Kodai Was “Phil-thy” as Mets Blank Phillies

Kodai Senga was magnificent, the Mets got just enough offense and a pinch of defense as they opened the homestand with a 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at CitiField Tuesday night.

Senga blanked the Phillies lineup over seven innings, struck out nine and allowed only a one out single to Kyle Clemens in the third. The right hander threw 100 pitches, 66 for strikes and his splitter (or ghost pitch if you prefer) was in top form as he got 12 of his 22 swings and misses with that pitch.

Good command, established his fastball early which made them have to rush a little bit, their recognition of the forkball,” Mets Manager Buck Showalter said after Senga’s outing gave the Mets a 14-0 record when their starting pitcher goes six innings.

Senga continued to pitch well at home. At CitiField this season, Senga is 3-1 with a 1.20 ERA. On the road, the right hander is 2-2 with a 6.12 ERA.

Senga offered an explanation for his success in Flushing. “Part of the reason is the long travel that we have to go through, that’s an adjustment I need to make,” Senga said through a translator. “Also, pitching at home, we have a lot of great fans here. I don’t want to disappoint them and I just want to win games for us.”

Senga benefitted by that touch of defense in the top of the fourth. With one out, Nick Castellanos hit a 1-2 pitch to deep left center field that appeared to be a home run. Brandon Nimmo took off and timed it just right as he robbed Castellanos with a spectacular jumping catch to keep the Phils off the board.

Everything has to work out perfectly and that timing has to be just right,” Nimmo said. “Luckily, I was able to time that up and get it right before it hit those metal bars and [the ball] bounces all over the place. I was really glad I was able to help Kodai.”

Phillies starting pitcher Ranger Suarez was just as stingy but made one of his few mistakes in the fourth when Francisco Lindor snapped a scoreless tie with his 10th home run of the season. Lindor, hitting right handed, drove a 1-0 pitch into the left center field stands to give the Mets a 1-0 lead.

The Mets padded the lead in the seventh. Starling Marte, who had two hits and looks like he’s starting to come around, singled with one out. With two out, Suarez walked Tommy Pham on a close 3-2 pitch and was replaced by Connor Brogdon. Eduardo Escobar greeted Brogdon with a run scoring single up the middle that not only gave the Mets a 2-0 lead, but would keep Bryce Harper, who was being rested, on the bench later in the game.

Nimmo was the next batter and there was a case of turnabout is fair play.

The Mets center fielder lined a pitch towards right center field, but Castellanos made a diving catch to return the favor and rob Nimmo of what could’ve been a two run hit. It was as if Castellanos said to Nimmo, “I’ll see your spectacular run saving catch and raise you a two-run saving catch” because if that ball gets past the Phillies right fielder, that’s at least two more runs.

After the final out of the inning, Nimmo and Castellanos had an impromptu meeting near second base where they showed some mutual respect for two outstanding defensive plays. He [Castellanos] came by and he said, ‘Now, we’re even.’ I said, ok, that’s fair. You took two ribbies from me, I took a home run and a ribbie from you,” Nimmo said.

The bullpen took over the final two innings and got the job done but not without a little bit of a scare.

Adam Ottavino came on to pitch the eighth and walked lead off batter J.T. Realmuto on four pitches. Realmuto tried to steal second but Francisco Alvarez made a strong throw and Jeff McNeil made a terrific play to slap the tag on the runner, although the Phillies catcher was originally called safe. The Mets challenged the call which was overturned and stymied a potential Phillies rally.

It was the first time this season that Ottavino was victimized for a stolen base. “He [Alvarez] had one of the big momentum changes in the game, was the throw out at second and good tag by Jeff [McNeil],” Showalter said.

The Phillies tried to rally in the ninth against David Robertson. With one out, pinch-hitter Josh Harrison singled, but Robertson got Bryson Stott to hit into a game endind double play as he picked up his 9th save of the season. Harper never came up as the tying run and the Mets had a big win against a divisional opponent.

Senga is getting a little more comfortable and may pitch on four days rest for the first time this season on Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays.

It’s not like I’m gonna make sure he pitches at home only, it just won’t work,” Showalter said.

Senga has been pitching with five days rest so far this season, but with his success rate at home as opposed to the road, Showalter has even more reason to start him on Sunday.

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