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.

Tonight's lineup: Nick Williams, J.P. Crawford sit vs. lefty

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Tonight's lineup: Nick Williams, J.P. Crawford sit vs. lefty

With the Phillies facing lefty Alex Wood tonight, Tommy Joseph gets a rare start at first base.

It's Joseph's third start in the Phillies' last 12 games. He's become a forgotten man with the Phils' outfield fully healthy and Rhys Hoskins thriving at first base.

Pete Mackanin is using the matchup with a southpaw as a reason to get Joseph in the mix. Joseph has actually been dreadful this season against lefties, hitting just .197/.272/.410 in 135 plate appearances.

J.P. Crawford and Nick Williams have the night off.

Andrew Knapp is behind the plate to catch his second game since returning from a six-week DL stint.

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Rhys Hoskins, LF
5. Aaron Altherr, RF
6. Maikel Franco, 3B
7. Tommy Joseph, 1B
8. Andrew Knapp, C
9. Jake Thompson, P

Phillies-Dodgers thoughts: Rhys Hoskins refuses to go into a slump

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USA Today Images

Phillies-Dodgers thoughts: Rhys Hoskins refuses to go into a slump

Phillies (60-91) vs. Dodgers (96-55)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

Well, this series hasn't gone as planned.

Despite facing Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish, the Phillies have beaten the Dodgers on back-to-back nights to force at least a split. 

For L.A., it continues a miserable four-week stretch. The Dodgers were 91-36 on Aug. 25 and have gone 4-19 since.

The Phillies, meanwhile, are 31-33 since the All-Star break and 17-14 since Aug. 6.

More on tonight's game and the series in general:

• Last night was yet another fantastic game for Rhys Hoskins, who hit the game-deciding three-run double, drove in four runs in all and reached base three times. 

It appeared Hoskins was going into a slump after he went 0 for 11 with six strikeouts against the Athletics this past weekend, but he's responded by reaching base in five of seven plate appearances against the Dodgers. 

Through 39 games, Hoskins has hit .299/.428/.739 with five doubles, 18 homers and 43 RBIs. He has 29 walks and 33 strikeouts.

Odubel Herrera hit his 40th double of the season last night, becoming the first Phillie since Jayson Werth in 2010 to reach 40. 

The Phils had just one player hit 40 doubles in 2008 (Chase Utley), 2009 (Jimmy Rollins) and 2010 (Werth) and then none from 2011-16.

• Another scoreless inning last night from Luis Garcia, who's allowed one run in his last 18 appearances and has a 2.43 ERA in 61 games.

Nick Williams picked up his 11th infield single of the season last night. That kind of speed will allow him to maintain a higher batting average on balls in play than most players (see story).

• The Phillies face left-hander Alex Wood, who's had a career year. Wood is 15-3 with a 2.69 ERA in 140⅓ innings this season, with 144 strikeouts, 37 walks and just 13 home runs allowed. 

Lefties and righties alike have struggled against Wood, but he's been much more hittable since the All-Star break. Wood had a 1.56 ERA in the first half and has a 4.07 ERA since.

In his last start, Wood shut out the Nationals over six innings with eight strikeouts. In his previous three starts, he allowed 12 runs and six homers in 17 innings.

• Two Phillies, in particular, have seen Wood well: Freddy Galvis is 7 for 13 with a double; Cesar Hernandez is 5 for 11 with a double and three walks. 

Jake Thompson starts for the Phillies. He's 2-2 with a 4.46 ERA in nine games (six starts). He put 10 Marlins on base in 5⅓ innings in his last start but didn't allow a run.

• The Phillies would need to go 2-9 or worse the rest of the way to reach 100 losses. If the season ended today they'd pick second in the 2018 draft. The Giants are 1½ games worse.