Instant Replay: Mets 5, Phillies 4

Instant Replay: Mets 5, Phillies 4

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Maikel Franco made things interesting with a two-out, sixth-inning grand slam, but the Phillies fell just short in their series finale against the Mets.

The Mets won, 5-4, to sweep the series. One of the wins was by 10 runs; the other two were one-run games.

Franco led off the ninth inning with a single but the Phillies couldn't get the tying run past first base.

The Mets scored all of their runs Wednesday night off Vince Velasquez, who again labored and had a quick exit.

The Phillies are 3-6 and have an off day Thursday before heading to D.C. The Mets are 6-3.

Starting pitching report
Velasquez allowed one run in the first and another in the third, but the real turning point for him was the fifth inning. He hit Travis d'Arnaud with a pitch to begin the frame and then walked pitcher Zack Wheeler to put two men on base with no outs for the potent top of the Mets' order.

Wheeler was trying to bunt and popped one up, but home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt inadvertently blocked catcher Cameron Rupp's path to the ball. Velasquez walked Wheeler, walked Michael Conforto to load the bases and gave up three runs in the inning to give the Mets a comfortable lead that held up.

Velasquez has pitched only nine innings in two starts and thrown 194 pitches. He's 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA.

Wheeler, making just his second start since 2014, cruised through five innings before getting pulled with two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth. The grand slam Hansel Robles allowed to Franco muddied Wheeler's line -- he ended up allowing three runs over 5 2/3 innings while striking out four.

Still, his outing had to make the Mets feel good. Wheeler missed all of 2015 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and his comeback attempt in 2016 lasted all of one rehab start before he was shut down.

Bullpen report
The Phillies got scoreless innings from Luis Garcia (recalled earlier in the day from Triple A to take Adam Morgan's place), Pat Neshek, Hector Neris and Joaquin Benoit.

Neshek, Neris and Benoit have combined so far this season to pitch 12 scoreless innings with 15 strikeouts.

At the plate
Franco's grand slam was the second of his career. It went to the deepest part of the park in left-center field. 

Franco is hot after a slow start. Over his last five games, he's 6 for 17 with two homers, a double, eight RBIs and three walks.

Cesar Hernandez had another multi-hit game, his fourth, and is hitting .308/.357/.513.

Michael Conforto led off for the Mets and set the tone, singling and scoring in the first, hitting a solo homer in the third and walking and scoring in the fifth. He's 4 for 7 off Velasquez with two home runs.

Yoenis Cespedes didn't hit three homers, but the Phillies still struggled with him. Cespedes doubled in a run in the first and hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth.

Up next
The Phillies are off Thursday before playing three games this weekend at Nationals Park. From there, they have an off day Monday before playing three with the Mets at Citi Field.

The schedule-makers did no favors for the Phils, who will have played 12 of their first 15 games against the Nats and Mets.

Pitching matchups this weekend:

Friday at 4:05: Aaron Nola (1-0, 4.50) vs. Stephen Strasburg (1-0, 3.21)
Saturday at 1:05: Jeremy Hellickson (1-0, 0.90) vs. Tanner Roark (2-0, 4.09)
Sunday at 1:35: Jerad Eickhoff (0-1, 1.98) vs. Gio Gonzalez (1-0, 0.69)

At least they miss Max Scherzer.

Phillies-Diamondbacks 5 things: Erratic Hellickson facing his former team

Phillies-Diamondbacks 5 things: Erratic Hellickson facing his former team

Phillies (24-49) at Diamondbacks (47-28)
4:10 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

After Friday's victory, the Phillies couldn't keep the good times rolling, losing 9-2 to the Diamondbacks on Saturday night. Jeremy Hellickson will take on his former team in Game 3 of the four-game set, opposing spot starter Randall Delgado.

Here are five things to know for Sunday afternoon:

1. Hellickson vs. his former 'mates
A year after he was traded by his original franchise, the Tampa Bay Rays, Hellickson was dealt by the D-backs on Nov. 14, 2015 to the Phillies for minor leaguer Sam McWilliams. 

McWilliams is a 21-year-old righty in Single A for the D-backs right now, but his value is basically a bonus for Arizona: Hellickson was basically salary dumped on the Phillies, who bought low on the veteran righty.

While the 30-year-old lost his only start against Arizona last season, he went seven innings while allowing just three runs. And he provided a fair amount of value to the Phillies, pitching to a 3.71 ERA over 189 innings. 

He leads the team with 15 starts this season, but he hasn't lived up to the promise of last season nor the qualifying offer he signed in the offseason. He has a 4.61 ERA and has allowed 16 home runs in 84 innings, all while watching his strikeout rate dwindle to a career-low. 

Hellickson is actually coming off one of his better starts this year. He allowed just one run to the Cardinals in seven innings, even striking out four batters. He left with the game tied, but the Phillies' bullpen surrendered seven runs in a loss. The veteran righty hasn't won a start since May 19.

Hellickson has relatively good numbers against the current Diamondbacks squad, buoyed by a 1 for 11 mark from backup catcher Jeff Mathis. Paul Goldschmidt is 0 for 2 with three walks and a HBP against him, while Jake Lamb is 2 for 3 with a home run.

2. Randall on the spot
Delgado has seen his role on the D-backs staff flip-flop over the last month. He's moved from the bullpen to the rotation back to the bullpen.

And now he's back in the rotation. 

Delgado is making a spot start to keep the pitching staff fresh in the middle of a stretch where the team plays 13 games in 13 nights. He's not unfamiliar to starting, having worked in the Braves' rotation to begin his career. However, he started just once in the 2015 and 2016 seasons combined before making four starts this season. 

