New York Mets

Mets continue to make life miserable for wasteful Phillies

Mets continue to make life miserable for wasteful Phillies

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WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — It matters not the venue, the New York Mets have made life tough on the Phillies everywhere this season.

The Phillies lost another game and another series to the Mets on Sunday night. Starter Nick Pivetta did not pitch well and the offense was insufficient as the Phils absorbed an 8-2 loss in the Little League Classic at historic Bowman Field (see first take).

The loss was the Phils' third in four days to the Mets. The Phils lost the five-game series and are just 5-8 against the Mets, who are 15 games under .500, this season.

The two teams play six more times in September.

"I think there's something to be said for division rivals," Rhys Hoskins said. "For whatever reason, it seems like they get up to play us. That's what happens when you are at the top of the division."

Actually, the Phils (68-56) are not at the top of the division. They had a chance to move into first place in the NL East with a win Sunday night as Atlanta lost its fourth game in a row earlier in the day. But the Phillies could not capitalize and they trail Atlanta by a half-game. That has been a theme for several weeks. The Phils were in first place from July 6 to Aug. 10 and had several chances to put space between themselves and the Braves, but never could build a lead of more than 2½ games.

Hoskins admitted that was frustrating.

"At the same time, though, we know that we haven't played as well as we can and we're still a half-game out of first place," he said. "So it's hard to be too frustrated. It could be worse. We could not be in striking distance. So, yeah, frustrating, but I think at the same time you can find some positive in being a half-game out."

Manager Gabe Kapler acknowledged that his team has squandered chances to advance.

"We understand we've had some missed opportunities to take some steps forward here," he said. "So at this very moment, I'm not thinking about how fortunate we are. I do feel like we're in a good spot in the standings. But I'm thinking about the fact that we need to take the day off, regroup, and get ready to play the Nationals. We will be prepared for that series."

That three-game series begins Tuesday night and though the Nationals have struggled and are a game under .500 and seven games back in the division, they still have big talent and are dangerous.

Here's how the pitching will go in that series:

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)

Sunday night's pitching matchup didn't have the juice that Nola vs. Scherzer will, but the Mets were pleased with the outcome. Lefty Jason Vargas held the Phils to two runs over 5⅓ innings. He gave up just three hits over the first five innings. Hoskins singled with one out in the sixth and Carlos Santana followed with a two-run homer for the Phillies' only runs.

"He mixed well," Hoskins said. "He kept us off balance. That's kind of the pitcher that he is. He executed tonight. Sometimes you run into that. I wish I had more. He just kept the ball off the barrel."

Vargas got off to a poor start this season and entered with an ERA over 8.00.

"I thought Vargas pitched great," Kapler said. "Look, he has a track record of success in Major League Baseball. So despite the fact he hasn't had the same level of success this year, he's still a dangerous pitcher. He's very crafty. He used his changeup off the plate and expanded our zone just a little bit. That's why you saw us put some balls in play to the left side that we don't normally put in play. He made some good pitches. He was a quality starter for the Mets tonight."

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.

"Nick missed with his location quite a bit," Kapler said. "I think that's why he struggled to go deep into the game for us."

Third baseman Maikel Franco got a night off from the starting lineup. Asdrubal Cabrera started at third base and Scott Kingery at shortstop. Late in the game, Kapler inserted Justin Bour at first base and moved Santana to third base. Could that happen again down the stretch as Kapler looks for runs?

"It's not something we plan on doing regularly," Kapler said. "But in a situation where we're down five runs and we have to find some offense and we might be able to get Bour two at-bats in a game like we were able to do tonight, you probably have to take that shot. Santana has played third base successfully in the past. He takes ground balls there throughout the season. He prepares himself mentally for that opportunity. We'll use it when we need to."

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Phillies finish a unique day with another ugly loss to Mets in Little League Classic

Phillies finish a unique day with another ugly loss to Mets in Little League Classic

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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.

Up next

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)

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Why no Justin Bour vs. Jacob deGrom? Gabe Kapler explains

Why no Justin Bour vs. Jacob deGrom? Gabe Kapler explains

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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."

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