The Mets, from one head down to all heads high

Cabrera (center) is none to thrilled after Ramos bent him with a first pitch over his head; catcher Rupp (29) prepares to keep peace . . .

Cabrera (center) is none to thrilled after Ramos bent him with a first pitch over his head; catcher Rupp (29) prepares to keep peace . . .

If I didn’t know better, I’d swear Edubray Ramos was auditioning for the Texas Rangers to shore up their bullpen. Based on his work in the eighth inning Monday against the Mets, the Phillies righthander seems a good fit for a team sometimes renowned for waiting till next year  and the last minute to settle a grudge.

Either that or Ramos merely wanted to send a message in advance about Jay Bruce hitting what proved the winning two-run homer. Maybe he’s already thinking about a front office gig. God only knows how many front offices hope to find men or women with crystal balls for brains.

With one out in the eighth at Citizens Bank, Asdrubal Cabrera checked in at the plate. This was the first time Ramos faced the Mets shortstop since 22 September, when Cabrera smashed a game-ending three-run homer in the bottom of the eleventh, opening a set in which the Mets took three out of four, and flipped his bat two-handed in celebrating the winning launch.

Ramos didn’t face the Mets again in that set or in the season-ending set in Philadelphia, during which the Mets won two of three. And, apparently, nobody else on the Phillies staff sent Cabrera any kind of message after the walkoff bomb. Dead issue, no?

Uh, no. On Monday night, Ramos threw the first pitch right over Cabrera’s head. Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp restrained Cabrera as both teams came to the top dugout steps, fuming. It cost the Phillies manager Pete Mackanin for the rest of the night after plate umpire Allan Porter handed both teams a warning and Mackanin questioned the order.

Bruce, who should have been the story without the Ramos-Cabrera nonsense, hitting his second (and ultimately game-winning) bomb Monday night . . .

Bruce, who should have been the story without the Ramos-Cabrera nonsense, hitting his second (and ultimately game-winning) bomb Monday night . . .

When order was restored Cabrera wrung out a walk. But after Ramos struck Yoenis Cespedes out, he came out in favour of lefthander Joely Rodriguez against the lefthanded Bruce. And Bruce—who’d hit one into the right field bleachers in the fourth, to get the Mets on the board in the first place—turned on a 1-2 pitch and hit it into the second deck, right off his own video image on the deck rim.

Perhaps Ramos paid a little deeper attention after Bruce’s blast landed. The Phillies dropped four of six to the Mets after Cabrera took him deep to win that first late September game; Bruce merely belted his second bomb of the night Monday after Cabrera got dusted.

If the Phillies didn’t like Cabrera flipping his bat to celebrate a tight win the Mets needed to keep their postseason hope alive, they should have found a way to beat them where it counted in those final days.

“The pitch got away from me,” Ramos said about the duster to Cabrera after the game. “I didn’t try to hit him. It was a tie game so I was just trying to execute my pitches.” Asked whether Cabrera’s walkoff bat flip last fall bothered him, Ramos said, “Yeah, a little, but again that was last year.”

Last year’s Phillies couldn’t even play spoiler to the Mets. Waiting seven months before the same pitcher who’d surrendered that game-ender bends Cabrera upon their first meeting of 2017 had premeditation written all over it. Ramos’s disclaimer would have been only slightly more believable if Cabrera hadn’t been bent on the first pitch.

Mackanin was unamused. Asked whether he thought there was “history” between Ramos and Cabrera, Mackanin allowed the possibility but not necessarily as something to cherish. “I’m trying to win a game, it’s a tied game in the eighth inning,” the skipper said, “and if in fact he did do that intentionally for whatever reason, we don’t play that way. I don’t play that way. It’s inappropriate, especially with a tied game in the eighth inning.”

On Monday the Phillies did what they could with Jacob deGrom early enough, with a first inning deuce on deGrom’s dollar thanks to a bases-loaded single (Michael Saunders) and a followup ducks-on-the-pond walk. (Rupp.) That was all they could do against deGrom, who managed a serviceable performance—six hits, two walks, three punchouts including number 500 for his career on Saunders’ dollar—and kept the Phillies from any further damage.

Mets manager Terry Collins was impressed enough. “That tells you what kind of stuff he’s got,” said the skipper. “Even on nights when he’s off, he gets you deep in the game.”

The Phillies opened Monday night as one of two teams in the Show who hadn’t yet committed an error. An inning before the Ramos Cabrera head show, though, second baseman Cesar Hernandez threw wild on Curtis Granderson’s grounder to let Bruce (leadoff walk) reach third and get Granderson credit for an infield hit. Then Rupp let Granderson reach second on Neil Walker’s game-tying sacrifice fly.

The good news otherwise for the Phillies was Brock Stassi’s first major league hit, a leadoff bomb off Addison Reed in the ninth. The bad news was Reed shaking off that and Daniel Nava’s two-out single to drop a called third strike in on Howie Kendrick to end it.

Ramos should probably face a little discipline for his duster. Rupp should probably get a commendation for keeping things limited to dugout step fuming when he restrained Cabrera with a modest “don’t do it” to keep him from thoughts of on-the-mound amputation.

“He was upset. He had every right to be,” the Phillies catcher said. “Nobody wants a ball going at their head.”

No rebuilding team facing eighteen more contests with one of their division’s top teams should want a rivalry (now in the Mets’ favour, the Mets winning 27 of the last 39 games between the two sides) turning into a blood feud they now stand an excellent chance of losing, either.

 

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