Nick Pivetta is learning what so many other young pitchers have learned before him: It doesn't matter how hard you throw. If you leave pitches over the middle of the plate in the major leagues, you will be hit hard.
Pivetta surrendered a couple of early home runs Friday night as the New York Mets continued to ride the long ball to victories at Citizens Bank Park. The Mets hit three of them in this game, the biggest being rookie Amed Rosario's tiebreaking shot in the top of the ninth, as they pinned a 7-6 loss on the Phillies (see Instant Replay).
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The Mets have beaten the Phils two straight nights. They hit four homers in Thursday night's 10-0 victory.
For the season, the Mets are 5-0 in Citizens Bank Park. They have out-homered the Phillies by a margin of 17-4 in those games. In a wider view, the Mets have hit 54 homers (and a total of 116 extra-base hits) in their last 24 games in Philadelphia, dating to the start of the 2015 season.
Yoenis Cespedes crushed a three-run homer against Pivetta in the third inning. It was his 13th homer in 35 career games against the Phillies.
Despite Pivetta's struggles, the Phillies were able to stay in the game because of some good bullpen work and they actually pulled into a 6-6 tie on a solo homer by Cesar Hernandez in the bottom of the eighth.
The tie was short-lived as Rosario smacked his first big-league homer in the top of the ninth inning against Hector Neris.
The Phillies left 11 men on base.
"We had opportunities," manager Pete Mackanin said. "We just couldn't cash in."
Pivetta, 24, has the goods to make it in the major leagues. He's a big right-hander with a big fastball and secondary pitches that need polish. In 17 big-league starts, he is 4-7 with a 6.09 ERA. His last two starts have not been good - 14 hits and 14 runs in 7 1/3 innings - but his control is getting better. Control, however, is the ability to throw the ball over the plate. Pivetta still needs to keep the ball out of the middle of the plate, command it better. He did that June 2 when he pitched seven innings of one-run ball against these same Mets in New York. This time it was a different story.
"I pitched really well against them last time," Pivetta said. "I didn't make quality pitches, though, tonight. I got behind guys, walked a guy and they hit a home run. I have to learn from those mistakes and make better quality pitches."
"It's always about command," he said. "He didn't command his fastball. He didn't have command of his breaking stuff. It's always mistakes out over the plate. He was behind a lot. The answer is always command and control."
The pitch that stood out for Pivetta was the 2-2 fastball, elevated and over the plate, to Cespedes with two outs and two men on base in the third inning. It came in at 96 mph and left at 107 mph. It landed 429 feet from home plate. A big boy home run, No. 150 of Cespedes' career.
"I probably should have went up and in on Cespedes," Pivetta said. "I have to make better pitches. It's all part of the learning curve. There's a lot I have to learn. There's still a lot of time, a lot of season left. We have a lot of guys here I can learn from.
"I have to keep the ball down and not leave breaking balls over the plate, fine-tune myself. It's a process. That all comes with these experiences I'm going through. It's no doubt that these last two starts haven't been the best but there are positives to take away from those starts and lessons to learn.
"When you get knocked down, get back up. I have confidence in myself that I'm going to get through this."