.
Velasquez hasn’t started since July 26, when he allowed four runs in three innings against the Miami Marlins. Velasquez is 1-6 with a 5.20 ERA in 12 career games (11 starts) against the Braves.
“For Vince, it’s really important that he bounces back, he goes back to work and he gets his stuff right,” Girardi said. “It’s important he has a good start in his next start.”
Howard, meanwhile, is one of the most highly touted prospects in the organization.
And it was inevitable that Howard would earn a start at some point this season.
“I think there’s a number of different ways that we could use him, whether it’s starting or relieving,” Girardi said.
However Howard is utilized, his teammates have been anxiously awaiting this opportunity.
“His stuff is electric,” said second baseman Scott Kingery. “I’ve faced him a couple of times. It didn’t turn out well for me. He’s got good stuff. He’s someone that can help the team. If that’s what happens, I think we’re all going to be excited for it.”
The Braves, who scuffled offensively on Saturday, will be looking for a strong start from left-hander Max Fried in one game. The other game is expected to be a bullpen start and it could go to right-hander Huascar Ynoa. It would be the first career start and third career appearance for the 22-year old.
Left-hander Will Smith, who has recovered from COVID-19, is expected to be available in the Braves’ bullpen.
“I’m definitely ready to get in there, get the season rolling, get the first one under my belt,” Smith said.
Atlanta hadn’t officially confirmed which game Fried will start.
Fried has been impressive, going 2-0 with a 2.04 ERA in three starts, a span of 17 2/3 innings.
Over Fried’s career, he holds a 1-2 mark and a 5.47 ERA against the Phillies in nine career appearances (three starts).
“The thing I’ve struggled with the most (in my career) is wanting to do more and not feeling like my best is enough and wanting to do extra,” Fried said. “For me, it’s about staying within myself.”
In Saturday’s loss, Ronald Acuna Jr., Dansby Swanson, Marcell Ozuna and Freddie Freeman combined to go 0 for 15. Freeman went 0 for 4 and had his average drop to .200.
But Freeman and the rest of the Braves lineup remains one of the most dangerous in the major leagues.
Freeman missed some time as he also recovered from COVID-19.
“I still have some indecision at the plate,” Freeman said. “I’m taking some fastballs that I normally don’t take. I’m working hard, working every day.”
–Field Level Media