Why wasn't Justin Bour in the starting lineup?
That was the question on seemingly every Phillies fan's mind Saturday — at least if Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, emails and texts are any indication — as they were being shut down by the amazing Jacob deGrom on Saturday afternoon.
Coming into the game, Bour had gone 8 for 21 (.381) with two homers and a double off deGrom. No, it's not some massive sample size. But the only players in baseball with more career extra-base hits off deGrom than Bour are Giancarlo Stanton, Bryce Harper and Freddie Freeman.
When you're facing the Ace of Aces, don't you want as much offense in the lineup as possible?
"I thought long and hard about Bour starting today," manager Gabe Kapler said. "I had the conversation with Justin as well. I said look, I really wanted to find a way to get you in there today but with Jake Arrieta on the mound, it's very important that we put our best defensive infield out there.
"We want to give Jake every chance because, with the high groundball rate, we know he's going to induce a lot of ground balls. We know that we're going to need to play sound defense behind him. And Carlos Santana is a very, very good defensive first baseman despite a play he wasn't able to make today. He's very good over there, he makes our infielders look good.
"So when Jake is on the mound, when Aaron Nola is on the mound, sometimes we optimize for defense over putting a guy in the lineup whose had some success against deGrom, and he has been good against him."
Santana made outs in his first three at-bats and was booed after striking out with Rhys Hoskins on second base to end the sixth inning. Santana did begin the ninth inning with a single up the middle, which had meaning in a two-run game.
Bour pinch-hit in the eighth and struck out swinging on three pitches.
The Phillies managed just an unearned run in their 3-1 loss to deGrom and the Mets (see first take). Even that involved frustration because the play, along with the inning, ended with Odubel Herrera rounding first base and being tagged out before he could dive back safely.
That seventh inning was the only time all afternoon the Phillies had multiple baserunners against deGrom. The next inning, Hoskins stepped to the plate representing the tying run after doubling and singling earlier against the Mets' Cy Young candidate. Hoskins struck out swinging … on a 98.1 mph fastball that was deGrom's fastest pitch of the day to that point.
The guy is just ridiculous.
In 25 starts this season, deGrom is 8-7 with a 1.71 ERA. The Mets have lost 14 of his starts because they're the Mets and they struggle to score. But, as usual, the Mets' deficiencies haven't stopped them from beating the Phillies. The Mets are 7-5 against the Phils and 18 games under .500 against everyone else.
There has been plenty of cap-tipping this season by the Phillies when they struggle to score runs. This was an instance when you do just truly tip your cap to maybe the best pitcher in baseball.
"You think can he keep going? Can he keep going? And then he just does," Mets catcher Devin Mesoraco said of his battery mate. "A lot of life on his fastball and his best slider of the year. He had everything working."
The Phillies, again, did not have their defense working. Arrieta made his fourth errant pickoff throw of the season, Santana muffed a grounder to start the sixth and Herrera collided with Cesar Hernandez on a pop-up that was caught. There's been a lot of that in shallow center field this season.
The Phillies have 96 errors, most in the majors and 15 more than they averaged from 2008-11. The defense has been a serious issue, so even if Kapler's decision to sit Bour seemed strange, it's a bit more defensible because of all the unearned runs scored with Arrieta on the mound.
But, quite frankly, even without the miscues, the Phillies probably wouldn't have won this game.
"He's the story," Arrieta said of deGrom. "He's having a historic season. Hopefully, he keeps it up, it's really fun to watch that. You don't want to see it against your guys, but when a guy is on top of his game like that, sometimes you just sit back and enjoy it.
"Hopefully he does it against the Braves for us."