Phillies-Mets 5 things: Will retaliatory sparks fly tonight?

Phillies-Mets 5 things: Will retaliatory sparks fly tonight?

Phillies (3-4) vs. Mets (4-3)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies lost a game they should have won Monday, failing to break things open in the first inning with the bases loaded and one out against Jacob deGrom, playing shaky defense to let the Mets tie the game, and then falling behind during a wild eighth inning.

The story coming out of the game was Edubray Ramos' 96-mph fastball behind the head of Asdrubal Cabrera, who flipped the bat against Ramos after a dramatic walk-off home run last September.

Pete Mackanin said he'd talk to Ramos today but it was clear the manager wasn't happy with the pitch, calling it "inappropriate," especially at that time and place.

Will some more sparks fly tonight? Let's take a look at Game 2:

1. Ramos will learn
Look, it was a bad decision by Ramos to do what he did to Cabrera last night in the eighth inning of a tie game. He put his own motives ahead of the team's and that's not acceptable unless one team is comfortably ahead or behind. 

But let's remember that this is a 24-year-old kid with all of three months of major-league service time. It was an immature action but he'll learn from it, and hopefully he won't ever put his own feelings ahead of the team's again.

That three-run bomb Ramos gave up to Cabrera last September was the final pitch he threw in 2016. So he had all offseason to stew about it. Really, though, Cabrera didn't do anything egregious. He was excited that he turned an 11th-inning, 8-6 deficit into a Mets win that inched them closer to the playoffs. He reacted. 

Ramos really wasn't within his right to take exception to Cabrera there. Especially considering all of the things his own teammate Odubel Herrera flips the bat over. Do you see pitchers go after Herrera every day?

2. Harvey on the hill
The Phillies faced Max Scherzer last Friday, Stephen Strasburg on Sunday, deGrom last night and now they draw Matt Harvey. 

Just a nice, easy start to the season, huh?

Harvey pitched well in his first start last week against the Braves, giving up two runs over 6 2/3 innings to pick up the win. His fastball averaged 94.4 mph and reached as high as 95.9. It was a good sign for the Mets in Harvey's first regular-season start since undergoing surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome last summer.

Last season was a frustrating one for Harvey, who to that point had known nothing but success at the big-league level. He had a 2.53 ERA with 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings in 65 starts from 2012 to 2015. Then last season he just couldn't get right, going 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA in 17 starts and striking out just 7.4 batters per nine.

This is an important year for Harvey as he looks to reestablish himself as an ace. At this point, he's fallen behind Noah Syndergaard and deGrom in the pecking order, but remember it was just two years ago that we were looking at Harvey as one of the very best pitchers in baseball.

In nine career starts against the Phillies, Harvey is 6-2 with a 2.65 ERA. The Phils have hit him around the last two years, though, scoring 13 runs on 26 hits and five homers in his 24 1/3 innings. With Chase Utley and Ryan Howard gone, the only homer off Harvey by an active Phillie belongs to Herrera.

Current Phils have hit .310 off him, with Cesar Hernandez going 3 for 6 with a walk and Freddy Galvis going 3 for 9 with a walk.

3. Buchholz's second start
The Phillies acquired Clay Buchholz from the Red Sox in a trade similar to the acquisition of Jeremy Hellickson from the D-backs the previous offseason. Bring in a veteran starter, hope he pitches well and enables you to flip him in a trade.

Hellickson's been pretty consistent for the Phillies since 2016 began, often keeping them in the game and minimizing damage. "Consistent" isn't the word you'll often see applied to Buchholz.

In his Phillies debut last week in Cincinnati, Buchholz allowed four runs and put 10 men on base over five innings. That's how a lot of Buchholz's starts tend to go: slow pace, lots of baserunners, early exit. It won't go that way every time, but Phillies fans should get used to it for the time being.

The slow pace of Buchholz combined with the long innings can make him frustrating to watch at times. Over the last three seasons, he's had the fourth-slowest pace in the majors between pitches. Here's that list:

1. David Price: 26.1 seconds
2. Yu Darvish: 25.3
3. Jeremy Hellickson: 25.3
4. Clay Buchholz: 25.2

It's much more noticeable from Hellickson and Buchholz because they aren't aces who rack up strikeouts like Price and Darvish. There's so much else to talk about when it comes to Price and Darvish.

Current Mets have hit just .237 off Buchholz but have 15 walks for a .363 on-base percentage. 

Jose Reyes has seen him the most from his days in Toronto, going 8 for 32 (.250) with four walks. Curtis Granderson has six walks against Buchholz but is just 2 for 17 with nine strikeouts. Cabrera has had by far the most success, going 6 for 14 with a double, two homers and three walks.

4. Adjusting the plan vs. Bruce
Jay Bruce destroyed a baseball Sunday night off Marlins right-hander Edinson Volquez for a 428-foot home run. Entering this series, the Phillies knew about Bruce's ability to change the complexion of a game with one swing, but they also knew about the many holes in his swing.

Well, Bruce is clearly locked in. He homered twice last night -- both were no-doubters -- accounting for the first run off Jerad Eickhoff and the game-winning runs off Joely Rodriguez.

Some questioned the Phillies' decision to pitch to Bruce in that eighth inning with struggling lefty Granderson on deck, but consider this: Bruce was 0 for 9 off lefties to that point and had hit .204 against them dating back to 2014. Rodriguez is in a major-league bullpen to get lefties out so he went after him.

Buchholz and the Phillies' relievers tonight just need to handle Bruce with an extra level of caution because of how few other Mets are hitting. New York is hitting .192 through seven games. Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker are both 4 for 26 (.154) and Granderson is 5 for 24 (.208). You can take your chances with those who are slumping.

