By: Matthew Mack
The Philadelphia Phillies headed down the New Jersey Turnpike to face their division rival the New York Mets for a four game series. This included a doubleheader on Friday. The two teams are separated by five games in the standings with the Mets being in first place in the division.
In the first game of the doubleheader, Aaron Nola was on fire! He tied the MLB record for consecutive strikeouts with 10. Tying withTom Seaver who passed away during the offseason. Nola was not even done. In the Fifth, he hit a double to right, scoring Nick Maton to help his own cause and give the Phillies the lead. With five and one/third innings pitched, he had 12 strikeouts. As the Seventh and final inning came in. Jose Alvarado was tasked with closing the game out for Philadelphia. The moment was too much for him. He fielded a groundball hit straight to him by Luis Guillorme, only to throw the ball over the head of first baseman Rhys Hoskins. Later, Francisco Lindor hit an RBI single to tie the game and send it to extra innings. In the extra frame. New York was the better team as Domonic Smith hit the game-winning RBI to end it two-one. Alvarado blew the save while Ranger Suarez took the loss.
In game two, Matt Moore started for the Phillies and held his own. He went five innings, no Met scored on him while giving up three hits. Bryce Harper provided the offense as he homered in the sixth, striking first blood again in the day, one-zero. Pitcher Archie Bradley was asked to close the game out and he could not close the door. The collective sighs and exasperation of Philly fans can be heard all over the Delaware Valley and beyond. How do they tie this game? ERRORS!!! Alec Bohm committed a crucial error when he bobbled the ball in the seventh. Later, James McCann hit a sacrifice fly to score the run and send the game to extra innings again. This time, the Phillies scored in the eighth as the Mets bobbled the ball twice in the inning to score the run. Then the bullpen called closer-for-now Héctor Neris to save it and he got the win two-one.
In the Saturday matinee, the Phils sent Zach Eflin to the hill to face the best pitcher in baseball right now, Jacob DeGrom. Somehow, the Phillies managed to hold their own against a dominant pitcher who does not give up runs often. They jumped on him with two runs thanks to a Nick Maton RBI in the second and an Andrew McCutchen sacrifice fly to score Odúbel Herrera in the sixth. The Phillies’ bullpen blew the game again! Kevin Pillar hit a bomb to right center field to tie the game at two. However, Philadelphia did retake the lead with Maton hitting a sacrifice fly in the ninth. Making the game three-two. Héctor Neris was tasked to save it for Philadelphia, only to blow it, with the bases loaded. Neris walked in the run to tie it and later Michael Conforto hit a sacrifice fly to center to win it for the Mets.
Sunday, the goal for the Phillies was to come out of Queens with a split. Zack Wheeler faced a confident Mets squad and put on a dominant performance. He went seven innings, striking out eight while allowing four hits and no earned runs. In the midst of it Philadelphia scored a total of four runs in the second and third innings. New York did put up a fight later in the game. Pete Alonso hit an RBI single and another Kevin Pillar home run but Archie Bradley shut the door on New York, giving the Phillies the split in the series, four to two.
The Phillies have issues. Although the starting rotation had an excellent series and the offense did just enough to get wins. The bullpen like in previous seasons continues to be a huge problem for Philadelphia. The bottom line is they need a closer. Neris has proven that he cannot be a reliable closer. The other pitchers cannot stop the bleeding. As they go to Cincinnati to play a makeup game tonight, they need consistency. The Phillies top heavy offense cannot continue to cover-up for the bullpen’s mistakes. They have blown another opportunity to get within striking distance of first place in the NL East.