Devin Mesoraco

Phillies miss out on so much after Hector Neris' meltdown in 9th inning

Phillies miss out on so much after Hector Neris' meltdown in 9th inning

BOX SCORE

The Phillies were two outs away from taking over first place in the National League East, two outs away from being eight games over .500 for the first time since 2011, the last year they made the playoffs.

They were two outs away from nailing down a nice win for Jake Arrieta on a night when he had no margin for error, two outs away from putting their collective foot down and telling the New York Mets to find a new punching bag.

So close ...

Hector Neris gave up a pair of one-out home runs in the top of the ninth inning and the Phillies suffered a galling 3-1 loss to the Mets at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night (see first take). The Phillies, thanks to Arrieta’s 7 1/3 shutout innings and Odubel Herrera’s home run in the first inning, had taken a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning. Neris got the first out before all hell broke loose. He allowed a single to Wilmer Flores then back-to-back home runs to Michael Conforto and Devin Mesoraco.

Goodbye, four-game winning streak.

Goodbye, ascension into first place. 

Hello, boos.

Neris heard lots of them after the home runs and again as he left the mound.

It has been an up-and-down week for Neris. He blew a save Sunday in Washington, came home and picked up two saves in a rousing four-game sweep of the Giants, then suffered an excruciating meltdown in this one. Without his two blown saves, the Phillies are looking at a seven-game winning streak.

Manager Gabe Kapler has never officially named Neris his closer even though he is the guy who has been called upon in ninth innings with the lead. 

Will Kapler stay away from Neris in the ninth inning for a while?

“If he's the best option at any given scenario, we will go to him,” Kapler said. “That has always been the case; that will always be the case. If he is the best option to get the hitters out that are coming up, we will go to him.

“Hector is as a very good baseball player going through a tough time. His track record suggests he will perform, I believe he will perform.”

The Phillies have several pitchers with closer’s stuff, including Luis Garcia, Yacksel Rios and Seranthony Dominguez. It will be fascinating to see what Kapler does in the next save situation.

Conforto hit a 1-2 fastball for the go-ahead homer. Two pitches earlier, he hit a splitter that went foul, just missing a homer. Neris did not throw another splitter and that is his best pitch. Mesoraco hit a slider.

Neris might have lost some confidence in the pitch. He did not stick around after the game to speak with reporters.

“It's a really special pitch,” Kapler said of Neris’ splitter. “I don't think anybody is lacking any confidence in it. But he's also got a really good fastball and his fastball has been effective in the past and that one wasn't.”

Catcher Jorge Alfaro said he and Neris were on the same page in throwing Conforto a second straight fastball at 1-2.

Though Neris got the boos, there were other failures. The offense was 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position, left nine men on base and grounded into two double plays.

The Mets came in having lost eight of nine. But Citizens Bank Park and the Phillies bring out the best in the Mets. They are 41-19 against the Phils since the start of 2015 and 41-17 at CBP since 2012.

Arrieta has given up just one run in 13 1/3 innings his last two starts and the Phils ended up losing both of those games on blown saves by Neris.

"It's tough for me because it's tough for Hector,” Arrieta said. “You hate to see a teammate in a situation like that. He works his butt off. It's tough for him, so it's tough for me.”

How is a tough loss like this best handled?

"We just drink a beer, talk about it and move forward,” Arrieta said.

After this one, two beers might be in order.

Hector Neris blows another save in Phillies' demoralizing loss to Mets

Hector Neris blows another save in Phillies' demoralizing loss to Mets

BOX SCORE

The Phillies’ streak of spectacular starting pitching continued on Friday night.

So did Odubel Herrera’s spectacular on-base streak.

But the Phillies suffered an excruciating 3-1 loss to the New York Mets after closer Hector Neris melted down and allowed a pair of home runs with one out in the top of the ninth inning.

It was Neris’ second ugly blown save in less than a week. Without the two blown saves, the Phillies (22-16) would be looking at a seven-game winning streak (see story).

Jake Arrieta pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings and left with a 1-0 lead thanks to Herrera’s solo homer in the first. The homer improved his on-base streak to 40 games. He leads the NL with a .360 batting average.

Neris came on with a 1-0 lead in the ninth. He retired Adrian Gonzalez for the first out then allowed a booming two-run homer to right to Michael Conforto on a 1-2 fastball. Two pitches earlier, Conforto nearly homered on a splitter. The ball went just foul. Devin Mesoraco followed Conforto's homer by hammering a first-pitch slider over the left-field wall to make it a 3-1 game.

