The Philadelphia Phillies bolted out to a huge early lead, then held on for a narrow victory over the host New York Mets at Citi Field on Saturday night.
If the visiting Phillies have learned one thing about the New York Mets over the last three nights at Citi Field, it would be exactly why their hosts have managed to fight back into the Wildcard picture in the National League.
The Phils blasted their way to a huge early 10-0 lead over the Mets, but then had to hang on at the end for a 10-8 victory.
In earning this win, the Fightin’ Phils looked much like a tired boxer who has built an insurmountable early lead in points and rounds, covering up and hanging on at the ropes as his challenger flails away in hopes of a dramatic last-ditch knockout.
It is just that never-say-die resilient mentality that has been on display by the Mets over the first three games of this long four-game weekend series between the two divisional rivals.
Approximately six weeks ago, on August 16th, the Phillies woke up after an off-day which itself had followed a 7-6 win over the Colorado Rockies.
That win was the club’s fourth in a row, moving them within just four games of the defending NL champion Mets in the standings.
At that point, the Mets were in 3rd place in the NL East, just a game over the .500 mark, and in 5th place in the NL Wildcard standings.
Momentum had some Phillies fans envisioning a late season push past their rivals to the north as a legitimate goal.
My how things have changed in these last six weeks. The resiliency that the Phillies have now witnessed first-hand has become a hallmark of this Mets team. who have gone 23-15 since that point.
Maikel Franco blasted a three-run homer in the 1st inning, Cesar Hernandez walked twice off two different pitchers, and Phils’ starting pitcher Alec Asher delivered a two-run single in the frame as the club bolted out to a big 5-0 lead against Mets emergency starter Sean Gilmartin.
Gilmartin (0-1) was only making the start because scheduled hurler Noah Syndergaard, the young ace of this Mets staff, was unable to go due to a bout with strep throat.
He didn’t give the Mets much, only lasting 39 pitches, recording just two outs in that initial frame before being mercifully lifted by manager Terry Collins.
With the score 6-0 in the top of the 4th, the Phillies erupted for four more runs. Tommy Joseph singled home Odubel Herrera, and then Darin Ruf lofted his 2nd homer of the series and the season, a three-run shot that upped the lead to that 10-0 margin.
With the game halfway over, the Mets finally woke up, knickle and diming their way to four runs in the bottom of the 5th inning against Asher thanks largely to errors committed in the infield by Freddy Galvis and Maikel Franco.
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin lifted Asher (2-0) after that frame. The 24-year old righty allowed four runs, but none of them earned, on five hits across his five innings pitched. He struck out one, walked no one, and 51 strikes over his 76 pitches.
With two outs and two on in the bottom of the 6th, Gavin Cecchini delivered an RBI double and T.J. Rivera an RBI single off Phillies reliever Joely Rodriguez, and the Mets had cut their seemingly insurmountable deficit down to just a 10-6 margin.
Still leading by that margin in the bottom of the 8th, Mackanin went to Hector Neris, who got himself into trouble by walking two men in a row after retiring the first batter he faced.
Cecchini again delivered, drilling yet another RBI double. Lucas Duda raced home to make it a 10-7 ball game, and the Mets would now bring the tying run to the plate with two men in scoring position and just one out.
But Neris battled back, retiring Rivera on a fly out to center, and then getting Brandon Nimmo to pop out to short.
Now clinging to just a 10-8 lead, his team’s bats having stopped producing half a game ago, Mackanin inexplicably turned to Michael Mariot to close this one out. He did, but not before making things even more interesting.
After getting the first batter he faced, the right-handed Mariot was left in against veteran lefty pinch-hitting slugger Jay Bruce. In an almost predictable result, Bruce blasted his 30th home run of the season out to right field, and the Phillies lead was down to just 10-8.
As so often seems to happen in late-game scenarios after a pitcher surrenders a big home run, Mariot walked the next batter. Only he didn’t stop there…he walked the next two batters.
Still, for some reason, Mackanin left Mariot in the game. And now the pitcher bore down. He got Duda to pop out to short as the winning run, and then induced Travis d’Arnaud to ground back to him for the merciful final out of the game.
“It’s bittersweet,” Mackanin said per MLB.com contributors. “I’m talking myself into being happy, let’s put it that way. These guys are relentless. This Mets team is relentless. They just keep coming at you.”
Even with all of the big offense, there was a negative on the Phillies side of the box score as rookie phenom Roman Quinn took the first “golden sombrero” of his nascent big league career – and then some. Quinn went 0-5 on the night, striking out five times.
On the good side, six different Phillies hitters recorded a multi-hit game, with Ruf and Herrera leading the way with three hits apiece.
Herrera’s three hits lifted his season average to the .290 mark, second on the ball club to Hernandez, who reached base five times.
Hernandez is now at the .295 mark, and his on-base percentage is now at a fantastic .372 level. He, Quinn, and Herrera give the Phillies a trio of legitimate speed threats at the top of the Phillies batting order as the 2016 season winds to a close.