Here in Philadelphia, we have grown accustomed to disappointing moments from our sports teams recently. From the Flyers getting absolutely plastered in Game 7 to the Sixers being swept by Boston, it felt almost as if 2020 just wasn’t our year.
Honestly, I don’t think its been anyone’s year.
Fresh off of winning 10 out of 11 games for the first time since 2011 with a win in the first game on Friday, the Phillies seemed destined for a let down at some point. After the second and third games of the series, that let down seemed to be happening in earnest. After losing 5-1 on Saturday Night, the Phillies looked lethargic in a 14-1 laugher on Sunday. The defense was shaky, the bullpen got torched, and Aaron Nola just didn’t have his best stuff. The Phillies looked to salvage the series with their other ace, Zack Wheeler on the mound.
The Phillies took control of the game rather quickly, with a bases clearing double off the bat of Jean Segura in the top of the 1st. Rhys Hoskins added on the very next inning, with a homerun down the leftfield line that came off the bat at 109.3 mph, making it a 5-0 lead. The way that Wheeler pitched the first four innings, five runs should have been enough.
Queue the typical Philadelphia blow up.
After adding a run in the top of the 5th via a JT Realmuto opposite field blast, the Mets quickly struck back in the bottom half. Four doubles by Andres Gimenez, Michael Conforto, JD Davis, and Dom Smith plated three runs to cut the lead in half. The latter three hit theirs with two outs, with Smith being helped by a misplay from the recently recalled Kyle Garlick in rightfield. The bullpen was called out in the 7th to try and keep the 6-3 lead, but, like early in the season, they just couldn’t. JoJo Romero gave up two hits to lead off the inning, but bounced back to strikeout the aforementioned Smith. Looking for a double play ball, Romero got Cano to ground out to Rhys at first, only to have Didi rush an errant throw over to Romero covering the bag. A run scored on the error making it a 6-4 game.
New acquired David Phelps came in to face Pete Alonso and subsequently walked him on 5 pitches. The game felt like it was about to take a turn for the worse, and, sure enough, it did. Phelps tried to get a cutter in high and tight to Jeff McNeil, but didn’t get it in far enough and McNeil swatted it to the second deck in right. Just like that, the Mets took the 7-6 lead and it seemed like we were on the way out of the Big Apple.
With two outs in the top of the 8th, Alec Bohm, who had been really struggling in the series, singled home a run to tie the game up; Andrew Knapp was thrown out at home trying to take the one run lead. After two solid relief innings by Tommy Hunter and Brandon Workman, the Phillies needed to do something in the top of the 10th to avoid the incredibly disappointing series sweep. With two outs in the inning, Segura, who’s hitting .293 with 2 HRs and 13 RBIs over his last 15 games, came through with a two run blast for his fourth hit of the game. Hector Neris came in and gave up a run (the starting runner on second), but did enough for the save and the Phillies pulled out the 9-8 win.
Thanks to those big hits from Bohm and El Mambo, the Phillies were able to save face and actually gain a game on the Braves, who lost in extra innings to the Marlins. However, issues that have been plaguing the team all year are still rearing their heads: defense and the bullpen.
If this team has aspirations to make a deep run in the postseason, which they have the top level pitching and offensive depth to do, they will need to figure out these two areas. The bullpen has been pitching better as of late, and seemed to have righted the ship prior to the series at Citi Field, but pitchers can only do so much if the defense behind them resembles a nice piece of Swiss cheese. Now, with only three active outfielders on the roster (Kyle Garlick not included because he stinks), the Phillies are being stretched thin to the point that Bryce Harper made his first start in centerfield since 2018. I don’t know how to fix a struggling defense outside of taking more grounders and fly balls in practice, but something needs to give.
Defense is not something you want to lose a playoff series because of.