Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Senga Shuts Out Phillies To Open Pivotal Series


Philadelphia's Kyle Schwarber swung at missed at this offering from the Mets' Kodai Senga in the fourth inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

Kodai Senga threw seven shutout innings to lead the Mets to a 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday night at Citi Field to open this three-game series.

Since Memorial Day is when it feels like the season enters a new chapter, this series between the Mets, who improved to 28-27, and the defending National League champion Phillies, who fell to 25-29, could be described as pivotal. Both teams are trying to get on a roll as they chase the first-place Atlanta Braves in the National League East. Atlanta fell to 32-23 on Tuesday night after falling to Oakland, 2-1, for their second straight loss to the 12-45 Athletics.

Senga was sensational, as he allowed just one hit, a single to Kody Clemens (son of Roger) in the third inning, and did not allow a walk, while striking out nine. He is now 5-3 on the season, and his ERA (earned run average) dipped a half-run from 3.94 to a superb 3.44.

Mets Manager Buck Showalter said of what made Senga so effective in this one, "Good command, established his fastball early, I thought, which made them have to rush a little bit, you know, the recognition of the forkball...It appeared in the zone early in the delivery, it wasn't a ball right out of his hand, but he was impressive, that's a good lineup...

"As much as it (the forkabll) can be an out pitch, the fastball sets a lot of it up because, at his velocity, you've got to hurry and you can't cover both pitches when you have to honor both of them. If you honor both pitches, you'll have to pick one or the other, and that's what makes it tough. You know, he's got the cutter and a different shape to his slider, and he does throw a curveball now and then."

The best-hit balls by Philadelphia in this one turned into highlight reels for Mets center fielder Brandon Nimmo.

In the fourth inning, with one out, Nick Castellanos crushed one to left-center field, and Nimmo raced toward the fence and leaped up and grabbed it, sending Citi Field into a frenzy, as it evoked memories of when he robbed then-Dodger Justin Turner of a home run last August.

Nimmo caught it just at the top of the fence, so while it was not clear if it would have been a home run, it still was an astonishing catch in how routine he made it appear.

The Mets got momentum off of that play, as Francisco Lindor led off the bottom of the fourth with a home run deep into the lower deck in left field for a solo home run to make it 1-0 Mets. That came off Ranger Suarez, who had only scattered a pair of singles in the first three innings.

Then, in the seventh, Nimmo raced into the right-center field gap to rob Trea Turner of an extra-bases hit. Senga then struck out Castellanos and Schwarber to finish his night.

Showalter said of Nimmo's stellar plays, "I tell people who got here before I got here, the way he's grown as a player defensively, and he's one of those guys - we have a lot of them on the team - that sees something they may not be as good as they're capable of being, they attack it instead of just constantly going out and working on things you're good at. You know, it takes someone very team-oriented to go out there and work on the things that might keep you from being a complete player, and Nim works hard it, and I think he's just gotten comfortable playing a lot of baseball as it grows. You're seeing a guy just kind of coming into his own as a hitter, or just a baseball player and that's one of the reasons why, you know, we trusted him with the contract," referring to the eight-year, $162 million deal he signed in the offseason.

In the bottom of the seventh, Starling Marte got a one-out single, and then after Jeff McNeil bunted him over to second base, Tommy Pham drew a walk. 

That chased Suarez from the game, and in came Connor Brogdon, who served up an RBI single to Eduardo Escobar that brought in Marte and made it 2-0 Mets.

Adam Ottavino worked around a walk to pitch a scoreless eighth, and David Robertson gave up a single, but kept the Phillies off the board to preserve the shutout and earn his ninth save of the season.

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