Phillies vs. Mets: Vince Velasquez falls apart in first loss of 2021

So far the bullpen story to feel good that the Phillies had been spinning for the past few days. He dumped Vince Velasquez at the wheel in the team’s first loss of the new season on 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 were behind by just one run after six innings, but saw the deficit increase to five runs after Velasquez, making his season debut, walked four batters in the seventh. All four 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 or four batters is not acceptable at all. No excuses, I don’t blame anyone but myself. The whole loss is for me. Totally unacceptable.”

Velasquez’s role is to give the Phillies multiple innings in the middle of games. With several relievers (José Alvarado, Sam Coonrod and Connor Brogdon) unavailable for workload reasons, this was a place where Velasquez needed to get ahead for his team, and he did, briefly. He entered the game early in the sixth inning and struck out on the sideline.

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 collapse began with a first ride to Luis Guillorme in the seventh.

“After that battle, I completely lost it,” Velasquez said.

He went on to say that he had trouble shooting out of the span 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 loudly by the crowd of 10,752 as he left the game in favor of Brandon Kintzler with one out in the seventh.

Before Velasquez’s nightmare performance, the Phils bullpen had been the story of the young season. Phillies relievers had allowed just one run in 13 innings during the first four games, all wins.

Velasquez made it feel like 2020, when the Phillies had the worst bullpen in the majors, once again.

The Mets scored two more runs against the bullpen when Pete Alonso hit a two-run home run off David Hale in the ninth.

The Phils still have a 4-1 start. They will look to win the series against the Mets on Wednesday.

Anderson’s debut

Right-hander Chase Anderson, the Phillies’ fifth starter, is not known for pitching deep in games. In fact, since 2016, it has averaged less than 5⅓ entries per open.

So Anderson gave the Phils almost what they hoped for in his season debut and first start with the club. He went five innings and allowed just two runs, both off a homer 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 out on the field and blew it out to the left.

After allowing those two runs in the fourth, Anderson pitched a 1-2-3 fifth inning before passing it to Velasquez.

As the season progresses, the Phillies will need Anderson to pitch deeper into games or risk exposing his extended relief like this game.

Game play

The Phils were down by just one run in the top of the sixth inning when JT Realmuto reached base on a one-out error and moved to second on a wild pitch from Mets starter Marcus Stroman.

Didi Gregorius, who homered in the bottom of the fourth to put the Phillies on the board, stepped up and hit a jump at the first base line. The ball had the appearance of a game-tying extra base, but Alonso swooped down the line and jumped to Stroman for the out, holding Realmuto at third. Stroman then retired Jean Segura on a groundout to leave Realmuto.

Everything exploded in the Phillies in the next half inning.

Stroman’s night

Stroman limited the Phillies to three hits and one run in six innings. He walked two and struck out three.

Where is the offense?

The Phillies were just 1 of 11 with a running back in scoring position and left 10 men on base, including two in scoring position in the eighth inning 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.

Until next time

The series concludes on Wednesday afternoon. Aaron Nola makes his second season opener. He will face Mets left-hander David Peterson.

The Phillies depart Thursday before opening a three-game series in Atlanta on Friday night.

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