Wilson Ramos

Phillies 5, Mets 2: Aaron Nola zeroing in on history

Phillies 5, Mets 2: Aaron Nola zeroing in on history

BOX SCORE

After five futile innings against left-hander Steven Matz, the Phillies finally broke out for five runs in the sixth inning Tuesday against the Mets' bullpen.

Using extra men paid off for Gabe Kapler in the 5-2 win. A pinch-hit RBI single from Wilson Ramos and a pinch-hit RBI double from Justin Bour preceded Jorge Alfaro's three-run home run.

The moves resulted in J.P. Crawford and Scott Kingery leaving midway through the game, but the Phillies are desperate for runs and wins. Kapler will continue to employ "every marginal advantage," as he puts it.

Some fans sneer at what they consider over-managing, but there's not much of a debate that Ramos is a better hitter than Crawford and Bour is a better hitter than Kingery. If Crawford and Kingery would have made outs to end that inning, many would be asking, "Why not go to Ramos or Bour there?"

Aaron Nola started but did not get a decision. He was pulled with two outs in the sixth as his pitch count rose above triple-digits.

Carlos Santana reached base all four times with two singles and two walks. He's up to .234/.358/.426 on the season.

The Phillies are 77-73. With the Braves' 8-1 loss to the Cardinals, the Phillies are 5½ games back in the NL East.

Nola chasing history

The month of September has reminded us that Nola is, indeed, human.

For the third time in four starts this month, Nola couldn't make it out of the sixth inning. He didn't pitch poorly but wasn't at his best, allowing two runs to the Mets over 5⅔ innings with nine strikeouts.

The Phils are 5-1 against the Mets this season when Nola starts and 2-10 when anyone else does.

Nola is up to 199⅓ innings on the season. His opponents are hitting .201. No Phillies pitcher in more than 100 years has pitched at least 200 innings in a season and held his opponents under .200.

"It speaks to durability," Kapler said. "Look, if you're the best option for your team, more times than not, the manager is going to give you the opportunity to take down an additional inning.

"Almost always, Nola feels like the best option to get the next three hitters out. Piling up 200 innings is a huge accomplishment."

Nola's next start, No. 32, will be this Sunday in Atlanta. He'll face the Braves in both of his remaining starts.

Hurt by his counterpart

Nola was taken deep by opposing pitcher Steven Matz, who homered for the second consecutive start.

It was the first home run Nola has allowed to a pitcher since his MLB debut back on July 21, 2015 against Tampa Bay's Nate Karns.

The homer came after Nola had retired seven of the first eight hitters, five via the punchout. It was the eighth homer Nola has allowed in his last four starts after giving up just eight in his previous 27 starts.

Matz walked five but shut the Phillies out over five innings.

Up next

The last Phillies-Mets game of 2018 is Wednesday evening at 6:05.

Zach Eflin (10-7, 4.26) opposes Noah Syndergaard (12-3, 3.26).

The Phillies have hit .348 vs. Syndergaard in three games this season. He has a 5.51 ERA against them.

More on the Phillies

Stick a fork in 'em: Phillies' doubleheader ends in catastrophe

Stick a fork in 'em: Phillies' doubleheader ends in catastrophe

BOX SCORE

This felt like the end.

The Phillies, up three in the ninth inning Tuesday night, blew a three-run lead and lost in extras, 7-6 to the Nationals. The Phils' five-run fifth inning — their biggest inning in nearly two months — was wasted.

Earlier in the day, they were shut down by a pitcher with a 7.08 career ERA.

The Phillies were swept in Tuesday's doubleheader and ended their night a season-worst 6½ games back in the NL East after the Braves recorded a 4-1 win.

"Look, I'm not gonna sugarcoat it, we are not playing good baseball right now," Gabe Kapler said. "It is our job to stay the course, to stay unemotional, to not panic, specifically my job."

In one day, the Phillies lost another series. It will be 34 straight games without a series win for a team that is now just four games over .500 at 74-70. Will they even finish with a winning record?

"As long as we are still in the race, as long as we still have games left with Atlanta, and as long as we can mathematically catch them, I will believe in this club," Kapler said. "That will not waver."

Aaron Nola (16-4, 2.29) opposes Stephen Strasburg (7-7, 4.04) in Wednesday night's series finale. 

Dominguez implodes

Seranthony Dominguez looked great in the eighth inning but couldn't protect a three-run lead in the ninth. After allowing two runs and loading the bases, Dominguez was pulled for Luis Garcia. 

Garcia promptly walked Trea Turner with the bases loaded to tie the game.

In the 10th, Yacksel Rios was taken deep by Juan Soto, who also homered and doubled earlier off Jake Arrieta.

“Urgency is kind of a ridiculous thing to say, honestly," Arrieta said. "Urgency, it’s accountability and responsibility. Take care of your end of the bargain, pick up your teammates. We've needed to be urgent for a long time and that just means win ballgames. We haven't done that."

2-3 punch

Rhys Hoskins and Wilson Ramos made it a tough night on Tanner Roark. Hoskins doubled twice against him and Ramos singled twice, driving in two runs. Both ended up with three-hit games.

