The Phillies have gone on a remarkable run the past few months. They were seemingly dead in the water under lame duck Manager Joe Girardi, and now find themselves in a playoff spot, having gone 44-26 under Interim skipper Rob Thomson. While the turnaround has had spirits running high lately, one massive issue remains: the Phillies just can’t handle the Mets.
The Phillies have had some incredible comeback victories this season, and have looked like a true contender since June started. However, the continual thorn in their side is the New York Mets. Once a hapless franchise that blew a seven-game lead with 17 to go in 2007, this year’s Mets team is one of the strongest in baseball. They’ve run away from the Phillies with a 78-44 record, and are currently in line for a first round bye in the playoffs.
The Phillies have failed to put up a fight against the Mets all season, going a woeful 5-14 against them. They’ve had some truly epic failures, including an unbelievable 7-1 meltdown, and a no-hitter. Sure, they scraped together a handful of wins here and there, but on the whole they’ve simply been at the mercy of a much better team.
Sunday afternoon’s blowup deserves a spot high up on the list of colossal Phillies failures this season, as they had the game well in hand on multiple occasions and still managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Alec Bohm crushed two three-run homers, giving the Phillies a three-run lead on two separate occasions. Shoddy defense coupled with the ever-hittable Kyle Gibson made short work of an early 4-0 Phils lead. Even after Bohm’s second shot to make it 7-4, the Phillies still had no interest in winning this one. The usually excellent Connor Brogdon surrendered three earned runs in the seventh to make it a brand new ballgame.
It looked like Jean Segura would bail his teammates out when he launched a pinch hit solo shot in the bottom of the eighth to give the Phillies an 8-7 lead, but that wouldn’t last long. The overused David Robertson was called upon to close things out, despite having thrown a whopping 36 pitches in 2.0 innings the day before. Having been put in a position to fail, Robertson surrendered a double to Jeff McNeil and a finger to Mark Canha to give the Mets a 9-8 lead. 29-year-old Tyler Cyr made his major league debut and was tasked with recording the final out of the frame, but not before allowing another solo shot to Brandon Nimmo.
The Phillies looked completely deflated heading into the bottom of the ninth down two runs, but they still managed to give us just enough hope to break our hearts once more. J.T. Realmuto and Nick Castellanos led off with back-to-back singles. Bryson Stott got ahold of one to right-center field, but it died on the track. However, that scored Realmuto making it a one-run game. Nick Maton then put a charge into one to left-center, but once again came up just short. Jean Segura walked to put the winning run on base, and Darick Hall came in to pinch hit for newly acquired Bradley Zimmer.
This was it. The moment we were waiting for. It had been such a rollercoaster of a game, and the Phillies had been fighting so hard against their hated rival. The best closer in the league, Edwin Díaz, was off his game and they were ready to pounce. And then… Hall stared at a borderline fastball on the inside half for a called third strike. Game over.
One loss won’t ruin the Phillies season. Even after such a heartbreaking game they’re still 1.5 games up on the Brewers for the final wildcard spot. They’re a playoff team and they’ve earned that. However, Sunday’s collapse showed us something that we haven’t seen in a long time.
Amidst all the comeback wins and slugfests, we lost sight of the fact that the Phillies are still the Phillies. They’re not an entirely different team from the one that gave up a 7-1 lead in the ninth inning. Or the one that got no hit. Or the one that scored a total of two runs in a three-game series only last weekend. The Phillies may have beaten up on teams like the Reds and Pirates; they may have edged out season series victories over the Brewers and Cardinals; they may have even held their own against the vaunted Braves so far. However, one thing they have unequivocally failed miserably at is competing with the New York Mets.
The Phillies have been incredibly impressive over the past three months, and it’s been a great time to be a fan. However, if they end up facing off with the Mets come October, I fear we might have deja vu all over again.