Neris was booed lustily after giving up both homers and again after the third out.

Jeurys Familia came on in the bottom of the ninth and saved it for the Mets, who are 41-17 at Citizens Bank Park since 2012 and 41-19 overall against the Phillies since the start of the 2015 season.

With Arrieta's 7 1/3 scoreless innings, Phillies starting pitchers have allowed just four runs in 32 innings and struck out 45 over five games on this homestand.

The streak of strong starting pitching actually goes back seven games. Over that span, the starters have allowed just six runs in 43 innings. The team is 5-2 over that span, both of the losses coming when Neris could not hold a lead in the ninth.

Arrieta has a 2.59 ERA in seven starts. He has allowed one run in 13 1/3 innings over his last two starts.

The 32-year-old right-hander gave up five hits and two walks. He struck out five and threw 101 pitches.

One of Arrieta’s last throws was a beauty — a perfect pickoff throw to first baseman Carlos Santana to get Jose Reyes and end the top of the seventh. It was the fourth time a Phillies pitcher has picked a runner off first base in the last 10 games. Aaron Nola has done it twice and Zach Eflin and Arrieta once each. Santana has been on the receiving end of all four pickoffs. The guy has exceptionally quick hands.

Notes
• Pitcher Mark Leiter Jr., on the DL with a right forearm strain, is slated to pitch 2 1/3 innings at Single A Clearwater on Saturday. Jerad Eickhoff, recovering from a lat strain, is scheduled for three innings or 50 pitches for Clearwater on Monday.

• Pitching coach Rick Kranitz was excused from the game to attend his daughter’s graduation. Assistant pitching coach Chris Young handled pitching coach duties and Sam Fuld was in uniform on the bench. Fuld is the team’s player information coordinator and also works with outfielders during pregame workouts.

MLB Notes: Ian Kinsler rips veteran umpire Angel Hernandez

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MLB Notes: Ian Kinsler rips veteran umpire Angel Hernandez

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler had harsh words Tuesday for Angel Hernandez, saying the veteran umpire should get a different job.

A day after being ejected from a game for questioning Hernandez's calls on balls and strikes, Kinsler told reporters covering the Tigers that Hernandez is a bad umpire who is "messing" with games "blatantly."

"It has to do with changing the game. He's changing the game. He needs to find another job, he really does," Kinsler said.

Kinsler's comments were reported online by multiple media outlets just before Detroit played the Texas Rangers and early in the game.

After the Rangers' 10-4 win Tuesday night, when Hernandez worked third base, the umpire said he didn't know about Kinsler's criticism. When told in general what the player said, Hernandez said "it doesn't matter."

"I'm not at liberty to discuss tit-for-tat what's going on. As a matter of fact, I don't even care what he said," Hernandez said. "What I care about is going out there and doing my job, to the best I can do" (see full story).

Marlins: Stanton homers in 6th straight game
MIAMI -- Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton has homered in his sixth straight game, hitting his 44th of the season off San Francisco Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner.

Stanton connected for a solo shot to left-center field in the third inning Tuesday night, tying the score at 2. The All-Star outfielder has 10 home runs in his last 11 games, and 23 in the last 35.

The major league record for consecutive games with a home run is eight, set by Dale Long of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1956, Don Mattingly of the New York Yankees in 1987 and Ken Griffey Jr. of the Seattle Mariners in 1993.

The last player to go deep in six consecutive games was Colorado's Nolan Arenado, in early September 2015.

Stanton had already broken the Miami record for home runs in a season. He surpassed Gary Sheffield, who hit 42 in 1996.

Going into Tuesday night, Stanton's 22 homers in 34 games had only been exceeded twice in major league history. Sammy Sosa hit 25 during a 34-game stretch in 1998, and Barry Bonds had 24 in 2001, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Reds: Mesoraco out 3-6 weeks with broken foot
CHICAGO -- Cincinnati Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco will be out three to six weeks after he broke a bone in his left foot Monday.

Mesoraco, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list Tuesday, was hit by a pitch from Chicago Cubs starter Jose Quintana in the second inning of a 15-5 loss at Wrigley Field.

Mesoraco is hitting .213 in 56 games with six homers and 14 RBIs. He was an All-Star in 2014 when he batted .273 with 25 homers and 80 RBIs, but two hip surgeries and a left shoulder operation limited Mesoraco to 39 games with 95 at-bats in 2015 and 2016. In those two seasons, he had a .158 average and no home runs.

The Reds recalled outfielder Phillip Ervin from Triple-A Louisville to fill the roster spot before Tuesday night's game at Chicago.