Mets reliever Jacob Rhame insisted that he was just trying to establish his pitches inside when he threw two balls near the head of Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins in the ninth inning of Tuesday night’s win over Philadelphia. The Phillies believed the pitches were intentional and too high for comfort.
Major League Baseball agreed with the Phillies, as Joe Torre, the chief baseball officer for M.L.B., issued a two-game suspension on Thursday for Rhame, who was also fined an undisclosed amount of money.
In a release, Torre said Rhame had been punished for “intentionally throwing a pitch in the area of the head.”
If Rhame does not appeal the ban, it will begin Friday, when the Mets start a series against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Rhame, 26, is one of the Mets’ most unassuming relief pitchers, taking the mound with thick-frame glasses or recreation goggles, but he inserted himself into the National League East rivalry with two high fastballs against Hoskins.
The Mets and the Phillies entered Thursday tied for first place in the division at 13-11 after exchanging series victories over the last two weeks.
Hoskins exacted his revenge on Wednesday when he faced Rhame in the ninth inning for the second straight night. The Phillies were leading, 4-0, when Hoskins hit a two-run homer to left field. Hoskins made sure the ball was fair before starting a slow, deliberate trot around the bases. It took him 34 seconds to complete his victory lap.
When asked about the pace, Hoskins said that he was “just enjoying the moment.”
Rhame did not take exception. He said: “Going through my mind is I shouldn’t throw one right down the middle to him. That’s about it.”
The seeds had been planted on Tuesday night, as the Mets were leading by 9-0 with two outs in the top of the ninth when Hoskins entered the batter’s box. Rhame started him with a fastball that flew behind Hoskins’s head and registered 97 miles per hour on the radar gun. It was called a ball.
Hoskins took a step toward the mound, and both dugouts and bullpens began to empty onto the field, but the situation never escalated. The plate umpire, Scott Barry, warned both teams.
On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Rhame threw another ball above Hoskins’s head. It was called ball four. Hoskins took one step toward the mound before walking down to first base, escorted by Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud and Barry.
Before Wednesday’s game, Mets Manager Mickey Callaway maintained that Rhame had not thrown at Hoskins’s head on purpose. When told that the Phillies had taken exception to the high heat, Callaway suggested the Phillies were attempting to manufacture motivation.
“We’re not concerned with how they feel, how they think,” Callaway said. “If you need that to light a fire under you, you probably got it the wrong way.”
On Monday night, in the first game of the series, Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil and first baseman Pete Alonso were hit by consecutive pitches by different Phillies pitchers. One loaded the bases; the other drove in a run. McNeil had homered earlier in the game.
Mets third baseman Todd Frazier was hit by a pitch in the fourth inning of Wednesday’s loss. He went to first base without incident. It was the 16th time that a Met had been hit this season, the most in the major leagues.
Callaway also noted that he did not hesitate to bring Rhame in to face Hoskins again on Wednesday.
“Didn’t even cross my mind,” Callaway said.
Rhame started Hoskins with a fastball that was called for a strike before throwing a ball in the dirt for a ball. It was another 95 m.p.h. fastball that Hoskins drove into the left-field stands. Afterward, Hoskins said the Mets had reignited the rivalry.
“A couple of guys said the phrase, ‘Don’t poke the sleeping bear,’ ” Hoskins said. “The last couple of innings were a pretty good indication that may have happened.”
Rhame has surrendered three runs in three and one-third innings this season.
Phillies Manager Gabe Kapler approved of Hoskins’s home run walk, as well.
“I thought it was worthy of him having that moment, soaking it all in,” he said. “He deserved that.”
The Mets and the Phillies will next meet for a four-game series in Philadelphia on June 24.