The Phillies were down by a run in the bottom of the third inning. Bryce Harper was standing on second base. Rhys Hoskins was at the plate.
New York Mets starter Steven Matz threw Hoskins an 0-2 fastball up and out of the strike zone.
“Strike three,” bellowed home plate umpire Will Little.
The usually mild-mannered Hoskins couldn’t believe the call. He spiked his helmet to the ground and quickly earned the first ejection of his career.
It was that kind of day for the Phillies, a day when the word “frustrating” was heard all over the clubhouse after a 6-3 loss to the Mets.
“Super frustrating,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “It's a game we have to win. Every game is critical. Every game is huge.”
The loss was the Phillies’ second in as many days to a Mets team that came to town having lost six straight.
The Phillies have been wasteful in the two games against the Mets. They wasted a good start by Aaron Nola in Friday night’s loss then went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position in losing Saturday’s game. The biggest waste of the day happened on the out-of-town scoreboard. The Cubs lost, 2-0, to Milwaukee. That score sat on the board all day as a reminder of a good opportunity for the Phils. They could not cash in and remain 3 ½ games behind the Cubs in the NL wild-card race. The Phils have 28 games left.
Jason Vargas, who allowed 13 base runners and five runs in four-plus innings, said he was frustrated by the way he pitched against his former team.
Told that the Cubs had lost, he said, “It’s definitely more frustrating with that happening. Just frustrating in general to not get it done.”
Phillies hitters struck out a dozen times and three of those Ks came with a runner in scoring position. There was Hoskins’ questionable strikeout in the third and two more in the seventh. The Phils were down by two runs when Jean Segura doubled to lead off the bottom of the seventh. He did not move past second as J.T. Realmuto struck out for the first out and Logan Morrison for the third.
Morrison had entered the game when Hoskins was ejected.
“I certainly can't say that it didn't hurt us strategically,” Kapler said. “Obviously, we want Rhys' spot coming up as much as possible, particularly when he's swinging the bat really well. So, can't say that it didn't hurt.”
Hoskins said he did not say anything out of the ordinary to Little.
“I think throwing the helmet was more frustration at myself, but I guess he took that as I was frustrated at him,” Hoskins said. “We’re in an emotional time of the year. Every game means a lot. I’m a little bit frustrated at myself coming up in that situation and not getting the job done. I argued my case just like every other hitter does when they disagree with a call and I guess they took that emotion as I was attacking him. He has the right to make that call — unfortunate in a game as big as this one was.”
Hoskins said he did not look at a replay of the called third strike. He didn’t need to.
While that missed chance hurt, the one that wounded the Phillies most came in the bottom of the sixth after Harper led off with a homer to make it a 5-2 game. The Phils loaded the bases, got one more run on a walk, but nothing more when rookie Adam Haseley bounced into an inning-ending double play.
That was the inning the Phils needed to take control of the game and they didn’t.
“Yeah,” Harper said. “Just missed opportunities. We had some chances to put some runs on the board and we weren’t able to do that. So you’re going to lose games like that when you don’t score enough runs.”
The Phils will look to Zach Eflin as their stopper in the series finale on Sunday night. The Mets will counter with Marcus Stroman, their big trade deadline pickup. He has not pitched well since joining the Mets. The Phils can’t allow him to get well against them.
“Obviously, these two losses are tough to swallow, but I think we feel pretty good about where we’re at,” Hoskins said. “We’re not losing confidence by any means. Big game tomorrow before we go on the road. We need to salvage this series and gain some momentum to go on the road and beat some teams that we know we can beat.”
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