For Hoskins, they were doubles No. 31 and 32. He is one of only five players in the National League with at least 30 doubles and 30 homers. The others are Paul Goldschmidt, Javier Baez, Trevor Story and Matt Carpenter.

As for Ramos, the guy has done nothing but hit when healthy for the Phils. In 18 games, he's batted .404 with a 1.060 OPS, nine extra-base hits and 13 RBI.

The Phils should absolutely make a push to re-sign Ramos, even if it might cost something like $45 million over three years. You can count on one hand the number of difference-making offensive catchers. He's one of them.

Earlier in the day ...

The Phillies lost 3-1 in Game 1. They mustered nothing against Erick Fedde, who entered with a 7.08 ERA in 10 career starts.

Here's a look at how often this season the Phillies have been shut down by a mediocre young pitcher (see story).

Scary moment

Attempting to catch a ball in foul territory to start the eighth inning, Maikel Franco fell upside-down into the Nationals' dugout near the camera well (see video). After a delay of about 90 seconds, Franco hobbled off the field and was replaced by Asdrubal Cabrera.

Franco, who couldn't really remember what happened, has a shoulder contusion and neck tightness. He told Kapler in the clubhouse that he'll be fine, but it's a virtual certainty that Franco will sit Wednesday with the off-day Thursday.

More on the Phillies

Phillies stuck in the mud, figuratively and literally

Phillies stuck in the mud, figuratively and literally

There have been times in recent days when it has looked like the Phillies’ season was stuck in the mud. So the unexpected, and probably avoidable, events of Monday night served as an apt metaphor for what has happened to the team lately.

The Phillies' scheduled game against the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park was postponed because of poor field conditions. The grounds crew worked feverishly for several hours – even using blowtorches in an effort to dry the soggy infield dirt – before the decision to postpone was made about 7:15 p.m.

The two teams will play a traditional doubleheader Tuesday at 3:05 p.m. Monday’s scheduled starter Jake Arrieta will get the ball in one of the games and Nick Pivetta in the other. The Phillies, who entered Monday trailing Atlanta by 4½ games in the NL East, are coming off a 2-4 road trip to Miami and New York and they are 6-14 since August 18.

The decision to postpone was made by the umpires in conjunction with Major League Baseball. Players on both sides agreed with the decision. Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton said the infield dirt was like “pudding” or “cake batter.” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, who was on the field with the umpires and Phillies officials before the decision was made, also agreed with it.

“The conversations on the field were very good,” Rizzo said. “It was all about player safety and the integrity of the field. The field was soft. We didn't want anybody getting hurt on the Phillies or the Nationals. It was deemed too big a risk to put the players in.”

Max Scherzer and Rhys Hoskins, the union reps on both sides, were on the field before the decision was made.

“The dirt, it was spongy, it would literally give out,” Scherzer said. “And that was just us acting like we were going to run. The moment you put any weight on the ball of your foot, the dirt would just give out. There were parts of the infield they said could get better and when we tested those areas we both looked at each other and thought, ‘This is going to get torn up when guys are going 100 percent,' and you can't have any one spot out there because that's how you get injured. We've seen that in the past.”

Late in the 2016 season, Wilson Ramos, then with the Nationals, suffered a serious knee injury on a wet field. He played in just 64 games the next season. Ramos is now with the Phillies.

“Ramos, two years ago, blew out his ACL,” Scherzer said. “There isn't a player in here that can hold themselves accountable if something like that happened."

Hoskins agreed. The risk was too great.

“We didn't feel safe as players,” he said. “I think a big thing was we didn't want people compensating for what the surface was and potentially having an injury that way.”

It is not unusual to have a rainout. It is unusual to have a “mud out.” According to baseball researcher Dave Smith of Retrosheet, this was the first game postponed because of wet grounds since a game at Milwaukee on Sept. 21, 1987.

So what happened?

According to Howard Smith, the Phillies vice president of business affairs, the field was not covered during Friday night’s heavy rainstorm and no drying occurred during a wet weekend.

“The field wasn’t tarped on Friday night because we were supposed to get only a small amount of rain,” Smith said. “If you tarp the field 24 hours a day, the field will turn brown and it will die. It’s an on-and-off situation. We didn’t tarp it Friday night. In retrospect, had I known it was going to be this much rain, we would’ve tarped it. We had it covered the rest of the weekend, but the damage was done and we’re just playing catch up. The rain this morning didn’t help us because we weren’t able to deal with it.”

The Phillies had spent the previous week on the road. Players began arriving at Citizens Bank Park early Monday afternoon. They weren’t there long when word started circulating the game could be in jeopardy. A couple of players were incredulous that the field was in such poor shape.

Two hours after the game was postponed, more than 20 members of the grounds crew continued to work on drying out the infield dirt. They used rakes, drying agent and blowtorches. At some point, the field was to be covered, but here’s the hitch: Tuesday’s forecast is not good. The Phillies have 20 games to play, 20 games to catch the Braves, and the calendar is shrinking.

More on the Phillies