The New York Mets can make a statement Wednesday night by completing a three-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies, who might be looking to make a statement themselves that goes beyond the win/loss column.
A rivalry that escalated in the most unexpected of spots Tuesday night will resume Wednesday, with Mets left-hander Jason Vargas (1-0, 9.58 ERA) scheduled to oppose Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez (0-0, 2.55 ERA).
The Mets rode right-hander Zack Wheeler to a 9-0 victory Tuesday night. Wheeler struck out 11 over seven scoreless innings and added a homer and three RBIs at the plate. He is the first New York pitcher to ever throw at least seven innings while hitting a homer and driving in at least three RBIs in the same game.
New York snapped a tie with Philadelphia atop the National League East on Tuesday and can drop the reeling Phillies, who have lost five of six, to .500 with another victory Wednesday.
"I know every win counts. I don't care what time of year it is," said Mets third baseman Todd Frazier, who hit a grand slam Tuesday. "You can look back and how many teams have lost a division or a wild card by two games? They all count for me. A sweep (would) be nice, but we've got to go out there and put our best effort forward like we've been doing."
The Mets' pursuit of a sweep became the second-most interesting thing about Wednesday's game with two outs in the ninth inning Tuesday, when Mets reliever Jacob Rhame threw two high-and-in pitches to Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins.
After Rhame's first pitch sailed over Hoskins' head, Hoskins sauntered toward the third base side of the plate and glared at Rhame. Home plate umpire Scott Barry got in front of him and both dugouts and bullpens half-heartedly emptied.
Ball four was another inside pitch, and Hoskins glared at Rhame as he walked to first base. Afterward, the Phillies made it clear they weren't thrilled with what they perceived to be purpose pitches by Rhame. The Mets had two everyday players, Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil, hit in the hand by pitches in Monday's series opener.
"A lot of people aren't happy about it," said Phillies starter Zach Eflin, who took the loss after giving up four runs (three earned) over four innings.
"I understand that two of their guys got hit yesterday," Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper said. "But, I mean, it's baseball and (if) you're going to drill somebody, at least hit him in the (rear end). Not in the head."
Do the Mets expect retribution from the Phillies?
"That's baseball, you never know what's going to happen," Frazier said. "So we'll see."
Neither Vargas nor Velasquez factored into the decision in their most recent starts last Friday.
Vargas allowed one run over four innings as the Mets beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-4. Despite the brevity of the appearance, the performance represented a step forward for Vargas, who allowed eight runs over just 1 1/3 innings in his previous two appearances, including one start.
Velasquez gave up two runs over 5 2/3 innings in the Phillies' 4-3, 12-inning loss to the Colorado Rockies. The 26-year-old struck out a season-high eight, his most since he fanned eight in 6 1/3 innings against the Cardinals last June 19.
Vargas is 2-0 with a 3.86 ERA in five career appearances (three starts) against the Phillies. Velasquez is 1-4 with a 4.58 ERA in eight starts against the Mets.
--Field Level Media