I’m not sure which one it was, but The Good Phight supreme blogstress Liz Roscher and I attended one of the last three games of the Phillies’ 2016 season at Citizens Bank Park. As fate would
shove down our throats have it, the Mets happened to be mounting an attempt to clinch a wild-card spot while the Phillies were continuing an attempt to survive.
In any case, Jay Bruce was there, as were hundreds of blue-clad, raucously ignorant, wrong-humans called "Mets fans." They strike, like a virus, when your favorite team is at its most vulnerable, infiltrating your stadium and growing only grosser and more noticeable as a game goes on. And Bruce, in the Mets’ lineup after they’d acquired his middling-at-best bat at the trade deadline from the Reds, was giving them reasons to cheer.
Liz and I held a quick, editors-only staff meeting in which we determined that "Jay Bruce sucks, actually," but despite this, we could only watch as the 29-year-old slugger with the look of a villain in a kids movie that also features a rapping grandma put together one of his performances from a series in which he would log five hits, a home run, three RBI, a run, and a walk in 10 AB.
Adding to our fury was that every boo we attempted to transmit to the field was shouted down by the similarly-sound calls of "BRUUUUUCE" by the clusters of bacterial baseball fans all around us. It was a horrific day of disgust and disease from which we have yet to fully recover.
As Phillies fans, we of course remembered Bruce solely as one of Wilson Valdez’s three outs during the greatest "position player pitching" performance in baseball history. But Bruce, in those moments, was determined to continue his legacy of success at Citizens Bank Park, a legacy that continued last night, as well.
In his first at-bat of yesterday's game, Bruce tried to get to Vince Velasquez early, doubling in Yoenis Cespedes, who ran through a stop sign at third only to be cut down by a pinpoint Tommy Joseph relay throw at the plate. His next time up, VV got Bruce swinging, stirring fantasies of containment among Phillies fans at home and stirring no real emotion from the Mets fans not in attendance at Citi Field.
He's here. Play ball. pic.twitter.com/BFdcTeHHB0— Steve Rushin (@SteveRushin) April 19, 2017
But in the sixth inning, with Asdrubal Cabrera and Cespedes on base, Bruce crushed a Velasquez change-up to right field to give the Mets a 3-2 lead. He and Cespedes scored again in the eighth when he did pretty much the same thing to an Edubray Ramos pitch, breaking a 3-3 tie.
A "mistake hitter," Velasquez called Bruce; a slugger who waits for you to screw up and pounds your whoop-se-daisy into the bleachers. If we’ve learned anything about this pitching staff so far, it makes perfect sense that a hitter like Bruce is thriving against them.
For his efforts, Bruce was awarded stewardship of the locker room.
The Mets right fielder was at his locker with a glowing smile and wearing a blue and orange robe with a crown on his head after his two home run, five-RBI performance led the team to a 5-4 win over the Phillies on Wednesday, snapping a four-game losing streak.
But this isn’t new. Even before last year’s series finale at Citizens Bank Park, Bruce has been terrorizing Phillies pitching. He is slugging .620 over his career in 66 games against the Phillies, with a .326 BA. At Citizens Bank Park, he is slightly kinder, slashing only .304/.362/.585. The Phillies restocking their team with pitchers that Bruce largely hasn’t faced didn’t do too much to stop him, either; he’s hit all of them except Jeanmar Gomez and Adam Morgan, two guys I probably wouldn’t send out there right now to face him on general principle.
- Jay Bruce vs. Nationals: .214/.293/.373
- Jay Bruce vs. Braves: .237/.325/.469
- Jay Bruce vs. Marlins: .274/.348/.502
Sort of makes you realize how good of a hitter he is against more prolific pitching.
But all this makes Bruce the Bryce Harper of the Mets, in that he is a hitter for a division rival who the Phillies have yet to discover a pathway to defeating, or even quelling. Of course in Herper's case, he's had a more general wave of success, rather than pockets of it.
Perhaps the improved model of Aaron Nola will be able to stop him; Bruce is 2-for-6 lifetime against the 23-year-old with two singles and two strikeouts. If the last two nights are any indication, the Phillies are capable of beating the Mets - they just need to stop the guy who knocks in all of their runs. Easy.