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April 19, 2016

Phillies fail to do little things, get beat up by homer-happy Mets

The Phillies are going to lose a lot of games this year.

This isn’t breaking news. They lost 99 games last season. Sure, they’ve added a lot of new talent into the organization, but a vast majority of that talent will be playing in Allentown and Reading in 2016, not at Citizens Bank Park.

In order to be competitive, the Phillies are going to need their young starting pitching to keep them in games through seven innings, which happened on Monday night against the Mets. But you can’t always bank on young pitching, either.

What the Phillies can do, even if they’re struggling to score runs regularly, as they certainly are, is play clean, smart, fundamental baseball.

“We’re having a tough time right now, but we’ll figure it out,” Maikel Franco said before the game of a Phillies team that’s fail to score more than three runs in a game since April 10. “Every single day you can (get going), we just have to continue to do the little things to try to win the ballgame.”

The New York Mets hit six home runs to chase Vince Velasquez early and cruise to an 11-1 victory over the Phillies.

"We didn't pitch well, we didn't hit well," manager Pete Mackanin said. "We didn't play well tonight."

The Phils didn’t score until the eighth, and nearly but a small dent into the Mets lead when Maikel Franco laid into a ball and Juan Lagares made like Spiderman on a catch that would make Aaron Rowand blush.

Looking at that lopsided score, it might sound borderline insane to say the Phillies lost the game because they failed to do the little things that matter in a baseball game. But, in the early innings, when Vince Velasquez was on the mound and the score wasn’t out of control, the Phils played sloppy and it proved costly.

The first baseball foul: bad base-running.

In the bottom of the first, after Odubel Herrera worked his 14th walk of the season (he’s already halfway to his 2015 walk total), Andres Blanco hit a one-out single to center.

Herrera hustled around second and attempted to go from first to third on the play. He arrived safely. But Blanco was lost in no man’s land, between first and second, when the Mets cut off the throw.

Instead of runners on the corners with one out, it was runner on third with two outs. Ryan Howard follow with a fly ball to left. Inning over.

"The base running gaffe, basically, he showed poor judgment on that," Mackanin said. "It was a mental mistake. And it kind of changed the whole complexion of the game right there."

The fact that that half inning came just after Michael Conforto hit a two-run home run to give the Mets a lead made it a little more soul-crushing for the home team.

Speaking of soul crushing …

The second baseball foul: failing to catch a near-routine throw from your fellow infielder.

In the top of the third, Mets pitcher Logan Verrett hit a soft grounder to short. Freddy Galvis charged and threw to first – but just a tad up the line. Ryan Howard didn’t even have to stretch, all he had to do was reach. The ball flew by his glove.

The error was initially charged to Galvis, and later handed to Howard, rightfully.

At first, it didn’t matter. Velasquez, who rebounded from a shaky first inning with a perfect second, got back-to-back fly ball outs. But then, it did matter.

In the span of four pitches, Conforto singled and Yoenis Cespedes clobbered an 0-2 curveball and sent it deep into the South Philly night to put the Mets up 5-0.

"The ball that wasn’t caught at first base – that had a lot to do with (how the game went), too," Mackanin said. "The thing is, when you look at the Mets, they take advantage of mistakes made by pitchers. They don’t miss mistakes. And we haven’t been hitting mistakes. We’re not capitalizing."

The Mets would add plenty of insurance after Velasquez left the game, all on home runs. Lucas Duda. Curtis Granderson. Neil Walker (twice). Mr Met.

The Mets have more home runs in their last five games (17) than the Phillies have runs (8), and by a fairly wide margin.

The Mets have hit 10 home runs in the last two nights at Citizens Bank Park, well on their way to besting their mark of 19 at the Phillies home last year (which was the most by any National League team in any visiting ballpark last year). The Mets have seven more games at CBP to add to their total in 2016.

The talented Mets, who are 20-6 in their last 26 games at CBP, will almost surely win the season series with their NL East foes in Philadelphia, regardless of the venue. But the Phillies will make it a lot easier for them if they continue to run into outs and drop balls, too.

Perhaps they're playing a little "stiff," a word Velasquez used in his own postgame analysis.

"We're just not having fun," the pitcher said. "All through spring were having so much fun, in the dugout, outside the dugout. We need to stop being timid. We have to be a little more upright, be fun, start enjoying ourselves. I think we'll be alright. It's early."

Velasquez, meanwhile, followed up his 16-strikeout, no-walk shutout – one of 10 such games in the last 103 years – with a bit of a clunker.

Again, his defense and offense were not kind. But twice Velasquez had a hitter buried in an 0-2 count and twice he served up a crushing home run on a curveball. Two swings resulted in five runs for the Mets in the game's first three innings. 

Mackanin didn't have an issue with pitch selection, but ...

"They were just kind of lazy spinners," Mackanin said. "They didn’t have a lot of bite to them."


"Looking at the video, Cespedes was just waiting for it," Velasquez said. "It’s bad on my part, bad pitching, bad execution. I take full responsibility for that. ... You’ve got to finish. I’ve done it befoe, numerous times. It wasn't just the 16-strikeout (game) or the nine strikeouts (in his first start of season in New York). I did it all through spring. It’s one of those things where you’ve got to finish the at-bat. No matter what pitch it is."

Oh, and, Velasquez says he's healthy. Which might be an odd thing to even talk about ... if it wasn't for that weird grabby thing he did before he threw his last pitch and Mackanin came out to get him in the middle of the fifth inning.

It looked like Velasquez stretched his left, non-throwing arm and grabbed at his left side.

"No, I'm fine," he said in quick, dismissive fashion when asked about it after the game.

He was pressed about it again later. Apparently he had a stomach illness on Monday.

"I’m good," he said. "I’m fine. ... Just threw my arm up or something, you know. Frustration, you want to throw your glove down."

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21