January 30, 2023

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6-run 6th not enough to erase Phils' early mistakes

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NEW YORK — It initially looked like the series opener between the Phillies and Mets at Citi Field on Friday night was going to result in New York winning in a laugher. After all, the Mets had a seven-run lead after five innings.

But the Phillies woke up in the batter’s box and made the game close, so their offense was not the story of what ended as an 8-6 loss. The Phillies’ defense cost them this game. Issues in the field have been consistent for a roster that was built around going all-in on offense; entering Friday’s action, the Phils were last in the Majors with -19 outs above average.

The miscues started in the bottom of the first inning. Mets leadoff batter Brandon Nimmo reached base against Phillies left-hander Bailey Falter because of a wild throw by shortstop Bryson Stott.  

Before even making an out, New York had the bases loaded with Pete Alonso up. He hit a shallow fly ball to right fielder Nick Castellanos. Nimmo tagged up at third and raced home, while Castellanos’ throw bounced off catcher Garrett Stubbs’ glove to allow Starling Marte to advance to third base.

The Mets took advantage of Castellanos’ arm again later in the inning. Eduardo Escobar hit a fly ball to shallow right field. Marte took off and beat an off-line throw with ease. 

“Was I [ready to go]? I just didn’t get them out,” Castellanos said.  

Said manager Joe Girardi, “[The Mets] had two speedy runners and they took a chance.”

Falter ended up throwing 32 pitches in the inning and allowed three unearned runs. He threw two additional frames and allowed two more earned runs. If not for the miscues, Girardi felt Falter could have been out of the first inning on 19 pitches.

“You look at that first inning, he probably doesn’t give up a run,” Girardi said. “It led to extra pitches. Who knows? I thought [Falter] was throwing the ball pretty well and then he [threw] 32 pitches after the first inning. He had somewhat of a longer second inning, and then he gave up the two-run homer [to Alonso] in the third. Our defense hurt us.”

In the fourth, after Stubbs’ two-out throwing error on Marte’s attempt to steal second, the Mets plated two more runs charged to right-hander Nick Nelson.

For Girardi, it seems his club’s defense rears its ugly head at the worst time. During their current road trip, for example, the Phillies have made five errors in five games. They are 2-3 during that stretch.

“We have to find ways to overcome it. That’s the thing,” Girardi said. “We have to pick each other up and find ways to overcome it when it does happen. But this trip, we haven’t been able to do that.”

What made the game heartbreaking for the Phillies was that they scored six runs in the sixth inning. Stubbs highlighted the scoring with a three-run homer to make it a 7-6 game.

“We took advantage of light hits, if you want to call it. We made it work into six runs,” Girardi said. “Stubbs has a huge three-run homer and all of a sudden we are back in the game.”

After the Mets scored an insurance run, the Phillies had the tying runs in scoring position in the eighth inning with less than two outs But Stubbs struck out, and pinch-hitter J.T. Realmuto popped up to Alonso to end the threat.

The Phillies have lost eight of their last 12 games and are trying to figure out what is going wrong on the field.

“I don’t have the answer. I know everyone has put in the work and it’s not panning out. It’s a [bad] feeling. There is no way around it,” Castellanos said.

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