Phillies-Mets 5 things: Thriving top-of-order faces deGrom; swaggy Cespedes

Phillies-Mets 5 things: Thriving top-of-order faces deGrom; swaggy Cespedes

Phillies (3-3) vs. Mets (3-3)
7:05 p.m. on TCN; streaming live on and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies over the weekend won an April series against the Nationals for the second straight year, taking two of three behind an unforgettable offensive display Saturday and a dramatic, sigh-of-relief walk-off win Sunday.

Every NL East team except the Braves (1-5) has begun the season 3-3.

The Phillies welcome in the other division heavyweight this week, beginning a three-game series Monday against the Mets.

Let's have a look:

1. New week, new closer?
Pete Mackanin will announce today who the Phillies are moving forward with in the ninth inning.

Jeanmar Gomez had an ugly outing Sunday, blowing a three-run save by allowing a mammoth blast by Ryan Zimmerman. It was the second homer Gomez has allowed already in three appearances. Going back to last September, he's given up 10 extra-base hits in 66 plate appearances -- scary numbers for a closer.

Through the All-Star break last season, Gomez had 24 saves, a 2.59 ERA and his opponents hit .237/.283/.355.

Since that point, Gomez has a 9.00 ERA in 30 innings and his opponents have hit .356/.418/.534.

The candidates to replace Gomez as closer are Hector Neris, Joaquin Benoit and Edubray Ramos. The thought here is that it should be Benoit -- Neris is the best of the bunch but he's also extremely valuable as a setup man. Sunday was a perfect example: Neris came into a seventh-inning jam, picked up a huge third out, then retired the top of the Nationals' order in the eighth.

2. Top of the order getting it done
Optimists looked at the Phillies' 1-2-3 of Cesar Hernandez, Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera and saw three hitters capable of hitting .290 or better and two guys in Hernandez and Herrera who can post .360-plus on-base percentages.

So far, all three have hit. 

Hernandez is 7 for 26 (.269) in the early going with two doubles, a triple, a homer, two walks and a walk-off hit.

Kendrick is 9 for 21 with three doubles, a triple and five RBIs. 

And Herrera has a hit in every game, going 8 for 22 with five walks. His 13 times on base ranks second in the National League behind only Paul Goldschmidt (14).

3. Eye-cough
Jerad Eickhoff, a 6-foot-4 model of consistency if ever there was one, makes his second start tonight against a good Mets team.

Eickhoff allowed two runs in 6 2/3 innings last week in Cincinnati. The Phillies, as they're prone to do, didn't help him offensively and he took the loss.

Eickhoff has faced the Mets in seven of his 42 career starts. He's pitched well, posting a 2.66 ERA in those games with a 1.00 WHIP and 43 strikeouts in 44 innings, numbers that mean more than the 1-4 record.

Current Mets have hit just .218 with a .279 OBP against Eickhoff. Only Michael Conforto (5 for 14, two doubles and a homer) and Asdrubal Cabrera (4 for 9) have had success.

Yoenis Cespedes is 2 for 12 off him, Curtis Granderson is 2 for 15 and Neil Walker is 1 for 8.

4. Another tough righty
The Phillies missed Noah Syndergaard, who pitched Sunday night, but they draw Jacob deGrom tonight and Matt Harvey tomorrow. That means that in the span of five games, they'll have faced Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, deGrom and Harvey. 

What a joy the NL East is.

First up is deGrom (can you start a sentence with a lower-case letter?), who allowed two hits in six shutout innings last week against the Braves in a no-decision.

Syndergaard gets most of the headlines because of his 99 mph fastball and the fact that he looks like he was created in a lab somewhere, but deGrom has been every bit as good since debuting in 2014. In 77 starts, deGrom has a 2.71 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP, 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings and 2.2 walks.

The 28-year-old deGrom has faced the Phillies seven times and never lost, going 4-0 with a 2.42 ERA. The Phils have hit .188 off him in three games at Citizens Bank Park.