In his four starts, he was 0-1 with a 3.15 ERA over 20 innings, striking out 20. He threw just 25 pitches in his last appearance, which came in a two-inning relief appearance on June 21. He was stretched out to more than 90 pitches as a starter, but he will be 16 days removed from his last start. Therefore, the D-backs' bullpen will be on notice.

Delgado hasn't started against the Phillies since 2013 and holds a 3.29 ERA over 27 1/3 innings in nine total appearances against them. No current Phillie has faced him more than six times with Howie Kendrick going 0 for 5 with a walk against the righty. Maikel Franco is 3 for 3 with two home runs and a double.

3. The road ahead
Sunday's contest will be just the third game of a nine-game road trip for the Phillies. On Monday, they play the wraparound series finale against the D-backs and their ace, Zack Greinke, before traveling to Seattle for a two-game series.

The Phillies haven't played at Safeco Field since June 17-19, 2011. In that three-game set, the Phils lost two of three. The winning pitchers for the Mariners in that series, Michael Pineda and Jason Vargas, have been solid this season in the American League, albeit for the Yankees and Royals respectively. 

After the quick two-game set, the Phillies will play three games at Citi Field before returning home. The Phillies are 2-4 against the Mets, who they haven't faced since April. The Mets are just 33-41 this season and could field an All-Star team with their disabled list. 

Once the road trip ends, the Phillies play a pair of lackluster teams in the Pirates and Padres for seven games at Citizens Bank Park before the All-Star break. The Pirates are 35-40 while the Padres are 31-44. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies
: Freddy Galvis has picked up at least two hits for the fourth straight game. The switch-hitting shortstop has gone 9 for 18 with three doubles, one triple and a homer during that stretch.

Diamondbacks: After going 1 for 4 with a walk and a run scored on Saturday, Paul Goldschmidt is batting .331/.448/.610 on the season. That line has All-Star written all over it.

5. This and that
• Ben Lively became the first Phillies pitcher to hit a home run since Chad Billingsley vs. the Mets in 2015. Bet you didn't expect a Billingsley reference in these game notes!

• Saturday was the Phillies' first loss at Chase Field since Aug. 11, 2015. The starter for the D-backs in that game? Jeremy Hellickson.

• Going into Saturday, the Diamondbacks rotation led all of baseball with 9.5 Wins Above Replacement and a 3.51 ERA. 

Ben Lively hits 1st rough patch as Phillies downed in desert by D-backs

Ben Lively hits 1st rough patch as Phillies downed in desert by D-backs

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PHOENIX -- Entering Saturday night's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Phillies had won two straight games on the strength of a pair of good starts by Aaron Nola and Mark Leiter Jr.
 
Those two outings affirmed the age-old reality that even a bad team has a shot to win if it gets good pitching.
 
Ben Lively couldn't keep the streak of good starts going. He was tagged for seven hits and five runs over 5 1/3 innings in a 9-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks (see Instant Replay).
 
The bullpen work was also spotty. Hoby Milner, Edubray Ramos and Adam Morgan allowed a combined eight baserunners and four runs over 2 2/3 innings.
 
"You pitch better," manager Pete Mackanin said when asked if there could have been a way to hold down the Diamondbacks' powerful offense. "That's basically it. Our guy pitched great yesterday. We had some good pitching in that game. Today, not so much."
 
The Diamondbacks improved to 27-10 at home while the Phillies fell to 10-29 on the road and 24-49 overall.
 
Arizona lefty Robbie Ray and three relievers held the Phillies to two runs on the night. Both of them came on one swing by Lively. Yes, the pitcher provided all of the Phillies' offense. Lively clubbed his first career homer, a two-run shot, on a first-pitch, 95-mph fastball from Ray with two outs in the fourth inning.
 
"My first at-bat, he threw fastballs right by me and I was like, 'Dang, that's pretty firm,' " Lively said. "The next at-bat they gave me the go-ahead on the first pitch and it was right there."
 
Lively lined the pitch over the wall in right-center to give the Phils a 2-1 lead.
 
As it turned out, the homer may have hurt Lively as much as it helped him.
 
"I was pretty pumped up about that and I kind of stayed a little too pumped up," he said.
 
He lost the lead in the fourth, giving up a run after allowing two straight hits to open the inning. He allowed two more hits and a run in the fifth then was tagged for two more in the sixth, one on a leadoff homer by Jake Lamb.
 
"I just kind of let it get away from me," Lively said. "I was squeezed down in the zone. That kind of got me a little more, I wouldn't say frustrated, but I just got going, going, going and kind of let the speed of the game get to me. I usually don't let that happen. I made some bad pitches.
 
"I can't pitch like that. I was making terrible pitches. I was grabbing the ball and going. I wasn’t even thinking. You can't do that up here."
 
Lively had begun his major-league career with four straight quality starts before this outing.
 
"Arizona has a good hitting team," Mackanin said. "He made a few mistakes. He'd been doing well for us. But today wasn't his best outing."
 
Ray pitched 6 1/3 innings for his eighth win. He is 6-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his last seven starts.
 
The game featured some good and bad Phillies' defense. Third baseman Maikel Franco made two fielding gems, but centerfielder Odubel Herrera was charged with an error when he dropped a ball at the warning track in the second. It led to an unearned run behind Lively.
 
"The only thing I can think about talking about was Lively's two-run homer run and two great plays by Franco," Mackanin said.
 
Mackanin was right. There wasn't much worth talking about after this one. That has been the case too many times in this long, losing season. Maybe Sunday will offer something more.