Instant Replay: Mets 5, Phillies 4

Instant Replay: Mets 5, Phillies 4

BOX SCORE

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 Notes: A setback for Aaron Nola? Howie Kendrick an option at first base?

Phillies Notes: A setback for Aaron Nola? Howie Kendrick an option at first base?

LOS ANGELES — Aaron Nola is eligible to come off the disabled list on Monday, but that's not going to happen.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin on Saturday indicated that the pitcher's recovery from a lower back strain was not going as smoothly as hoped.

Did Nola experience a setback?

"If you want to call it that," Mackanin said.

Nola threw a bullpen session on Friday and, according to Mackanin, did not bounce back as well as hoped.

"After he completed it, he had some symptoms, some soreness or tightness, I guess," Mackanin said. "It was decided he will not make his start on Monday. He will be reevaluated to determine his next bullpen.

"A couple of days ago he said he felt great and then [Friday] not so great. He's improving but he's not 100 percent. There's something bugging him. We're just going to take it day to day. We're being cautious with him this early in the season."

Nola experienced soreness in his lower back after his last start, April 20 against the Mets. The Phils have been filling the opening on their pitching staff with reliever Mark Leiter Jr. Nick Pivetta will be activated on Sunday and make his major-league debut with a start against the Dodgers.

Kendrick works at first base
First baseman Tommy Joseph and catcher Cameron Rupp, both hitting under .200, were not in the starting lineup on Saturday night as Mackanin went heavy on lefty hitters against Dodgers' righty Brandon McCarthy.

Mackanin stressed that he doesn't like to make judgments on hitters until they get around the 100 at-bat mark — Joseph has 63; Rupp 50 — but it's worth noting that first baseman Rhys Hoskins and catcher Jorge Alfaro are both off to hot starts at Triple A and could be eventual replacements if the club looks for more production.

There also could be another option brewing at first base.

Howie Kendrick has worked at first base during batting practice the last two days. On Friday, he merely tracked balls off the bat and worked on first-step breaks. He did so with a regular fielder's glove.

But on Saturday, Kendrick brought his first baseman's mitt to the field. He took some groundballs and throws from across the diamond.

This stuff doesn't happen just by accident.

Over an 11-season career, Kendrick has played in 89 games at first base. He opened the season as the Phillies' leftfielder and hit .333 (13 for 39) with an .883 OPS before suffering an oblique injury two weeks ago in Washington. Kendrick probably needs at least another week of recovery time before coming off the disabled list, but it's now reasonable to wonder if he will go back to left field or get time at first base when he returns. Using Kendrick at first would allow the Phillies to keep Aaron Altherr's bat in the lineup in left field.

Joseph can have a say in all this if he gets his bat going. He is hitting .190 (12 for 63) with just a .505 OPS.

Last May, it was Joseph who earned his way to the majors after his hot start in Triple A coincided with Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf struggling in the majors. Joseph got 347 plate appearances in the majors last season and hit .257 with 21 homers, 47 RBIs and a .813 OPS.

Tonight's lineup: Struggling Tommy Joseph, Cameron Rupp sit

Tonight's lineup: Struggling Tommy Joseph, Cameron Rupp sit

Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp, both struggling mightily through the first month of the season, will get Saturday night off when the Phillies take on the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

Joseph is hitting .190 with one homer and 18 strikeouts in 18 games, while Rupp is batting .180 with one homer and 20 strikeouts through 15 games. Last season, Joseph had 21 home runs and Rupp 16.

Brock Stassi will spell Joseph at first base and bat seventh. Andrew Knapp takes over for Rupp behind the plate and will bat eighth.

Daniel Nava also receives a start, playing left field. The first-year Phillie is hitting .346 with a pair of homers and as many walks as strikeouts (seven).

Zach Eflin takes the mound in a meaningful start for the right-hander (see story). He opposes resurgent Dodgers righty Brandon McCarthy (see game notes).

Here are tonight's lineups:

Phillies
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Michael Saunders, RF
6. Daniel Nava, LF
7. Brock Stassi, 1B
8. Andrew Knapp, C
9. Zach Eflin, P

Dodgers
1. Andrew Toles, CF
2. Corey Seager, SS
3. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
4. Yasmani Grandal, C
5. Yasiel Puig, RF
6. Cody Bellinger, LF
7. Chase Utley, 2B
8. Chris Taylor, 3B
9. Brandon McCarthy, P