Phillies - Mets Series Recap: Missed Opportunities Loom Large
The Phillies were able to just barely escape the 4 game series with the division leading Mets with a split, but they easily could’ve swept them and made up major ground in the division.
What a bounce back from Aaron Nola. It initially looked like he’d be in early trouble, putting runners on second and third with no outs in the first inning. He then registered 6 straight strikeouts to get into the top of the third, and added another three K’s to get to 9 straight, one away from the major league record. And he couldn’t break it, but he got 10 straight, and looked simply unhittable during his record breaking stretch.
For good measure, he also drove in Nick Maton (who's back in the big leauges) for the Phillies only run of the day in the 5th inning. Nola finished the day with 5.1 innings pitched, allowing two hits, striking out 12 and keeping New York off the scoreboard. Carrying a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the 7th, Luis Guillorme reached second on an error both Jose Alvarado and Rhys Hoskins shared blame for, and Francisco Lindor singled to drive in the tying run and send the game into extras. In the top of the 8th, Rhys Hoskins struck out, Bryce Harper was intentionally walked, then JT Realmuto and Andrew McCutchen both struck out. Then in the bottom of the 8th Dom Smith singled in Francisco Lindor from second to win the game, 2-1 for the Mets, where if the Phillies didn’t shoot themselves in the foot they easily could’ve won.
I never doubted Matt Moore. He went 5 scoreless in the second game of the doubleheader, with an assist from an amazing defensive play from Andrew McCutchen. Cutch has been super strong this whole month, sporting an on base percentage of .430 and an elite OPS of 1.102. He’s also hit 6 homers, walked more than he’s struck out and has 10 extra base hits.
Game 2 was scoreless until on an 0-2 count, Bryce Harper saw a pitch at shoulder level and didn’t miss it, giving him his 11th solo home run on the year, and giving the Phils a 1-0 lead.
The lead was short lived, as Alec Bohm committed an error that put a runner on second, who scored later to tie it back up. The team isn’t going anywhere if the defense continues to just hand the other team runs. In the top of the 8th, Odubel Herrera was able to score the go-ahead run, and Hector Neris, who had just lost his job, shut down the Mets to split the doubleheader, just like we all predicted.
Next up, Jacob deGrom. The guy who had an ERA under 0.6 coming into this game. The guy who had driven in more runs than he had allowed. The pitcher putting up historic numbers and earning serious MVP talks. He was up next
The Phillies scored 2 runs in 6 innings off of him.
We all expected that, right? Nick Maton broke deGrom’s streak of 31 scoreless innings with an RBI single to score Andrew McCutchen. Zach Eflin did give up a run in that same inning, but Philly took the lead back with a McCutchen sac fly. The Mets tied it up with a solo blast against Ranger Suarez, but Nick Maton came through again to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead going into the bottom of the ninth. And this felt like a must win. deGrom had his worst start all year, and your starter arguably out pitched a guy in MVP conversations. Against a team you’re trying to make up ground against in a division race, a win would be huge.
Hector Neris had other plans. He proved why he can’t be trusted. A runner reached first on a Hoskins error. Neris issued a walk, and then an infield single that was saved by Ronald Torreyes. Neris then walked a run in, tying it at 3-3. Michael Conforto hit a sac fly to score the game winning run and give Philly another gut punch loss in a season full of them. The team has a lot of problems, but not being able to close games because of a bullpen that is still very bad might be the most frustrating. If the Phillies starter doesn’t pitch 7 or 8 scoreless, or the offense doesn’t give you an extreme cushion you can’t count on your bullpen to not suck and get you a win.
And as long as you can’t count on your bullpen, the Phillies will probably never be a winning team. The injuries they’ve had to deal with also haven’t helped, as Bryce Harper left in the middle of this game, and him missing Game 4 was the 20th game he’s missed this season. JT Realmuto has missed time, Jean Segura is missing time, Didi Gregorius should be returning soon, and the Phillies had to deal with terrible center fielders for a while.
Basically, the Phillies are a middling and injured team, and will probably stay that way for a while unless big moves are made. It only makes it all the more frustrating because they have top talent like Zack Wheeler, JT Realmuto and Bryce Harper (who was recently named an All-Star finalist and if he gets enough fan votes will be named an All-Star Starter, so that's cool.) But it's not like they have some bright future. Bryson Stott is a bright spot in the minors, but their top pitching prospect can't get through four innings, their former ROY runner up isn't even slugging .350 this year and is leading the MLB in all kinds of categories you don't want to lead in. The Phillies future is one of a middling team who maybe can sneak past the wild card game once. Not really something to look forward to.
Back to the games being played, and what an outing from Zack Wheeler. It was a big weekend for all of the Phillies starters, with Nola, Wheeler and Eflin all having strong outings. They combined for 18.1 innings, 24 strikeouts, a 0.50 ERA and a WHIP under 1. If it wasn’t for deGrom being as good as he’s been, Wheeler might be in Cy Young conversations. Zack went 7 innings without a run in Game 4, while the Phillies took a 4-0 lead by the end of the third inning. From there, everything was quiet until an RBI Single from Pete Alonso cut the lead down to 3 runs, and with one out in the bottom of the ninth Archie Bradley allowed a solo shot that cut the lead to 4-2. Not again, right? Luckily, Bradley sat the next two batters down in order and the Phillies salvaged the split. They didn’t make up any ground in the division though, and are 5 games back of the Mets with a one game battle in Cincinatti up next.