I remember deGrom's first year, his first start against the Phils, just thinking, "This guy is going to be really damn good."

Maybe it was the classic, wiry frame for a pitcher. Maybe it was the hair. Maybe it was the 11 strikeouts. It was probably the 11 strikeouts.

He has a five-pitch mix that includes a 94 to 96 mph fastball, a sinker at nearly the same velocity, an 89 mph slider, a changeup in the mid-80s and a curveball around 80. DeGrom gets swings and misses with all of them.

5. This and that
• ESPN did a hilarious segment last night on all the gear Cespedes wears at the plate. It's completely ridiculous -- lime green arm band, elbow pads, knee pads, foot pads, multiple chains. It looks like it must take him 15 minutes to get ready for an at-bat. Swaggiest player in the majors?

• Jose Reyes (1 for 23, seven strikeouts) is a shell of the player he used to be. He's been playing third base every day for the Mets. 

• David Wright suffered a setback getting ready for the season and it's unclear whether he'll play or not this season. As much as he kills the Phillies, it'a shame to see such a competitor have his career derailed by injuries.

Frustration mounts — in manager's office and in clubhouse — over Odubel Herrera's antics

Frustration mounts — in manager's office and in clubhouse — over Odubel Herrera's antics


Phillies manager Pete Mackanin favors using honey over vinegar when trying to teach enigmatic Odubel Herrera the right way to play the game.

But even Patient Pete has his limits.

So when Herrera did not run out a dropped third strike in the sixth inning of Tuesday night's 5-0 loss to the Houston Astros at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay), Mackanin yanked him from the game as part of a double switch, a remarkable move considering Herrera has been the club's best hitter, batting .331 (58 for 175) since June 1.

"It had something to do with it," Mackanin admitted. "I'm going to talk to him tomorrow."

Herrera knows well the way to Mackanin's office. He's been called in front of the principal a number of times this season for transgressions that range from looking completely disinterested during some at-bats, to boneheaded base-running plays, to general lack of hustle. On one occasion, Mackanin fined Herrera for completely ignoring an order not to steal a base. Herrera decided to go anyway and was thrown out in a close game.

Herrera's antics have been noticed in the other dugout and in his own clubhouse. He lined a ball to the wall in the first inning Tuesday night and Astros centerfielder Derek Fisher made a nice running catch. Herrera had clearly assumed the ball would hit off the wall because he flipped his bat and did not run hard out of the box. After Fisher made the catch, players in the Houston dugout mocked Herrera's gaudy bat flip and later in the game Astros pitcher Charlie Morton threw one up and in on Herrera. Coincidence? Who knows?

Herrera was the Phillies' best offensive player during his first two seasons in the majors, hitting .291 with a .773 OPS in 2015-2016. Last winter, management rewarded the 25-year-old centerfielder with a five-year, $30.5 million contract extension. The move identified Herrera as a building block as he is the only player on the roster with a long-term deal.

Herrera was aware that his being pulled from the game was a topic of discussion in Mackanin's postgame news conference, but he did not stick around to speak with reporters.

Catcher Cameron Rupp did speak with reporters and he admitted that Herrera's misdeeds have been noticed in the clubhouse.

"It’s not a secret. It’s talked about," Rupp said. "If you guys are seeing it, we are seeing it. It is what it is. We can say it to him, Pete has said it to him. It’s no secret and when you don’t do it, you put Pete in that position to do what he did.

"Pete is the manager and what he asks us to do, we’re supposed to do. It’s a team thing and one guy can’t just not follow the rules. It’s not the first time. It has happened before and that’s something we don’t want to see. We want him in the game. He’s a good player. Pete doesn’t ask a whole lot of us. He asks us to play the game hard and play the game the right way. Guys are going to make physical mistakes. Mental mistakes are something you can control.

"Yeah, it’s frustrating. There is no doubt about it. But it’s something he asks us to do and we have to do it."

