Phillies' pitcher shines as emergency outfielder, accomplishes feat not seen since 1950

Mark Townsend
·Yahoo Sports Contributor

The Philadelphia Phillies fell short on Friday night, losing 4-3 to the Chicago White Sox in 15 innings. That’s all you might see when looking at the box score.

How the game reached that point was a series of events that almost had to be seen to be believed.

With his bullpen taxed and no position players left to call on, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler was forced to get creative in the 14th inning. The option he chose was to bring in starting center fielder Roman Quinn to pitch, while inserting pitcher Vince Velasquez as the left fielder.

What followed was baseball at its weirdest and most unpredictable. Which is to say, baseball was at its best.

Upon his move to the outfield, Velasquez immediately became the star of the game and the talk of baseball thanks to his arm and his unexpected athleticism.

Showing off the cannon

In the 14th inning, the 27-year-old right-hander temporarily saved the game for Philadelphia by firing a perfect throw to catcher J.T. Realmuto to cut down Jose Abreu at home plate.

Abreu was attempting to score from second base on James McCann’s single, but he never really had a chance.

You’re probably thinking that doesn’t happen very often.

Well, you’re right. The last time a pitcher recorded an outfield assist was way back in 1950.

So naturally, Velasquez almost did it again the very next inning.

This time Abreu singled to Velasquez in left field. His throw home to get Leury Garcia was every bit as strong and impressive as the first. It was just a smidgen late. Unfortunately for the Phillies, that would prove to be the winning run for Chicago.

Vince Velasquez of the Philadelphia Phillies acknowledges the crowd after throwing out a runner at home plate. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Vince Velasquez of the Philadelphia Phillies acknowledges the crowd after throwing out a runner at home plate. (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Five-star catch

Had it ended there, it would have been among the best stories in MLB this season.

It turned out Velasquez had one more trick up his sleeve. He finished the inning by making a diving catch on Eloy Jimenez’s sinking line drive.

This wasn’t a garden variety diving catch, either. It was Philadelphia’s first five-star catch of the season, according to Statcast.

The level of difficulty was high. Yet Velasquez handled it without an issue.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be that surprised by Velasquez’s skills. After all, he was a star shortstop during his high school days in California. However, this was his first time doing anything other than pitching during nine seasons in professional baseball. It says a lot that he took to the outfield so effortlessly.

Outfielder takes the loss

The Phillies used seven regular pitchers before calling on center fielder Roman Quinn to pitch the final two innings.

It was Quinn’s second pitching appearance of the season after allowing two runs to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 15.

This time around, he allowed one run on three hits and three walks. Of course, the outfield defense helped keep that line from looking worse.

Quinn will take the loss on the stat sheet, but it was hardly his fault. In fact, he was a big reason Philadelphia was even still playing.

That’s a winning night in our book.

It’s just that baseball doesn’t always go by the book. Sometimes it gets wild. Sometimes it gets weird. Friday’s game in Philadelphia was about as wild and weird as it gets.

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