5. This and that
• Right-hander Zach Eflin, who late last season had surgery on both knees, was activated from the DL Tuesday and optioned by the Phillies to Triple A Lehigh Valley. He'll start tonight for the IronPigs in Scranton. 

Eflin showed some flashes over his 11 starts with the Phillies last summer but ended with a 5.54 ERA. 

He'd dealt with pain in both knees for more than a decade so hopefully, the newfound comfort allows him to continue developing as a sinkerballer. Eflin just turned 23 on April 8.

• Wouldn't shock me if the Mets throw at Herrera tonight. It would be a bit of retaliation for Ramos' pitch to Cabrera, and it was just last night that Herrera flipped the bat on a flyout he thought would be an extra-base hit.

• Maikel Franco seems to be locking in. After walking twice and lining out sharply against Strasburg on Sunday, Franco singled in his first two at-bats off deGrom Monday and later walked to get the tying run to the plate in the eighth inning.

• If the Phillies see acting Mets closer Addison Reed again tonight, they could do some damage. Reed threw straight 92 mph fastball after straight 92 mph fastball last night and several of those pitches were center-cut. By far his best pitch of the inning was the two-strike paint job he had on Howie Kendrick, low and on the outside corner to end the game.

Phillies set to unveil new ace Jake Arrieta in spring training

Phillies set to unveil new ace Jake Arrieta in spring training

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Thursday starts the one-week countdown to opening day.

Oh, yeah, and Jake Arrieta will also make his Grapefruit League debut.

It figures to be the highlight of the spring.

Arrieta signed a three-year, $75 million contract with the Phillies last week. He has completed a progression from bullpen work — he actually had gotten well into that on his own before signing — to facing hitters in a controlled situation.

Now, it’s time to face some competition — the Detroit Tigers. The game will be televised on NBCSP+ at 1 p.m.

The Phillies have yet to decide when Arrieta will make his regular-season debut. The pitcher believes he will be ready during the first week of the season. The team will exercise caution. Arrieta’s performance Thursday — and possibly more important, his recovery — will go a long way into determining when the Phils turn him loose.

“I’m looking for him to be healthy, first and foremost,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I would love to see him come out just like he has in his live batting practice sessions and in his bullpens, which is strong, ball looking like a lead fastball, featuring that great cutter and a lot of that great deception.

"We’re looking for him to be Jake Arrieta. Most importantly, most critically and most consequentially, I’m looking for him to be healthy and strong.”

Kapler said the Phils would be flexible on Arrieta’s pitch count. Fifty or so seems like a good guess.

Arrieta has been around for a week now. His teammates are thrilled to have him.

“Obviously, with the Arrieta signing, we got a lot better not only on the field but in the clubhouse,” Rhys Hoskins said (more on him here). “What he’s going to be able to do not only for the pitchers but for some of us young position guys — I mean he’s recently won a World Series, he’s a Cy Young guy, he knows how to compete at the highest level. We have a good group. It’s meshing pretty quickly. I’m excited to see how it goes once we start.”

Rhys Hoskins doing damage as opening day comes into sight

USA Today Images

Rhys Hoskins doing damage as opening day comes into sight


DUNEDIN, Fla. – The season opener is eight days away and Rhys Hoskins says his swing “is getting there.” 

Getting there? Really?

It looks like it already arrived with the morning mail.

Hoskins continued his recent run of excellent at-bats in Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays. He belted a two-run homer, a solo homer and also worked a walk. Over his last five games, he is 6 for 16 with five walks. For the spring, he is hitting .279 (12 for 43) with four doubles, four homers, eight RBIs, 11 runs scored and an OPS of 1.066.

“What does he have, 10 strikeouts and 10 walks on the spring?” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler asked.

Indeed, those are the numbers.

“That is fantastic,” Kapler said. “Obviously, he’s swinging the bat beautifully and really controlling the at-bats.”

It all starts with pitch recognition.

“I’ve been pretty happy with that throughout camp,” Hoskins said. “I don’t feel like I’ve chased too many, which is always good. I’ve seen a bunch of breaking balls and been able to recognize them early.”

The outstanding selectivity that Hoskins has allows him to work pitchers into fastball counts. He did that in the first inning when he got a 3-1 fastball from Marcus Stroman and drove it over the left-field wall. The ball left the bat at 108 miles per hour.

Obviously, Hoskins was pleased that the ball left the yard. He was more pleased with the swing. He believes pitchers will try to bust him in this season and he’s ready for it.

“I was really, really happy with the first at-bat,” he said. “I had been struggling with the ball in. I was able to keep my hands inside of it and the ball went.”

His second homer came on a 1-1 fastball from Luis Santos. The wind was blowing out at Dunedin Stadium. Hoskins saw a pitch up and took a rip.

“On a day like today, if you see the ball up you’re going to have a pretty good chance,” he said.

Hoskins batted second in the lineup, ahead of Maikel Franco and Carlos Santana. Kapler has juggled lineups all spring and has strongly implied that he will do that, based on matchups, during the regular season.

“I don’t care where I hit,” Hoskins said. “With the guys we have and the way they’re going to construct the lineup, if I hit second, fourth, sixth, I think I’m going to be able to hit with men on base.

“Throughout my career I’ve been a run producer, so that’s the main thing for me. If I can create some runs, whether it’s scoring runs or driving in runs, I’ll be happy.”

The Phils and Jays played to a 7-7 tie. The Phillies’ bullpen gave up five runs in the last two innings to let a 7-2 lead get away. The Phils used 10 pitchers, including two day-trippers from minor-league camp. Starter Nick Pivetta pitched two perfect innings. The team purposely scaled him back to keep him in line with a 25-inning spring target. Scott Kingery and Aaron Altherr also hit home runs.