WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — The Phillies wasted a chance to move into first place in the National League East on Sunday night. The Phils lost to the New York Mets, 8-2, in the Little League Classic at historic Bowman Field.
The Atlanta Braves lost their fourth straight game earlier in the day, leaving the door open for the Phillies to grab the top spot in the division. The Phils, however, flopped in the nationally televised game. Starter Nick Pivetta did not pitch well and the offense was insufficient as the Phils fell to 68-56. They are a half-game behind Atlanta.
The Mets, 15 games under .500, might be also-rans in the division, but they play the Phillies tough. They took three of five games in the series that was lengthened by a doubleheader on Thursday. The Mets, with the help of a 24-4 shellacking in the first game, outscored the Phils, 43-20, in the series.
For the season, the Phillies are 5-8 against the Mets. The two teams meet six times in September.
Mets lefty Jason Vargas held the Phils to two runs over 5⅓ innings. He gave up just three hits over the first five innings. Rhys Hoskins singled with one out in the sixth and Carlos Santana followed with a two-run homer for the Phillies' only two runs.
Pivetta pitched well in his previous three starts, allowing just three runs in 18 innings. The success did not carry over into this one. He was tagged for five singles and four runs in the second inning. He was charged with two more runs in the fourth inning, one coming after a leadoff walk.
Herrera dropped in order
Odubel Herrera, who has been the team's primary No. 3 hitter this season, batted eighth in manager Gabe Kapler's lineup. Herrera had not batted that low since 2015, his rookie season, but the move was justified as he entered the game hitting just .229 with a .640 OPS since July 1.
"The thought process behind that is kind of interesting," Kapler said. "Maikel Franco we had bat eighth when he was struggling a little bit. And one of the things it naturally forces you to do is become a tiny bit more patient, see the ball a little bit longer and understand that the pitcher is hitting behind you, so you have to be hunting a pitch to drive and only a pitch to drive. It just might be something that kick-starts him a little bit. We feel very confident that it's not an indication that he can't hit in our three-hole. He's done it for a long time. We know there is a very good chance that he'll be back in the three-hole at some point, and this is just a temporary move to see if we can put Odubel in a good position to succeed."
Herrera had a single in four at-bats.
The Phillies are off on Monday. They open a three-game series in Washington on Tuesday night. Here are the pitching matchups:
Tuesday night — RHP Vince Velasquez (8-9, 4.13) vs. RHP Tanner Roark (8-12, 4.13)
Wednesday night — RHP Zach Eflin (9-4, 3.70) vs. RHP Stephen Strasburg (6-7, 3.90)
Thursday afternoon — RHP Aaron Nola (14-3, 2.24) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (16-5, 2.11)