PHILS INSIDER

Phillies let a big game slip away after another late error and 2 more blown saves

PHILS INSIDER

This was the series that was going to straighten out the Phillies' season.

They headed to New York for four games, trailing the first-place Mets by five in the National League East.

Sweep the series and you're down by a game on the cusp of July.

Even Dave Dombrowski, the team's president of baseball operations, acknowledged the ripe opportunity sitting in front of the Phillies.

"It's important because you have the ability of a four-game swing. That's a lot," he said before the series. "You have the ability to control your own destiny, right?"

That's what makes the events of the first two days in New York so galling.

The Phils split a doubleheader on Friday, but, really, they should have won both games.

And then they lost Saturday's game, but, really, they should have won that one, too.

It has become the sad narrative of this high-priced team: Self-inflicted loss after self-inflicted loss.

The Phils lost Saturday's game, 4-3, when the Mets rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Hector Neris blew the save but it didn't help that first baseman Rhys Hoskins opened the bottom of the frame with a killer error to put the tying run on base. Neris eventually walked in the tying run and the winning run scored on a sacrifice fly by Michael Conforto.

In each of the first three games of the series, the Phillies have blown saves with a fielding error contributing to all three. On Saturday, they blew two of them -- one in the seventh when Ranger Suarez gave up a game-tying homer to pinch-hitter Kevin Pillar moments after manager Joe Girardi lifted cruising Zach Eflin at 82 pitches, and one of them in the ninth. Girardi removed Eflin, who had out-pitched Jacob deGrom, because he did not want him to face lefty pinch-hitter Jeff McNeil and "I thought he was nearing the end of the rope." Suarez got McNeil but Pillar got him.

 

Neris also blew a ninth-inning save Wednesday at home. That ultimately cost him his job, though he has had to close two games in a row (one successfully, one unsuccessfully) because Jose Alvarado and Archie Bradley pitched Friday and were unavailable for duty Saturday.

Suarez' blown save in the seventh was the Phillies' 19th of the season and Neris' was their 20th. That's a major-league high.

The truly sickening part of all this is the Phillies easily could be 3-0 in this series heading into Sunday's series finale with Zack Wheeler on the mound.

They very easily could be 37-37 and just two games back in the race.

But they can't catch the ball and they can't close out games.

They also don't score enough runs. They've scored just six in the first three games of the series and had just 10 hits.

Instead of being two back entering Sunday, the Phils are six back.

The opportunity lost has not been lost on Girardi.

"It's extremely frustrating," he said. "I think we've given up seven runs in this series, and I think only three are earned. And it's frustrating. You're not going to win close games if you don't play good defense. It's bit us bad, especially this week. We've given a number of extra outs, and it seemed to come to bite us every time."

Hoskins has been involved in defensive lapses in the last two losses. He did not duck reporters after Saturday's game and that's easy to do in the COVID/Zoom world. In fact, he took it head-on.

"I've got to catch the ball," he said after booting Travis Blankenhorn's hard-hit but completely playable ball in the ninth inning. "I've got to make the play. I really believe if we get that out to start the ninth that we win that game, that we've got a chance to win the biggest series of the year tomorrow, right? With maybe our best guy this year on the mound."

Without even taking a question, Hoskins urged reporters not to forget to write about the "great things that happened" Saturday. It was an unusual request from a professional athlete who makes his living in an industry where the bottom line -- wins and losses -- means everything and one of the leaders of a $200 million team that frequently beats itself, but Hoskins did, in a way, have a point

The Phillies were on their way to doing something great Saturday. They were on their way to beating deGrom, the best pitcher in baseball, and shaving a game off the Mets' lead until they shot themselves in the foot again, this time with two blown saves (and an error) in the same game.

 

Good teams don't do this to themselves.

At 35-39, the Phils are not a good team

"Obviously, these types of losses hurt," Hoskins said. "They've been happening what seems like a lot over the last couple years. But this is what we do, man. We compete. We get knocked down and we get back up. Everybody else, I'm sure, feels the same way. It sucks right now, right? This is a tough, tough loss after a tough, tough loss yesterday. But I guarantee we're going to be ready to show up tomorrow and try to split a series against a pretty good team. We'll swallow it. We'll learn from it. We'll try to be better tomorrow. We'll be ready."

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