The Philadelphia Phillies lost the opener of a three game weekend series with the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies came into Friday night just a half-dozen games behind the visiting division rival and defending National League champion New York Mets for the final NL Wildcard.
Whispers were beginning to be heard among the fan base, and manager Pete Mackanin as much as said it prior to the game: why not the Fightin’ Phils?
After being largely shut down by seemingly ageless rotund Mets’ NL All-Star wonder Bartolo Colon in a 5-3 loss on Friday night, those whispers are muted here on Saturday morning.
Amidst a large, obnoxious, visiting fan population chanting “Let’s Go Mets!“, the 42-year old Colon shut the Phils out for 5.1 innings before finally running out of steam. By that point, his team had spotted him a 4-0 lead against Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson.
Hellickson, publicly in the spotlight as perhaps the club’s most valuable trade chip as the MLB non-waiver deadline rushes towards us just over two weeks from now, nearly matched Colon into that same 6th inning.
New York center fielder Juan Lagares led off the top of the 3rd with his third home run of the season, a solo blast that gave Colon and the Mets and early 1-0 lead.
That was all the scoring into the 6th inning. But the visitors got to Hellickson right away in that frame. Asdrubal Cabrera and Curtis Granderson led off with singles, and then 2nd baseman Neil Walker ripped a three-run homer out to left field, extending New York’s lead out to 4-0.
The Phillies bats finally got to Colon in the bottom of the frame, getting right back into it with a three-run outburst in which a one-out error by Mets’ 1st baseman James Loney on a Odubel Herrera grounder got things started.
With ‘El Torito’ aboard, Peter Bourjos slashed an RBI triple to left to put the Phils on the board. Bourjos then came home on a Maikel Franco ground out to make it a 4-2 game.
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Tommy Joseph singled and Cameron Rupp followed by drawing a walk. Cody Asche then looped an RBI single into left field, scoring Joseph and cutting the Phils’ deficit to one at 4-3. That also finally chased Colon.
On the night, Colon allowed three runs, but none were earned thanks to the Loney error. He also allowed just four hits over his 5.2 innings, three of those in that final 6th frame.
Hellickson was also done at that point, having allowed four earned on seven hits over six innings. The righty threw 63 strikes among his 92 pitches, striking out five and walking no one.
Having gotten back into the game, Mackanin turned the final three frames over to his inconsistent bullpen, and the Mets literally stole a run off Andrew Bailey to extend their lead.
Lagares led off by drawing a five-pitch walk, stole second base, moved to 3rd on a fly ball, and scored on an RBI ground out by Jose Reyes to make it a 5-3 game.
That would prove the final score, as the Mets bullpen foursome of Hanser Robles, Jeremy Blevins, Addison Reed, and closer Jeurys Familia kept the Phillies off the scoreboard over the final three frames.
Hellickson summed things up well per MLB.com contributors: “This is one of the better teams in the league and we compete with them every time we play them, so I feel like we can definitely do it. We’ve just got to string some wins together like we did in the first half. Obviously it wasn’t a good start today, but I absolutely think we can make a run at it.”
Whether they “do it” or not, Hellickson may not be around much longer to be a part of things here in Philly. Top pitching prospect Jake Thompson also threw on this night with the AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs, and delivered another top-notch performance. He is clearly ready to step right into the big league rotation when the inevitable trade goes down.
So the Phillies lose some of the momentum which they took into the MLB All-Star break. The have now slipped seven games behind the Mets and Marlins, and NL Wildcard talk needs to end for the time being. It’s up to the Phils to win enough over the next couple of weeks to get the fans excited once again.