Phillies

Mets pick an incredibly lame moment to send Rhys Hoskins and Phillies a message

Mets pick an incredibly lame moment to send Rhys Hoskins and Phillies a message

NEW YORK — Two nights in a row, the Phillies have been outclassed by the Mets. Two nights in a row, there's been drama in an otherwise blah game.

The Phillies lost, 9-0, to Zack Wheeler and the Mets in the second game of the series (see observations), 24 hours after dropping a 5-1 decision that included a Bryce Harper ejection and a postgame message from Jake Arrieta to his teammates, through the media (see story).

On Tuesday, with two outs and nobody on in the ninth inning of a blowout, Mets reliever Jacob Rhame decided it was the appropriate time to send a message on behalf of his team after two Mets were hit by pitches the previous night.

The first pitch Rhame threw to Rhys Hoskins was a 96 mph fastball over his head. Hoskins was clearly annoyed by it, taking a few steps toward the mound as both benches slowly began to clear. After about 20 seconds, things cooled down and the at-bat continued.

Five pitches later, Rhame threw another fastball over Hoskins' head, this one at 97 mph, for ball four. Hoskins angrily slammed his bat and Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud quickly stepped in front of him to create a barrier between Hoskins and the mound.

"Oh, he just said they were trying to go inside, and I laughed," Hoskins said.

Clearly intentional. Clearly a retaliatory attempt or message from the Mets a night after two consecutive Mets were unintentionally hit by pitches from Jose Alvarez and Juan Nicasio.

"He didn't miss up and in the rest of the inning, so I'll let you decide," Hoskins said after the game.

When asked if it was lame for a pitcher to choose the potential final at-bat of a blowout to throw at a batter, Hoskins tried to be as diplomatic as possible.

"I would think so," he said. "But I understand baseball. They got hit a couple of times yesterday."

This kind of situation comes up every once in a while across baseball, and hitters always say they understand the deal but that it's not cool to throw at a guy's head. Which it's not. Ever. Especially in the age of high-90s velocity.

"I don't get it," Bryce Harper said. "I understand that two of their guys got hit yesterday. But, I mean, if it's baseball and you're going to drill somebody, at least hit him in the ass. Not in the head. You throw 98, it's scary now. You could kill somebody. Lose your eyesight. That's bigger than the game."

Harper referenced the time Hunter Strickland hit him with a pitch to retaliate for the two home runs Harper hit off of him in the playoffs three years prior. It was a silly thing for Strickland to do, but at least it was in a safer spot.

"Strick hit me in the butt. I still went and got him," Harper said, referring to his charging the mound. "But, you know, I respected him for it because he hit me in the butt. I understand protecting your guys and two of their really good guys got hit yesterday. You never want to see your star players get hit. If you're going to throw at Rhys right there — I don't know if he did or not. I know he said, 'My bad.' Hopefully, he didn't. But if you're going to, just hit him in the butt."

One could theorize this may wake up a slumping Phillies offense. The same could have been said Monday of Harper's ejection, which did nothing but further deplete a Phils lineup missing two starters and its super-utilityman.

They'll have a chance Wednesday night to get back on track against the constantly hittable Jason Vargas, a soft-tossing lefty with a 9.58 ERA. If they can't, they'll come home totally demoralized from a road trip through Colorado and New York that included injuries and several silent offensive performances.

"We just haven't played good baseball these last couple of days," Hoskins said. "End of a long road trip. It's a big game tomorrow. We'll be excited to go back home, but we've got to take care of business tomorrow against these guys."

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Spencer Howard gives up homers to Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuña Jr. in Phillies debut

Spencer Howard gives up homers to Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuña Jr. in Phillies debut

Spencer Howard's first major-league start is in the books. The Braves didn't make it easy on him.

In 4⅔ innings, Howard allowed four runs on seven hits with one walk and four strikeouts. He threw 81 pitches. 

Howard threw a first-pitch strike to 17 of the 22 hitters he faced, and after a couple innings the Braves were going up to the plate ready to hack at the first pitch.

Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr., the Braves' pair of superstars, did the most damage against Howard, going 5 for 6 with two homers and a triple.

Howard was close to getting through his first three innings unscathed but Dansby Swanson beat out a would-be double-play ball by inches. The third inning went on and Freeman took Howard opposite-field for a two-run shot on a 95 mph fastball. Two innings later, Acuña also took Howard oppo. Welcome to the bigs.

Howard allowed a fair amount of hard contact. Even in the scoreless first inning, Freeman lined out hard to right field and Travis d'Arnaud smoked a liner right at third baseman Jean Segura.

There were also some eye-popping pitches and moments from Howard, such as his second-inning strikeout of Adam Duvall. Howard spotted a fastball on the outside corner for a called strike one, threw a nasty hook for a swinging strike two, then pinpointed a fastball inside and at the knees for a called strike three.

His fastball averaged 93.5 mph and maxed out at 95.5. Surprisingly, Howard didn't get a single swing-and-miss on the 41 fastballs he threw. He did get seven swinging strikes with his slider and three with the changeup.

Bryce Harper, who had pined for Howard to join the Phillies' rotation, said this about his new teammate:

"I'm excited for him. This is where it starts. It's not minor-league ball anymore, it starts now. Excited to get him up here and get him acclimated to this team and how we go about it. He's a great competitor. He's got plus-plus stuff. Phillies fans should be very excited to see what Spence does. 

"He just needs to be Spence. That's the biggest thing when guys get up here, change this or change that, people want to see you do this or do that. But my biggest thing is when guys get up here, I want them to be able to enjoy themselves, take in the moment and really know they have the stuff to be here. I just want him to enjoy the moment."

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Phillies roster: Top prospect Spencer Howard officially a big-leaguer

Phillies roster: Top prospect Spencer Howard officially a big-leaguer

It's finally official: Top prospect Spencer Howard was added to the Phillies' roster Sunday afternoon. J.T. Realmuto will catch Howard's MLB debut tonight against the Braves.

To make room for Howard on the active 28-man roster, the Phillies optioned Cole Irvin to Lehigh Valley. To make room for Howard on the 40-man roster, they designated Enyel De Los Santos for assignment.

Though there will be no fans or family members in the stands for his debut, there has been plenty of hoopla surrounding Howard's first start. Over the last two decades, the Phillies' only homegrown pitchers who arrived to this much hype were Cole Hamels and Aaron Nola.

It probably won't be a long start for Howard, who had been facing hitters at the Phillies' satellite site in Lehigh Valley. Something in the range of 60 to 75 pitches seems reasonable.

On Saturday, Phillies pitching coach Bryan Price described what makes Howard such an intriguing, high-ceiling prospect.

Howard will face a Braves lineup that had gone cold before breaking out for all five of their runs in the fifth inning of their Game 1 win. Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr. entered Game 1 hitting a combined .207. Freeman then went 3 for 4 with a double and Acuña hit a two-run homer. The Phillies have to hope that doesn't carry into the final two games of the four-game series.

The Phillies needed three innings from their bullpen in Game 1 but did not use Hector Neris, Jose Alvarez or Tommy Hunter, three of the relievers they trust the most.

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