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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Mets are enjoying early-season success against Phillies

Wheeler fans 11 in seven scoreless, Frazier hits grand slam in first game back to lead Mets.

Keon Broxton and Juan Lagares of the Mets

Keon Broxton and Juan Lagares of the Mets celebrate after defeating the Phillies at Citi Field on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Halfway through another Mets’ joyride Tuesday night, and another zombie-like stroll by the Phillies, a thought occurred to us.

Maybe someone should check Jake Arrieta’s blood pressure.

If you remember, Arrieta’s postgame temperature reached a slow boil the previous evening, when he stood in the middle of the Phillies’ clubhouse and ripped his teammates — specifically the $330-million man Bryce Harper — for mailing in a 5-1 series-opening loss at Citi Field.

Arrieta accused the Phillies of not being ready to play, and Harper even got himself tossed for allegedly yelling naughty words at plate umpire Mark Carlson. That annoyed Arrieta as well.

“We’ve got to play better,” Harper said late Monday night. “Plain and simple. These games matter. They matter now, they matter in September.”

But only one team is playing like it, and Tuesday, with even more emphasis, the Mets dropped the hammer again on their hapless NL East rivals in a 9-0 victory. Zack Wheeler nearly beat the Phillies on his own, striking out 11 in seven scoreless innings while chipping in with a two-run double and his first career homer, an opposite-field shot into the leftfield seats.

The forgotten Todd Frazier, finally activated Monday after an 11-week stay in Port St. Lucie to rehab an oblique strain, launched a grand slam in the fifth inning that put the Mets ahead, 8-0. Frazier’s return brought sort of a lukewarm reception at Citi, where fans don’t want him cutting into the playing time of favorite son Jeff McNeil, but Tuesday night’s slam definitely helped thaw some of those chilly relations.

“I’m going to roll with it, man,” Frazier said upon his arrival at Citi. “I’m here for the team.”

Working Frazier into the mix figured to be a serious challenge for Mickey Callaway, but if he’s still got some pop in his bat, using him at third with McNeil in left won't be such a bad thing for the Mets to accommodate. And for those worrying about McNeil’s defensive shortcomings, the Met affectionally known as Squirrel showed Tuesday night that he’s right at home in the tall grass, too.

In the fourth inning, after a two-out double by Maikel Franco ended Wheeler’s streak of seven straight Ks, the Phillies seemed to be threatening. It didn’t last. And whoever it was on their staff that put together the scouting report on McNeil’s outfield skills may need to be re-assigned.

Cesar Hernandez followed with a rocket single to left that appeared to get on McNeil a little quick for Franco to have a high-probability of scoring from second base. McNeil, an infielder by trade, scooped it on the run and fired a perfect one-hop throw to the plate that beat Franco by at least five steps.

That’s the kind of night it was for the Mets, who shrugged off last week’s series loss at Citizens Bank Park to thwart their nemesis everywhere around the diamond. They’re also catching the Phillies at an opportune stretch, given the key injuries to Jean Segura, Odubel Herrera, Scott Kingery and David Robertson.

Those are significant losses, obviously. And the Mets, through the years, have known all about the scars left by medical misfortune. That familiar Flushing script was flipped Monday, however, when Jacob deGrom’s MRI on his previously barking right elbow came back clean. The Mets didn’t escape completely unscathed, however, as Brandon Nimmo had to leave Tuesday’s game in the fourth inning because of what the team described as a left oblique “twinge.”

Anything oblique-related is scary stuff, with a lengthy rehab usually prescribed, so we’ll have to see how his further tests turn out. But for the second consecutive night, the Mets had plenty to be happy about between the lines, and the Phillies hardly resembled a team with designs on the NL East crown.

On Tuesday, the Phillies made a pair of errors in the first two innings, the second a routine grounder that skipped right between Hernandez’s legs and allowed Wheeler to score a two-out run in the second inning. It’s not supposed to be as easy as the Mets made it look Tuesday night, but credit them for piling on to hold serve in their own building.

Harper, to a chorus of robust Citi booing, struck out twice more and didn’t finish this game, either, as he was pulled because of the rout. As a Phillie, he’s now hitting .125 (2-for-16) against the Mets, with eight strikeouts, basically a non-factor in the rivalry so far.

Even though it’s only April, for the Mets, it doesn’t get any more fun.

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