So much for the feel-good bullpen story that the Phillies had been spinning over the last few days. It unraveled with Vince Velasquez at the wheel in the team’s first loss of the new season Tuesday night.
The New York Mets scored four times in the top of the seventh inning on their way to an 8-4 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phils trailed by just a run after six innings but saw the deficit swell to five runs after Velasquez, making his season debut, walked four batters in the seventh. All four of those walks turned into runs as the Mets built a 6-1 lead.
“I take full responsibility for the loss,” Velasquez said after the game. “Walking three, four batters is not acceptable at all. No excuses, I don’t blame anyone but myself. The whole loss is on me. Totally unacceptable.”
Velasquez’ role is to give the Phillies multiple innings in the middle of games. With several relievers (Jose Alvarado, Sam Coonrod and Connor Brogdon) not available for workload reasons, this was a spot in which Velasquez needed to come through for his team — and he did, briefly. He entered the game at the start of the sixth inning and struck out the side.
But, as has been the case many times throughout his five-plus seasons with the Phillies, the erratic right-hander fell apart an inning later. The unraveling started with a leadoff walk to Luis Guillorme in the seventh.
“After that battle, I totally lost it,” Velasquez said.
He went on to say that he had trouble pitching out of the stretch and was aiming the ball.
In all, Velasquez faced eight batters, struck out four of them and walked four of them. The right-hander was booed lustily by the crowd of 10,752 as he left the game in favor of Brandon Kintzler with one out in the seventh.
Prior to Velasquez’ nightmarish performance, the Phils’ bullpen had been the story of the young season. Phillies relievers had allowed just one run in 13 innings over the first four games, all wins.
Velasquez made it feel like 2020, when the Phils had the worst bullpen in the majors, all over again.
The Mets scored two more runs against the bullpen when Pete Alonso launched a two-run homer off of David Hale in the ninth.
The Phils are still off to a 4-1 start. They will look to win the series against the Mets on Wednesday.
Right-hander Chase Anderson, the Phillies’ No. 5 starter, is not known for pitching deep into games. In fact, since 2016, he’s averaged under 5⅓ innings per start.
So, Anderson gave the Phils just about what they expected in his season debut and first start with the club. He went five innings and allowed just two runs, both coming on a home run by Dominic Smith with no outs in the fourth. Anderson walked the previous batter, Alonso. Smith hit a 1-1 fastball (92 mph) that was up and out of the strike zone. He got the good part of the bat on the pitch and powered it out to left.
After allowing those two runs in the fourth, Anderson pitched a 1-2-3 fifth inning before handing off to Velasquez.
As the season goes on, the Phillies will need Anderson to pitch deeper into games or risk having their long relief exposed like it was in this game.
Play of the game
The Phils were down by just a run in the top of the sixth inning when J.T. Realmuto reached base on a one-out error and moved to second on a wild pitch by Mets starter Marcus Stroman.
Didi Gregorius, who had homered in the bottom of the fourth to get the Phillies on the board, came up and laced a one-hopper down the first-base line. The ball had the look of a game-tying extra-base hit, but Alonso made a diving stop on the line and flipped to Stroman for the out, holding Realmuto at third. Stroman then retired Jean Segura on a ground ball to strand Realmuto.
Everything blew up on the Phillies in the next half-inning.
Stroman held the Phillies to three hits and a run over six innings. He walked two and struck out three.
Where’s the offense?
The Phillies were just 1 for 11 with a runner in scoring position and they left 10 men on base, including two in scoring position in the eighth when Mets reliever Trevor May struck out Brad Miller and Roman Quinn.
In five games, the Phillies have scored just 18 runs, an average of 3.6 per game.
The series concludes Wednesday afternoon. Aaron Nola makes his second start of the season. He will face Mets lefty David Peterson.
The Phillies are off on Thursday before opening a three-game series in Atlanta on Friday night.