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.

Best of MLB: Eric Thames hits league-leading 11th home run in Brewers' win vs. Reds

Best of MLB: Eric Thames hits league-leading 11th home run in Brewers' win vs. Reds

MILWAUKEE -- Eric Thames hit his major league-leading 11th home run -- his sixth against Cincinnati this season -- and the Milwaukee Brewers cruised to a 9-1 victory over the Reds on Tuesday night.

In his first season with the Brewers, Thames capped a five-run sixth with a two-run drive off reliever Robert Stephenson.

Hernan Perez had a pair of RBI triples, then homered off Stephenson leading off the sixth, and Jonathan Villar had a pair of two-run singles.

Zach Davies (2-2) allowed six hits in five scoreless innings, lowering his ERA from 8.24 to 6.57. He stranded a pair of runners in three innings (see full recap).

Keuchel tosses complete game in Astros' win over Indians
CLEVELAND -- Dallas Keuchel pitched a complete game to extend his promising start to the season and the Houston Astros beat the Cleveland Indians 4-2 Tuesday night even though Jose Altuve and Teoscar Hernandez left following a frightening collision in the eighth inning.

Altuve and Hernandez were chasing a popup in right field and stayed down for a while after. Altuve appeared to get hit near his chin by Hernandez's arm, but he walked off the field under his own power. Hernandez, called up from the minors before the game, was carted off the field with an injury to his left leg.

Keuchel (4-0) gave up solo homers to Austin Jackson in the third and Michael Brantley in the ninth. The left-hander, who won the AL Cy Young Award in 2015, held Cleveland to six hits and has a 1.22 ERA.

Josh Tomlin (1-3) allowed three runs -- all in the fifth -- in six innings (see full recap).

Tigers score 9 in 9th to rout Mariners, 19-9
DETROIT -- James McCann, Justin Upton and Alex Avila homered for Detroit -- and that was before the Tigers added nine runs in the fifth inning en route to a 19-9 rout of the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night.

Felix Hernandez (2-2) allowed four runs in two innings in his shortest outing since 2015, and Seattle's next two pitchers fared even worse. Detroit finished with 24 hits, 19 of which came in the first five innings. That was despite injuries that kept Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez and Jose Iglesias out of the lineup.

Jordan Zimmermann (2-1) allowed five runs in six innings. Jean Segura, Danny Valencia and Nelson Cruz hit solo homers for Seattle, but that wasn't nearly enough to keep up with Detroit's offensive onslaught.

Mikie Mahtook added another home run for the Tigers in the eighth. Ian Kinsler had four hits and four runs before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh (see full recap).

Nick Pivetta excited for big-league debut — even if rainout delays it a few days

Nick Pivetta excited for big-league debut — even if rainout delays it a few days

The Phillies' starting pitching rotation, for the time being, features four arms that were acquired in trades that have coincided with the team's rebuild, which started after the 2014 season.

Nick Pivetta will become the latest to join the group when he is officially activated. He was in the Phillies' clubhouse Tuesday afternoon and was scheduled to pitch on Wednesday, but those plans changed when Tuesday night's game against the Miami Marlins was postponed because of rain.

No makeup date was announced.

The rainout means Pivetta's big-league debut will be pushed back. Vince Velasquez, Tuesday's scheduled starter, will pitch Wednesday night against the Marlins and Jeremy Hellickson will start the series finale Thursday. Jerad Eickhoff and Zach Eflin are likely to stay on turn and pitch Friday and Saturday in Los Angeles. That means Pivetta's debut will likely happen Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium. Not a bad venue for an unveiling. He does not have to be activated until that day. In the interim, the Phils are carrying an extra reliever in Mark Leiter Jr.

Even with the weather-related change in plans, Pivetta was thrilled to be in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

"I've achieved my goal of getting here eventually," the 24-year-old right-hander said. "I'm happy to be here. I want to get my feet on solid ground right now and just take it one step at a time."

Pivetta is a Canadian from Victoria, British Columbia, about 100 miles northwest of Seattle. As a kid, he watched Toronto Blue Jays' games on television and idolized Roy Halladay.

Victoria must now be Phillies territory. Michael Saunders, the team's rightfielder, also hails from the town.

"You see it more and more, more Canadians getting into the game of baseball, so it's always nice to see another one in the locker room," said Saunders, 30. "Clearly he's pitched well enough to earn his way up here and I'm looking forward to seeing him play."

Pivetta is 6-5, 225 pounds. He was originally selected by the Washington Nationals in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. The Phillies acquired him for Jonathan Papelbon and cash in July 2015.

Pivetta will take Aaron Nola's spot in the rotation. Nola is on the disabled list with tightness in his lower back. He could be back as soon as early next week.

Nola said he probably could have pushed himself and stayed in the rotation, but the team chose to be cautious.

"I don't think it's any big thing," Nola said.

With Pivetta on board, the Phillies now have four pitchers in their rotation that came over in "rebuild" trades.

Eflin arrived in the December 2014 deal that sent Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers.

Eickhoff came in the July 2015 deal that sent Cole Hamels to the Rangers.

Velasquez came in the December 2015 trade that sent Ken Giles to the Astros.

Pivetta did not immediately pitch well upon joining the Phillies organization. He had a 7.31 ERA in seven starts for Double A Reading in the summer of 2015. In 28 1/3 innings, he struck out 25 and walked 19.

Pivetta was a different pitcher last season. He registered a 3.27 ERA in 148 2/3 innings between Double A and Triple A, struck out 138 and walked 51. That performance earned him a spot on the team's 40-man roster.

"In 2016, he showed us the potential to be a really good major-league pitcher," said Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development. "He was a little excitable after the trade in 2015, but he came back calm and confident last year. His stuff is legit — 93 to 96 (mph) with life on the fastball, good breaking ball and good feel for the changeup."

His control continued to improve this season as he got off to a 3-0 start at Triple A. He pitched 19 innings, gave up just two earned runs, walked just two and struck out 24.

"Just getting ahead with my fastball," said Pivetta, explaining the early-season success that put him in line for the promotion. "First-pitch strikes are big. Even if I get into that 0-1 count or that 1-1 count, getting back to that 1-2 count is big. So being able to even up those counts have been really big for me, as well, and being able to finish off with my off-speed later in the counts, too."

Pivetta pitched for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic in March. He made one start and took a no-decision in the team's 4-1 loss to Columbia. Pivetta worked four innings and allowed one run.

"That helped me," Pivetta said. "It was awesome. It was like having playoff baseball in March."

It's not clear how long Pivetta will stay in the big-league rotation. But he has more than put himself on the map, and if he continues to pitch well, he'll make more starts with the big club this season.

"I did not expect to be here this early in the season," he said. "I am happy to be here right now. I'll see how long I stay and just have fun while I am here."