It got this bad for the Phillies this week when the New York Mash (er, Mets) came to town and blew them away in a four-game sweep: interim manager Pete Mackinin came to the postgame press conference after Thursday night’s thrashing armed with numbers. And, with the baleful conclusion, “We’re giving up way too many runs.”
Mackinin was being polite, of course. From Monday through Thursday the Mets bludgeoned the Phillies for 55 hits and 40 runs. The Phillies managed to score 21 runs on 35 hits. In some places, 21 runs on 55 hits is enough to bag a series. Against the National League East’s current and once-unexpected kings of swing, it was enough only to look a little less humiliated than the actual final scores left them.
This is how bad it got: The Mets didn’t lead during Thursday night’s game until the top of the thirteenth. And they still managed to win it 9-5. Only one of the four games ended up being close, Tuesday’s 6-5 outing. In the other three games the Mets’ margin of victory was four or better. And the Phillies looked like they might—might—have a chance to duck the sweep when they spotted Thursday starter Aaron Harang a five-run third at Met starter Jonathon Niese’s expense.
Oops. Harang spotted Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud a two-run homer in the fourth. Then, he spotted Yoenis Cespedes a two-run bomb and Kelly Johnson a solo in the fifth. Just like that, the Mets had the game tied. And they’d keep it that way until some way, somehow, some time, they’d find a way to win it.
Oh, sure, they needed a lot of help from a ricochet play in the Philadelphia eleventh Thursday night to keep the extra innings alive—Jeff Francoeur’s comebacker shot off Mets reliever Carlos Torres’s foot and right to Daniel Murphy playing first back in the hole, Murphy shoveling one to Torres who covered just ahead of Francoeur’s arrival for the inning-ending out.
“My first thought is, ‘That’s got to tell you we’re going to win the game’,” said Mets manager Terry Collins about the unusual 1-3-1 putout. “It’s a huge play. It gets us right back in the dugout. And guys are fired up. With the way we’ve been swinging the bats, I just thought we were going to get some hits to win the game.” Understatement of the week.
Two innings later, Murphy struck again on Phillies reliever Hector Neris’s dollar. With two on (including Torres himself on an infield hit) and one out, he drilled one down the left field line to bust the tie with two runs, then scored a third run when Neris threw David Wright’s grounder away and let the returning Mets captain have second on the house. An infield out later, Neris plunked d’Arnaud and rookie Michael Conforto singled Wright home with the well-enough needed insurance run.
That put the finishing touch on a set in which the Philadelphia pitching staff was hit for a 7.29 ERA in the four games; in which the Mets scored 23 unearned runs; in which the Phillies’ bullpen surrendered exactly half the Mets’ runs; in which the Mets came back from five-run deficits twice; in which the Mets set a franchise record with thirteen bombs in the four games.
These Mets are so locked in lately that they could leave the potential go-ahead run aboard in the sixth, the seventh, the eighth, and the eleventh Thursday night and still find a way to keep the Phillies from winning it. These Phillies—who were otherwise beginning to show signs of coming life from some of their newer, younger corps—still aren’t quite sure what hit them this week.
Mackinin, who may yet find himself handed a pink slip at season’s end, depending on what the shifting front office decides about him and embattled general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., is.
“That tells a story,” he said, beginning with the Mets’ 40 runs in 55 hits on the set. “We know what our issues are and we have to improve. We’re giving up too many runs. Our [relief pitchers] are overworked. They’ve been used so much, something like this was bound to happen. They’ve thrown a lot of innings and it has caught up to them. They’ve been way overworked. We’ll figure something out. We have to.”
Francoeur, once a short-term Met himself, commented ruefully, “The thing that sucks is we were legitimately in some games [against the Mets]. We just had a tough time keeping them off the scoreboard. Those guys are really swinging the bats and feeling confident.”
Once upon a time, when the Phillies owned the NL East, the Mets couldn’t pay for a break against them. Now the Mets are 12-1 against the Phillies this year, making for an active 29-7 string against them overall the last couple of years. Incidentally, the Mets host the Phillies for a three-game set in Citi Field starting this coming Monday, then have a return engagement in Citizens Bank Park for three at September’s end before ending the regular season against the Nationals.
“I’m happy they’re leaving town,” Mackinin said. He wasn’t exactly in a big hurry to have them back, either.