Phillies

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 CSNPhilly.com 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.

Krukcast: Why Philadelphia sports fans are great

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Krukcast: Why Philadelphia sports fans are great

On this edition of Krukcast, John Kruk and Gregg Murphy discuss Philadelphia sports fans. Despite the national narrative, why the fans of this city are great. Also, the expectations of the fans are not unreasonable at all.

Plus, Kruk shares his favorite fan stories from his playing days. One involves having beers with opposing fans after a game.

1:00 -  The national myth that Philadelphia fans are the worst.
5:00 -  Are fans here that different from other fans?
10:00 - Most creative fans around baseball.
14:00 - Murph's worst fan story (shocker).
18:00 -  If the fans here are so bad, why do players choose to play in Philly?

Subscribe to Krukcast: 
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19

Keep an eye on the record – will they finish over .500? – and Scott Kingery in final week of Phillies season

Keep an eye on the record – will they finish over .500? – and Scott Kingery in final week of Phillies season

ATLANTA — The final week of the Phillies season is upon us.

The team has been eliminated from all postseason possibility after a collapse that has seen it post a record of 15-29 since it was in first place in the NL East on Aug. 5.

Here are a few things worth keeping an eye on over the final week:

• Will the team finish with a winning record?

On Aug. 5, the Phils were 15 games over .500 and the thought of a sixth straight losing season seemed incomprehensible. Now they are just a game over .500 and need to win four of their final seven — no easy task with four against contending Colorado on deck — to finish with a winning record.

“It’s very important,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Everybody understands that there's a lot of value in having a winning season.”

The Phils have not had a winning season since 2011, the last time they made the playoffs. They finished .500 in 2012.

• Will Aaron Nola get one more start (see story)

• How much more will Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro and J.P. Crawford play?

Williams is nursing a sore and swollen right middle finger and it hurts when he swings. Alfaro came out of Sunday’s game with a sore right quad muscle. Crawford still has a sore right shoulder. He fell on it making a play in the field Wednesday night and was not ready to play Sunday.

• Will Scott Kingery get some time at second base?

It’s his natural position and he could be the guy there next season if Cesar Hernandez is dealt.

“I don't think there's a need, but I think it would be cool to see him out at second base before the season's over,” Kapler said. “We're not going to force anything. If it makes sense for our club and it gives us a chance to win and is the right thing for Scott Kingery, we'll do it.”

Kingery has played just 23 innings at second this season and not started there since April 16.

“At this point, I think it might feel a little bit weird to go over there,” Kingery said. “But I think to get back to the natural position, maybe just find some rhythm over there and get at least a couple games over there. So if something ends up happening and I play there a little more next season, I’ll be ready for it.”

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