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 CSNPhilly.com 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.

Larry Bowa on Jim Bunning: His words 'resonated throughout my career'

Larry Bowa on Jim Bunning: His words 'resonated throughout my career'

Beyond the center field wall at Citizens Bank Park, retired Phillies uniform No. 14 was draped in black cloth on Saturday afternoon.
 
Jim Bunning, who wore that number during six seasons with the club, died late Friday night at his home in Kentucky. The Hall of Fame pitcher, who went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, was 85.
 
Bunning was a workhorse right-hander who pitched with smarts and competitiveness during his 17 seasons in the majors. He also pitched with the Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers. He averaged 35 starts and won 89 games during his six seasons with the Phillies. He also authored one of the most iconic moments in club history when he pitched the franchise's first perfect game on a searing hot Father's Day in 1964 against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium.
 
Talking about a perfect game as it is unfolding is considered baseball taboo. To mention it is to risk jinxing it. But Bunning broke tradition and in the late innings of that game talked openly with teammates in the dugout about the possibility of finishing off the feat.
 
"Jim Bunning was way too practical of a man to worry about a jinx," former teammate Rick Wise once said. Wise pitched the second game of that Father's Day doubleheader. It started 20 minutes after Bunning completed his perfecto and Wise had trouble finding a ball and a catcher to warm him up because everyone was busy celebrating the perfect game.
 
Bunning went 224-184 with a 3.27 ERA in 591 career games. He led the American League with 20 wins in 1957. He led the league in innings twice and strikeouts three times. He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1996 and went into Cooperstown as a Phillie.
 
Bunning had two tours with the Phillies, 1964-67 and 1970-71, and was a straight-laced competitor who expected effort and excellence from his teammates. During his second time through Philadelphia, as he was nearing the end of his career, he was a teammate of a young shortstop named Larry Bowa.
 
"I remember him coming up to me and saying, ‘Don’t ever, ever lose your energy. I don’t want to turn around and see your head dropping because you’re 0 for 3,’" Bowa recalled Saturday. "He said, ‘I don’t ever want to see that.’ He said, ‘You’ve got to be accountable. You’ve got to play with energy. You’ve got to play every inning of every game.
 
"I made an error one day and he turned around — I didn’t even want to make eye contact with him — he turned around and he was rubbing the ball and looked at me and I went, 'Yeah, I know I should have caught it.' He was just that intense."
 
Bunning had a mean streak on the mound. He led the league in hit batsman four times.
 
Bowa recalled the time Ron Hunt — a notorious plunkee — did not get out of the way of a Bunning breaking ball. As Hunt ran to first base, Bunning admonished him.
 
"He went over and said, 'Ron, if you want to get hit, I’ll hit you next time and it won’t be a breaking ball.' That’s what kind of competitor he was."
 
Bunning suffered a stroke last year.
 
"I knew he had been sick," Bowa said. "Tremendous, tremendous person who taught me a lot about the game in a short time.
 
"He always gave me good advice. He talked about self-evaluation with me all the time. He said you’ve got to be accountable in this game, no one gives you anything in this game. I never had a pitcher mentor me like he did. In spring training, he told me, ‘Keep your mouth shut and your eyes and ears open.’ It was that simple. I said, ‘Yes, sir.’
 
"When a guy like that takes the time with someone who is just starting, it’s, I mean, it resonated throughout my career."

MLB Notes: Tigers place 2B Ian Kinsler on 10-day disabled list

MLB Notes: Tigers place 2B Ian Kinsler on 10-day disabled list

CHICAGO -- The Detroit Tigers placed Ian Kinsler on the 10-day disabled list because of a strained left hamstring ahead of their doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox on Saturday.

Outfielder JaCoby Jones was recalled from Triple A Toledo to fill the roster spot. He was scheduled to start the first game of the twin bill in center field.

Kinsler sat out five games because of the same injury this month. He has a .239 batting average, four home runs and 11 RBIs in 41 games this season.

Also, the Tigers acquired the contract of pitcher Arcenio Leon and Chad Bell was optioned to Toledo. Bell pitched 2 1/3 innings on Friday. Pitcher William Cuevas was designated for assignment.

Leon spent the 2016 season in the Mexican League before signing as minor league free agent last winter. He'd be making his major league debut.

Indians: Ace starter Corey Kluber expected to rejoin rotation next week
CLEVELAND -- Corey Kluber, sidelined most of the month with a strained lower back, is expected to rejoin the Cleveland Indians rotation on Thursday against Oakland.

Cleveland's ace right-hander hasn't pitched since May 2 when he left his start against Detroit after three innings. He threw five scoreless innings for Double-A Akron on a minor league rehab assignment Friday.

Kluber is 3-2 with a 5.06 ERA in six starts. He pitched 249 1/3 innings last season, including 34 1/3 in the playoffs. Kluber also pitched on three days rest three times during the postseason, two coming against the Chicago Cubs in the World Series.

Kluber was 18-9 with a 3.14 ERA and two shutouts in the regular season and went 4-1 with a 1.83 ERA in six playoff starts. He won the AL Cy Young Award in 2014 and was third in the voting last season.

Indians manager Terry Francona didn't say whose spot Kluber will take in the rotation.

Padres: OF Manuel Margot placed on 10-day DL with calf strain
WASHINGTON -- The San Diego Padres placed Manuel Margot on the 10-day disabled list with a strained right calf before Saturday's game against the Washington Nationals.

The centerfielder left Wednesday's game with calf soreness. He was in a walking boot ahead of Friday's series opener.

Second on the team in at-bats, the 22-year-old Margot is batting .259 with four home runs and 13 RBIs.

"He's just sore right now," Padres manager Andy Green said. "He'll take off four-to-five days and keep the workload really minimum. After that, see how he progresses."

Outfielder Franchy Cordero was called up from Triple-A El Paso for his major league debut. He is expected to start Sunday and receive much of the playing time in center field.