Rupp mentioned that some teammates, including Freddy Galvis, have spoken to Herrera about his flaws. Galvis, like Herrera, hails from Venezuela.

"At the end of the day, it is him that has to do it, not anybody else," Rupp said. "It's hard for us. He’s a grown man. He has to learn on his own. We can only say so much. Guys have said things. I know Freddy has talked to him. Juan Samuel has. The language barrier is there, but you have the Latin guys who can tell him. He understands enough English. But it’s something only he can control. We can only do so much."

The Phillies have lost two nights in a row to Houston, a team with a powerhouse offense and the second-best record in the majors at 67-33. On Tuesday night, the right-hander Morton held the Phils to three hits over seven shutout innings. He struck out nine. Why can't the Phillies get pitchers like that?

Rookie right-hander Nick Pivetta pitched well against a tough lineup for five innings, but he gave up five hits and four runs in the sixth inning as the game got away from him.

It will be interesting to see what comes out of the latest meeting between Mackanin and Herrera on Wednesday afternoon. Will Mackanin continue to employ a nurturing touch as he tries to coax the behavior he's looking for from Herrera? Will Herrera be benched for the series finale Wednesday night?

"I have to keep having conversations with him, that's all," Mackanin said. "He's a different kind of guy. I just have to keep him pointed in the right direction.

"Odubel does a lot for us. He's just a different character. We have to deal with him in a certain way. I'll have a nice talk with him tomorrow. He's going to be fine. He's been doing very well in that regard for the last month or so. But he just needs a reminder. He's in a development stage, as well."

Best of MLB: Todd Frazier hits into rare run-scoring triple play in Yankees' win

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Best of MLB: Todd Frazier hits into rare run-scoring triple play in Yankees' win

NEW YORK -- Todd Frazier had an unforgettable first at-bat in his home debut at Yankee Stadium, grounding into a rare run-scoring triple play as New York beat the Cincinnati Reds 4-2 Tuesday night.

Rookie Jordan Montgomery took a no-hit try into the sixth inning, and Didi Gregorius homered to boost the AL East contenders, his third in two games.

Last-place Cincinnati lost for the 10th time in 12 games. Billy Hamilton's bid for a tying extra-base hit in the eighth was thwarted when pinch-runner Zack Cozart, out of the starting lineup to rest his tender quadriceps, hobbled into third.

Back in the Bronx for the first time since the All-Star break, the Yankees brought along Frazier and relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle, all acquired last week in a trade with the Chicago White Sox (see full recap).

Contreras, Cubs stay hot with win over White Sox
CHICAGO -- Willson Contreras drove in four runs and Carl Edwards Jr. provided some timely relief, helping the Chicago Cubs beat the Chicago White Sox 7-2 on Tuesday.

Ben Zobrist reached four times from the leadoff spot as the Cubs won for the ninth time in 11 games since the All-Star break. John Lackey (7-9) became the first major leaguer to hit four batters in two years, but managed to get into the sixth inning for his second straight victory.

The last-place White Sox were unable to overcome a strange performance by Carlos Rodon (1-4) in their 10th loss in 11 games. The left-hander matched a career high with 11 strikeouts and smacked a two-run double for his first career hit, but lasted just four innings in his third straight loss (see full recap).

Rays hold off Orioles to snap 5-game skid
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Tim Beckham's three-run homer capped a five-run inning for Tampa Bay and rookie Jake Faria pitched into the eighth inning Tuesday night to help the Rays snap a five-game losing streak with a 5-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles.

Faria (5-1) posted his eighth quality start in nine starts, giving up three runs and seven hits while striking out five in 7 1/3 innings.

Alex Colome pitched the ninth for his 29th save after the Orioles got the potential tying run in scoring position in each of the last two innings.

Beckham's 12th home run was the fifth hit of the second inning off Wade Miley (4-9). Steven Souza Jr., Brad Miller, Adeiny Hechavarria and Mallex Smith all singled and scored in the Rays' big inning.

Trey Mancini homered for the Orioles (see full recap).