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Phillies-Mets 5 things: Nearing the end of 2016 for Vince Velasquez

Phillies-Mets 5 things: Nearing the end of 2016 for Vince Velasquez

Phillies (59-70) at Mets (66-63)
1:10 p.m. on CSN

Can the Phillies avoid a sweep at Citi Field?

Vince Velasquez looks to recover from his mid-August swoon, while the Mets toss out Robert Gsellman, a pitcher making his first career start and second career appearance. 

Here are five things to know for Sunday afternoon's series finale.

1. Nearing the end
Velasquez's last three starts have been an unmitigated disaster. 

In three games against current playoff teams (a key thing to note), he's allowed 19 earned runs in 16⅓ innings. While he's struck out 23 batters in that span, he's also given up 25 hits and walked five.

Even more concerning are the home runs. After allowing just three homers in nine starts from June 3 to Aug. 4, Velasquez surrendered eight homers in his last three outings. He had allowed just 11 total in his first 19 appearances. 

With all that in mind, it makes sense the Phillies will limit the 24-year-old righty to just three or four more starts this season. He has nearly surpassed his career-high innings total, a mark he compiled in 2013. Having thrown 124 innings this year, the Phils likely don't want him getting beyond 150 innings, at most — 140-145 may be a more realistic target. 

Good news for Velasquez: He has a 1.74 ERA in two starts against the Mets, going 1-1 in those appearances. He's thrown 10⅓ innings against New York and struck out 13. The bad news is that despite allowing just two earned runs against the Mets, he's given up five runs total. 

2. Another new Mets pitcher
The theme of the Mets' season has been pitching injuries. After that same pitching staff brought the Mets to the brink of a World Series win in 2015, their pitchers have found a new home on the disabled list in 2016.

Jonathon Niese is the latest example. In his second start for the Mets after he was re-acquired at the trade deadline, he left with an injury just four batters into the game. He'll undergo left knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

So replacing him in the rotation on Sunday is the pitcher who replaced him on the mound Tuesday, Robert Gsellman. 

Gsellman fits into the Mets' rotation, at least appearance-wise. He has the long hair that Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard sported during the Mets' NL championship run. As for his actual pitching, his first impression was pretty good. For 3⅔ innings, he allowed six baserunners but no runs while striking out two. He walked three, gave up two hits and hit a batter in the relief appearance.

The 23-year-old righty threw 75 pitches in the outing, most of which were his four-seam fastball. Out of the bullpen, his fastball topped out at 95.6 miles per hour and averaged 94 mph. His slider, which averaged 87.5 mph, and low-80s curveball were his most-used offspeed pitches.

In 20 starts between Double A and Triple A this year, Gsellman is 4-9 with a 3.99 ERA over 115 innings.

3. What does Ellis bring to Philly?
A.J. Ellis, the Phillies' new catcher, is still adjusting to his new team after coming over from the Dodgers in the Carlos Ruiz trade Thursday (see story). As Ellis gets set to make his first appearance, here's a look at what he brings to the table.

Before getting to the stats, one must mention Ellis' leadership. The Phillies insisted on getting Ellis back in the Ruiz deal for that very reason, his ability to not only take over as the backup catcher but also provide some intangibles as a veteran backstop. He's been in the league since 2008 and at 35 years old, he can help provide a good perspective to a young Phillies squad.

Ellis has been the personal catcher to Clayton Kershaw, the 2014 NL MVP and Cy Young. The veteran has been solid behind the plate, a must for any long-term backup catcher.

His ability behind the plate has slightly helped offset his major decline at the plate. After a career-worst season in 2014, he rebounded to produce solid numbers at the plate in 2015. However, this season has been even worse than 2014.

Ellis has just six extra base hits in 161 plate appearances and has a .194 batting average. His on-base percentage (.285) is higher than his slugging percentage (.252), neither of which are remotely close to average. He has just one home run and 13 RBIs. 

Well removed from everyday playing time, Ellis will be a minus at the plate for the Phillies. He'll be a solid backstop until Jorge Alfaro rejoins the roster in a few weeks. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Cesar Hernandez does not want August to end. He's batting .321 this month with 25 hits and 10 extra base hits, including three home runs. 

Mets: Yoenis Cespedes has only one hit in five at-bats against Velasquez this year, but that one hit was a home run that knocked in three runs. He had a three-run homer Saturday night.

5. This and that
• Curtis Granderson is 0 for 4 with a walk and hit-by-pitch against Velasquez. Neil Walker is 0 for 5 with a strikeout.

• The Phillies are 11-11 in August despite a 7.26 ERA from their starters this month. They haven't had a winning month since going 14-10 in April.

• Velasquez is 0-3 with an 8.86 ERA in four August starts. However, he has struck out 29 batters in 21⅓ innings.

• The Mets are 23-14 in day games, while the Phillies are 19-27.

NFL Preseason Wrap: Both offenses sluggish in Giants win over Jets

NFL Preseason Wrap: Both offenses sluggish in Giants win over Jets

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a touchdown pass to Eric Decker and the New York Jets' defense stifled Eli Manning and the New York Giants' starters in a 21-20 preseason loss Saturday night.

Both teams' first-string offenses did very little in the last regular-season tuneup for most starters, but Fitzpatrick connected with Decker for a 22-yard score three plays after Darrelle Revis intercepted Manning on a pass intended for Odell Beckham Jr. in Giants territory in the second quarter.

Fitzpatrick finished 9 of 16 for 76 yards with the score and lost a fumble in the red zone before being replaced by Geno Smith just before halftime.

Manning was 10 of 15 for 65 yards and an interception while playing one series into the third quarter. The Giants' starters managed just 61 total yards against Todd Bowles' defense.

