Vince Velasquez, Phillies stomach tough loss to Jay Bruce, Mets

Vince Velasquez, Phillies stomach tough loss to Jay Bruce, Mets

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NEW YORK -- Jay Bruce and Bryce Harper are not the same guy. 

Or maybe they are.

On Sunday, the Phillies were beaten up by Harper, who smashed a two-run home run and a three-run home run to lift the Washington Nationals to victory.

Three nights later, and a few hours up I-95, Bruce did the same thing Wednesday. He clubbed a three-run homer and a two-run homer to account for all of the New York Mets' runs in a 5-4 win over the Phillies (see Instant Replay).

The Phillies' fourth loss in five games this season to the Mets was tough to swallow for a few reasons.

First, the Phillies continued to show late-inning moxie. They tied the game with a run in the eighth inning on a double by Aaron Altherr, a ground out by Odubel Herrera and a two-out hit by Michael Saunders. It was the sixth run that they have scored in the eighth inning of the last four games. Three times they've tied the game and once they've taken the lead.

The tie didn't last long as Edubray Ramos gave up a leadoff single to Yoenis Cespedes in the eighth. That was followed by Bruce's killer two-run homer on a 94-mph fastball.

The second reason this one was tough to swallow was that the Phils' offense -- or lack of -- is giving this club no margin for error. Maikel Franco, the team's No. 4 hitter, and Tommy Joseph, the No. 6 hitter, both went hitless in four at-bats. They are among three regulars (along with Cameron Rupp) hitting under .200.

Franco is 0 for his last 21. He did have an RBI ground out early in the game, but left five runners on base. He is hitting .148 and could be in line for a night off Thursday with hard-throwing Noah Syndergaard on the mound for the Mets in the series finale.

"We'd like to score more runs," manager Pete Mackanin lamented.

The final reason that this loss was tough to swallow was that the Phils got a pretty good start from Vince Velasquez, the hard-throwing, electric-armed right-hander who could really help this rebuild if he can harness his potential and develop into a consistent contributor.

"Vinny really pitched well for the first five innings," Mackanin said. "He had them off balance. He was changing speeds. Great changeup. Hitting locations. It looked like he was cruising."

He was cruising.

Until the sixth inning.

Vinny Velo turned in 1-2-3 innings in the third, fourth and fifth innings. He took a shutout into the sixth inning and that's where the walls came tumbling down. He allowed four hits and a walk in the inning and the Mets took the lead on Bruce's first homer of the night, a three-run shot to right with two outs. Three of the hits and the walk that Velasquez gave up in that sixth inning came with two outs, so he was begging for trouble, and, of course, he found it when he hung a first-pitch changeup to Bruce. Before Bruce came to the plate, Velasquez allowed a two-out single to Asdrubal Cabrera and a walk to Yoenis Cespedes.

"Coming right out of the gate, I had full control of everything," said Velasquez, who was tagged for five hits and five runs in five innings against the Mets in his previous start. "I felt more relaxed. Bruce is just a mistake hitter. You make one mistake and he can turn it around. I know not to do that again. That could've been eliminated if I got out Cabrera or could have gotten out Cespedes without walking him. Again, that's on my part."

Velasquez did take some positives from the outing.

"I made some adjustments," he said. "I'm not happy with the outcome, but I'm kind of happy with my performance.

"It was just a matter of being in control, not trying to do too much, not trying to be a powerful pitcher, just being in control of my situation. I tried to get ahead of the guys and put them away. I got some groundballs on two-seamers. There were a lot of hard-hit balls that were outs, too. But, again, I'm pretty comfortable with the performance. There's more work to be done. I'm not going to get complacent."

Bruce has six home runs on the season and four are against the Phillies. He has hit safely in his last 10 games against the Phils and is hitting .471 (16 for 34) with six homers and 15 RBIs in those games.

Since the start of the 2015 season, the Mets have out-homered the Phils 81-35.

Aaron Nola pitches on Thursday night.

He'd be wise to keep the ball down.

Phillies held to 3 hits again, pounded by Rockies in return home

Phillies held to 3 hits again, pounded by Rockies in return home

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The loudest noise made by the Phillies' offense on Monday night was the thud -- clearly audible above the small crowd -- that Odubel Herrera created when he smashed his batting helmet on the dirt infield after grounding out to third base to end the seventh inning.

Herrera's frustration spoke for an entire team. The Phillies were hammered, 8-1, by the Colorado Rockies (see Instant Replay). They were out-hit, 13-3. The loss was the Phils' 18th in the last 22 games and they have been outscored 126-89 over that span.

The loss left the Phils at 15-27 for the season, matching their worst 42-game start since 2000 when they finished 65-97 in front of tiny crowds at Veterans Stadium in Terry Francona's last season as skipper.

Over the last two games, both losses, the Phils have just six hits.

"Three hits today, three hits yesterday," manager Pete Mackanin said. "You're not going to win a lot of games getting three hits."

