By Sam Bush
There’s nothing like a couple of wins against the self-important and entitled New York Mets to ease the tension in the Phillies’ locker room.
After a pair of weekend wins against the New York Mets, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin turned comedian.
What was Jeremy Hellickson doing differently than last season?
”He was a left-handed pitcher before this year,” Mackanin said. ”We turned him into a righty. I just saw something.”
And what about Jeanmar Gomez, who saved two games in 18 hours after getting one previous save in his big league career?
”Fireman of the Year,” Mackanin exclaimed.
After coming within one loss of what would have been their worst start since 1934, the rebuilding Phillies headed to their home opener today with a 2-4 record.
Odubel Herrera hit a two-run homer off Matt Harvey in the ace’s first appearance at Citi Field since he failed to close out Game 5 of last year’s World Series, and the Phillies beat New York 5-2 Sunday.
The Phils won the last two games of the three-game series after an 0-4 start. The Phillies already have more wins at Citi Field this season than last year, when they went 1-8.
”To take this series is huge,” said Hellickson, who held the Mets hitless until Yoenis Cespedes lined an opposite-field single to right in the fourth.
Hellickson (1-0) had a 3-0 lead before David Wright doubled with two out in the sixth and Cespedes chased him with a two-run homer on a changeup.
”I haven’t had a lot of success in the last few Aprils,” Hellickson said. ”That sixth inning today was kind of I think the story of my seasons over the last couple years, a lot of two-out homers, a lot of two-out hits with guys in scoring position.”
The Mets wore replicas of the uniforms used by their 1986 World Series champions, with royal blue and orange racing stripes, outfits that will be sported for Sunday home games this year. But they have hit more like their offensively challenged early 1960s version: a .180 batting average and 14 runs scored.
A day after getting three hits in a 1-0 loss, New York was held to four hits by Hellickson and three relievers, and the NL champions dropped to 2-3 – their record before 11-game winning streaks in 1986 and last year.
James Russell, Hector Neris and Gomez combined for one-hit relief.
”They were outstanding,” Hellickson said. ”We said it the first couple games, when they struggled, that they’d bounce back.”
Pitching on the Citi Field mound for the first time since manager Terry Collins allowed him to try to finish a shutout against Kansas City, Harvey (0-2) reached 97 mph with his fastball and started 19 of 25 hitters with strikes. But he gave up three runs and six hits in six innings and has struck out three batters or fewer in consecutive games for the first time in his big league career.
”I think we’re all kind of finding our place right now and working to win and kind of click at the same time,” Harvey said.
Peter Bourjos reached on an infield hit in the third and scored on Freddy Galvis’ sacrifice fly. Harvey retired 10 straight batters before Cesar Hernandez singled in the sixth for his sixth hit of the series. Herrera homered on a low slider with little break, the ball landing between the fence in right-center that was erected for the 2015 season and the original wall.
”So much different than last year, where we’re in the game,” said Mackanin, who replaced Ryne Sandberg last June. ”Every win helps. Hits build confidence. Good pitching performances build confidence.”
A day after missing a hit-and-run sign, Herrera nearly cost the Phillies a run in the eighth. Ryan Howard hit a bases-loaded fly to right offAddison Reed, and as Galvis headed home from third, Herrera failed to tag up and nearly was doubled up at second by right fielder Curtis Granderson. The call by second base umpire Paul Nauert was upheld on replay, but if Herrera had been out, the run would not have counted because Galvis had not crossed home plate at the time of the tag.
”We’re going to keep digging in on that and making sure we don’t make any more mental mistakes like that,” Mackanin said.
Phillies: RHP Aaron Nola is scheduled to start today against San Diego. He didn’t get a decision at Cincinnati in his first start, when he allowed one run and four hits in seven innings.