Phillies

Tommy Hunter’s injury will impact Phillies' bullpen puzzle

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Tommy Hunter’s injury will impact Phillies' bullpen puzzle

TAMPA — Phillies reliever Tommy Hunter has a strained flexor muscle in his pitching arm. The right-hander, according to manager Gabe Kapler, will be shut down for two weeks. That timetable puts into jeopardy his being ready for opening day.

Hunter, 32, is in the second year of a two-year, $18-million contract with the Phillies. He began last season on the disabled list with a hamstring strain but came back to pitch in 65 games. He recorded a 3.80 ERA.

Hunter’s injury will temporarily ease a numbers issue that the Phillies are facing in the bullpen. They would like to carry an eight-man bullpen and currently have a surplus of arms. Even before his injury, Hunter has been considered a trade candidate as the Phillies shopped him for a potential deal this winter.

With about a month to go before opening day, the Phillies’ bullpen looks like this: Seranthony Dominguez, David Robertson and Hector Neris are locks. Pat Neshek has a spot unless he is traded. Juan Nicasio’s $9 million salary probably makes him a lock. Lefties Adam Morgan and Jose Alvarez are both out of minor-league options so that will help their cause. With Hunter likely opening on the DL, the final spot in the opening day bullpen would likely come down to Victor Arano, Yacksel Rios, Austin Davis, James Pazos and Edubray Ramos. Arano, who had a 2.73 ERA in 60 games last year, is probably the lead guy in that group. He would have been difficult to keep off the roster even without an injury thinning the field.

There's still a lot of time before opening day and numbers issues like these have a way of working out.

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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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Mets 9, Phillies 0: No answers for Zack Wheeler at the plate or on the mound

Mets 9, Phillies 0: No answers for Zack Wheeler at the plate or on the mound

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — It was the Zack Wheeler show Tuesday night at Citi Field, in a game Phillies manager Gabe Kapler described as "important" hours earlier in his office.

Wheeler dominated the Phillies on the mound, striking out 11 over seven innings in a 9-0 Mets win.

At the plate, Wheeler hit a two-run double and a solo home run off of Zach Eflin. Wheeler entered the game with a .129 batting average and no home runs in just under 200 career plate appearances.

Todd Frazier broke the game open in the fifth with a grand slam off of Drew Anderson. It came after an intentional walk of Phillie-killer Jeff McNeil.

Kapler referred to it as an important game because of how flat the Phillies had looked in their previous two against the Rockies and Mets. They scored one run in each of those games, and Jake Arrieta had some fiery things to say after Monday's loss.

This was the Phillies' first shutout loss of 2019 and they've been outscored 18-2 since Sunday.

The Phillies certainly did not impress, but from an offensive standpoint, this one was more about Wheeler's electric stuff. From the first inning on, Wheeler threw his fastball consistently at 98 and 99 mph, had a low-90s splitter that was falling off the table and a mid-80s slider that kept hitters off balance. 

You have to remember that Wheeler was 9-1 with a 1.68 ERA after the All-Star break last year. He's a major key not just to the Mets but to this entire NL East race.

The Phillies have lost five of the last six games and are 12-11. The Mets are 13-10.

With two outs and nobody on in the ninth inning of a 9-0 game, Mets reliever Jacob Rhame threw two pitches over Rhys Hoskins' head in the same at-bat. After the first one, Hoskins took a few steps toward the mound and both benches began to come out on the field. The situation was diffused.

A few pitches later, Rhame threw ball four over Hoskins' head. Hoskins slammed his bat against the ground.

It looked like a message from the Mets after they were hit twice in the same inning last night (more on the story here).

Get well soon

The Phillies' offense has been anemic with the hamstring injuries of Jean Segura, Odubel Herrera and Scott Kingery. Segura is likely to return Saturday, and Herrera could be back soon after his 10 days on the injured list are up on April 28.

Unlike the first two weeks of the season, there are currently several easy outs to be had in the Phillies' lineup. Roman Quinn has been lost at the plate, going 2 for 21 with 13 strikeouts since being called up. Phil Gosselin is 0 for 12 since his three-run double in Colorado.

The Phillies' only offense against Wheeler came from Maikel Franco, who singled between short and third and later doubled to the opposite field.

Pivetta update

Nick Pivetta made his first start at Triple A Tuesday against Pawtucket. He overcame a wild, 28-pitch first inning to strike out nine over six innings. He allowed four runs.

Harper hitless

Bryce Harper hasn't done much hitting in the five games against the Mets, going 2 for 16 with a pair of singles and eight strikeouts.

What about Williams?

It sounds like Nick Williams will get his first start of the season in the Phillies' upcoming four-game home series against the Marlins. Kapler wants to get Andrew McCutchen off his feet for a day and identified one of the middle games of that series as an opportunity to do so. The Phils face a left-handed starter Thursday in the series opener and in Sunday's finale vs. Miami.

Up next

The Phillies-Mets series concludes Wednesday night with Vince Velasquez (0-0, 2.55) opposing veteran soft-tossing lefty Jason Vargas (1-0, 9.58).

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