Hot-hitting Phillies face rugged test vs. Astros (Jul 24, 2017)

BY AP • July 24, 2017

PHILADELPHIA -- By no means is Philadelphia Phillies manager Pete Mackanin saying the teams are alike, but he likens his current club's offensive outburst to that of the 2009 Phillies team that Mackanin saw when he joined Charlie Manuel's staff after Philadelphia won a World Series in 2008.

The Phillies, winners in consecutive series for the first time since April, have scored five or more runs in seven straight games in the same calendar year for the first time since 2005. They have amassed 78 hits in their last seven games.

"It's reminiscent the way we've been swinging the bats of us coming back and coming from behind and catching up and beating other teams," Mackanin said after Philadelphia's 6-3 win over the reeling Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday.

The Phillies (34-62) are 5-4 out of the All-Star break, but they get a big test Monday when the American League's best team, the Houston Astros (65-33), comes to town for the opener in a three-game set.

Philadelphia will send Vince Velasquez (2-5, 5.14 ERA) to the mound to face fellow right-hander Brad Peacock (8-1, 2.49) on Monday in the series opener.

Velasquez, a former Astro, was impressive Tuesday in his first start back after missing all of June and half of July with a right elbow injury. With talks swirling among the Phillies front office and coaching staff of the 25-year-old being moved to the bullpen, another solid performance against Houston could go a long way to saving his rotation role.

"Having the injury here, it's kind of tough mentally," Velasquez said after allowing one earned run in six innings in a no-decision at Miami on Tuesday. "But you have to lock in and have that right mindset and attack hitters."

He will need to do just that in his first start against his former club with the way Peacock has been throwing since moving from the bullpen to the rotation. Peacock, 29, has allowed just seven earned runs in his past six outings, going 5-0 in the process, helping a pitching staff that has the lowest starters' ERA in the AL.

Peacock has made two starts against Philadelphia in his career, both at Citizens Bank Park. On Monday, he will try to improve upon the 6.75 ERA he's tallied in 10 2/3 innings pitched. He previously faced the Phillies as a member of the Washington Nationals in 2011 and again with Houston in 2014, when he did not pitch against any current member of the Phillies.

Velasquez will be facing Houston for the first time.

Peacock is likely to return to the bullpen now that Collin McHugh is back in the fold and Dallas Keuchel is close behind. And while it would be easy to make a case for Peacock to remain in the rotation, his services are needed more in relief.

"Competition is a good thing," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said last week. "Brad Peacock has made himself a weapon."

Houston, which lost 9-7 in Baltimore on Sunday, is also 5-4 since the All-Star break. Its offense without Carlos Correa (out six to eight weeks with a thumb injury) has still produced six runs per game in five games since losing the star shortstop. The man called up to replace Correa on the roster, third baseman Colin Moran, was placed on the disabled list Sunday with a facial fracture and concussion after fouling a ball off his face on Saturday.

The team recalled Tyler White to take Moran's place.

The Astros likely are too far ahead in the AL West (17 games) to worry.

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