The Phillies’ complete meltdown versus the Mets tonight perfectly encapsulates what it’s like to be a Phillies fan. They gave us hope, a lot of hope, and then yanked it all away. Sure, it wasn’t malicious. It never is. It’s just pure incompetence, which is what the Phillies do best.
After losing a heartbreaker last night against the Rangers, the Phillies stormed out of the gates tonight, running up a 7-0 lead in the first four innings. Everything was going well as Aaron Nola was brilliant, only allowing one earned run over seven strong innings, while every player in the starting lineup collected at least one hit except for Rhys Hoskins and Johan Camargo. Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos blasted home runs, while Jean Segura collected three hits on the night. There were a few bumps in the road as Castellanos exited early after being hit on the wrist by a pitch, and a sixth inning Starling Marte homer made it 7-1, but through the first eight innings the Phils looked to be in great shape. And then it happened.
Joe Girardi called upon James Norwood to finish out the six-run game, and the 28-year-old promptly imploded. Norwood surrendered four hits, including one longball, while only collecting one out. With the game now at 7-3 and runners on second and third, Girardi brought closer Corey Knebel in to earn the save. Knebel, who has been dominant all year, turned into a pumpkin tonight. First, he allowed a Mark Canha infield single to make it 7-4. A strikeout of Dominic Smith took the Mets down to their final out. Then came a double from J.D. Davis that brought home Jeff McNeil. Brandon Nimmo then tied the game on a two-RBI single to center. To cap it all off Marte doubled off the center field wall to bring home the winning run. Meltdown complete.
Who does this meltdown get blamed on for the Phillies? It’s certainly not the offense. They did their job. Is it James Norwood’s fault? He did allow four earned runs and let the comeback train leave the station. In fairness, Norwood is a mediocre middle reliever to begin with, and he was pitching in garbage time. These things happen. Surely Corey Knebel should be taken to task for allowing things to snowball even further and ultimately losing the game. However, the former All-Star has been lights out all year and he can’t be expected to be perfect every single time he takes the mound. Should the blame tracker point towards Joe Girardi? Despite my scathing opinion piece on him yesterday, I actually don’t think this one is his fault. We can second guess exactly when he should’ve pulled the plug on Norwood, but the point remains that he used one of his worst pitchers in a low leverage spot, and it didn’t work out. Once the game began to get tight he made the move, and that didn’t pan out either. Girardi’s made plenty of mistakes, but tonight I think he did everything right and it just wasn’t meant to be. And that’s the most frustrating part of this Phillies meltdown. It’s the most Phillies-esque part of this. There’s no one thing that can be pointed to that screwed them over. It was just a slow, methodical, gut wrenching collapse. And we Phillies fans are far too familiar with that feeling.