Aaron Altherr had two of the Phillies' hits, both doubles against Colorado rookie Jeff Hoffman, who was very impressive with seven walk-free innings and seven strikeouts.

Herrera went hitless in three at-bats and is hitting just .200 in the month of May and .232 overall -- not what the front office expected when it signed him to a five-year, $30.5 million contract extension in the offseason.

"It's very frustrating because I feel like I am being selective and waiting for my pitch, but when I make contact things don't happen," Herrera said. "I feel like I'm swinging the bat well, but I'm just missing."

Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff gave up nine hits, seven of which were singles, and four runs over six innings. Four of the hits that Eickhoff allowed came in the third inning when the Rockies scored three times. Two of the runs scored on a flare double and the other on a groundball through a drawn-in infield.

"I executed a lot of good pitches," Eickhoff said. "I got a lot of the contact I wanted. The ball just didn't land in the gloves."

Eickhoff did not walk a batter. He struck out four.

Despite being 0-5 with a 4.70 ERA in nine starts, the right-hander believes he has made strides his last two outings. He gave up three runs (two earned) over six innings in his previous outing at Texas. Prior to that start, he worked on fixing a mechanical flaw in his delivery.

"These past two have been night-and-day different," he said. "I felt great today in and in Texas and I'm going to keep that positivity going."

Finding other things to be positive about with this team is becoming difficult.

This Phillies team was not expected to contend; it is still in a rebuild. But things weren't supposed to be this bad, either.

"I’ll tell you what, I’m getting frustrated, too," general manager Matt Klentak said before the game. "This team is better … There is more talent on this team than we’ve shown in terms of our record.

"We’ll pull out of it. We will. That’s what talented players will do. I’m not going to tell the fans they shouldn’t be frustrated. We’ve gone through a tough stretch.

"But I’m not ready to call it regression. I think there’s been a lack of consistency on our team in general, with some players more than others. There’s been a lack of consistency, but especially for young players, two months is a relatively small sample size to categorize it as regression."

At 29-17, the Rockies have the best record in the National League. They have 16 road wins, which is one more than the Phillies have overall. The Rockies are in town for three more days. This ugly start could get even uglier.

Best of MLB: Twins pound out 21 hits, storm back to beat Orioles

Best of MLB: Twins pound out 21 hits, storm back to beat Orioles

BALTIMORE -- Max Kepler homered and drove in four runs, Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco each had a career-high four hits and the Minnesota Twins roared back to beat the Baltimore Orioles 14-7 Monday night.

Minnesota trailed 5-0 in the second inning and 6-2 entering the fifth before cranking up the offense against Ubaldo Jimenez and an ineffective Baltimore bullpen.

A two-run double by Kepler helped the Twins knot the score in the fifth, Minnesota sent 11 batters to the plate in a six-run sixth and Sano added a two-run homer in the ninth.

Joe Mauer had three hits, two RBIs and scored twice for the Twins, who reached season highs in runs and hits (21).

Adam Jones hit a three-run drive in the second inning off Kyle Gibson (1-4) for Baltimore (see full recap).

Peacock, Astros 1-hit Tigers
HOUSTON -- Brad Peacock and three relievers combined for a one-hitter and Jose Altuve provided the offense with an RBI double to lead the Houston Astros to 1-0 win over the Detroit Tigers on Monday night.

Peacock was solid moving out of the bullpen to make a spot start for injured ace Dallas Keuchel. In his first start since September, Peacock allowed the lone hit and struck out eight in 4 1/3 innings. He was lifted after walking Tyler Collins with one out in the fifth inning.

Chris Devenski (3-2) took over and pitched 2 2/3 innings for the win before Will Harris pitched a scoreless eighth. Ken Giles struck out two in the ninth for his 12th save to allow the Astros to bounce back after being swept by the Indians over the weekend.

Detroit's only hit was a single by Mikie Mahtook with one out in the third on a night the Tigers tied a season high by striking out 14 times. The team's only baserunner after Collins was Victor Martinez, who was plunked with one out in the seventh. But Houston still faced the minimum in that inning when J.D. Martinez grounded into a double play to end the seventh.

The Astros struck early against Michael Fulmer (5-2) when George Springer drew a leadoff walk before scoring on the double by Altuve to make it 1-0 with one out in the first (see full recap).

Homers help Yankees top Royals
NEW YORK -- Didi Gregorius, Brett Gardner and Chris Carter homered, and the New York Yankees once again downed Jason Vargas by beating the Kansas City Royals 4-2 Monday night.

A reversed umpire's call in the seventh inning kept the Yankees ahead and enabled Michael Pineda (5-2) to top Vargas for the second time in a week. The Royals, with the worst record in the AL, have lost five of seven.

Vargas (5-3) began the day with a 2.03 ERA, tied for second-best in the majors. But the lefty fell to 0-7 lifetime against the Yankees when he was tagged by Gardner and Gregorius, the only left-handed hitters in the New York lineup (see full recap).