The Giants (1-2) didn't get past the 50-yard line until a facemask penalty on Brandon Bostick on a punt return put them at the Jets 47 with 2:36 left in the third quarter (see full recap).

Siemian solidifies QB job in Denver's 17-9 win over Rams
DENVER -- Trevor Siemian threw his first touchdown pass of the preseason and tightened his grip on the Denver Broncos' starting quarterback job in a 17-9 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday night.

After showing off his strong right arm over a first half that included a 1-yard pass to Virgil Green, Siemian accepted hugs from his teammates and gave way to rookie Paxton Lynch, who was also impressive in his half of play.

That left Mark Sanchez as the odd man out on this night and, plausibly, come cut-down day. If he's not on the 53-man roster, the Broncos will save $3.5 million and the seventh-round draft pick they would have owed the Eagles.

It was Sanchez's job to lose when training camp began and he's apparently done just that with a slew of turnovers in the preseason, although coach Gary Kubiak had steadfastly declined to name a starter up to this point.

An afterthought while taking just one snap - a kneel-down - as a rookie last season, Siemian has emerged as the best option to lead Denver's defense of its Super Bowl title with Peyton Manning on the links and Brock Osweiler in Houston (see full recap).

Smith, Chiefs look sharp in 23-7 victory over Bears
CHICAGO -- Alex Smith looked sharp in leading three scoring drives in the first half and the Kansas City Chiefs got a 23-7 preseason victory over the Chicago Bears on Saturday.

Smith completed 20 of 30 passes for 181 yards before Nick Foles came in to start the third quarter. The defense strangled Chicago's offense, and the Chiefs (1-2) came away with the win after dropping their first two exhibitions.

Kansas City has one more tuneup against Green Bay before opening against San Diego on Sept. 11. But in what is generally the final dress rehearsal for the starters, the Chiefs dominated.

"I certainly feel like we're ready as far as game speed, as far as getting the trials, getting enough plays," Smith said. "I felt like we got in a lot of different situations - the goal line, short yardage, red zone, got a little two-minute today. That's kind of what you want, I feel like, in the preseason."

Kansas City got two second-quarter field goals from Cairo Santos and a 1-yard touchdown run by Spencer Ware in the closing seconds of the half to take a 13-0 lead. But the score didn't reflect just how lopsided the game was (see full recap).

Mariota, Carr both sharp in Titans' 27-14 win over Raiders
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Marcus Mariota and Derek Carr look ready for the season to start after a successful preseason dress rehearsal.

Mariota led Tennessee to scores on all four drives he played and Carr threw two touchdown passes for Oakland and the Titans beat the Raiders 27-14 on Saturday night.

"All in all, guys have put in the work," Mariota said. "We've built a pretty solid offseason in the preseason. Now it's just putting it all together once the season starts."

With the starters getting their most playing time in the third week of the preseason, the offenses looked in midseason form while both first-team defenses struggled mightily.

That left Raiders coach Jack Del Rio frustrated, especially about a first-team run defense that couldn't slow down DeMarco Murray or Derrick Henry on the ground (see full recap).

Sam Bradford, first-team offense roll in preseason win over Colts

Sam Bradford, first-team offense roll in preseason win over Colts

INDIANAPOLIS – After the Eagles’ 33-23 preseason win over the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday night, Sam Bradford was asked one question he didn’t quite know how to answer.

What didn’t go right for the offense?
 
“It’d be tough (to answer),” Bradford said. “I think I could probably give you a better answer after we watch the film.”
 
It wasn’t a tough question to answer just because he hadn’t yet watched the film. It was a tough question to answer because it didn’t seem like much went wrong for Bradford or the first-team offense on Saturday night (see Instant Replay).
 
Bradford was incredibly efficient, completing 17 of 20 passes for 167 yards, two touchdowns and an interception that clearly wasn’t his fault. Aside from the end of the half, the first-team offense scored on its last four possessions.
 
Thanks to the offensive line, Bradford stayed clean. The running backs – Ryan Matthews and Kenjon Barner – averaged 10.3 and 6.5 yards per carry, respectively. And the wide receivers actually made some big-time plays (see 10 observations).
 
“Obviously, tonight, to come out, to execute the way we did, it was nice,” Bradford said. “I was really happy with the communication up front, with the line of scrimmage. I thought our tempo in and out of the huddle was really good again tonight, getting to the line quickly. Overall, I thought the execution tonight was great. It’s obviously something that we can build on moving forward.”
 
Bradford finished the game with a passer rating of 114, and he was probably even better than that. He didn’t have a bad throw on the night. The interception was a bobbled drop from Nelson Agholor, one pass soared over Dorial Green-Beckham’s head after the wideout stopped running the route, and the third was a pass broken up by a nice play in the third quarter.
 
Bradford averaged just 9.8 yards per completion, but was clearly on his game in Indy, even outplaying Andrew Luck.
 
“I thought tonight obviously culminated everything, his hard work that he's put in all through the offseason and through training camp,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Again, I made the decision way back in OTAs to split all the reps three ways all the way through training camp. This was the first week that Sam's had 100 percent of the reps and it showed tonight.”
 
Of course, playing well in the third preseason game isn’t anything new for Bradford. No one can forget his magical 10-for-10 performance last year against the Packers, when the Eagles were very prematurely crowned Super Bowl champs.
 
So Bradford and the offense looked good Saturday night … but it’s just the preseason.
 
Now, they turn their attention to the Browns and the opener on Sept. 11.
 
“I think everyone in that locker room realizes that before Week 1 gets here, we’ve still got a lot of work to do,” he said. “Obviously, this is a big week coming up for us to get a jump on Cleveland, try to get some extra work in. I think it was nice to execute the way we did tonight. We can build on that, but I think we all realize the regular season is a different animal and we’re going to have to take it to another level.”