It's not a coincidence that the top tier of teams in MLB mostly have pounded the tar out of the Phillies in 2016. Against the Cubs, Nationals, Giants and Blue Jays, they're a combined 7-13. Against everyone else, they've played .500 ball.
Most nights, teams that can bring elite talent to bear are too much for a Phillies club pretty much bereft of stars in their prime. Tonight's opponent started the season with a glittery roster, but injuries have sidelined a large share of their starpower. With Yoenis Cespedes, David Wright and Lucas Duda all on the shelf, the Mets are missing the middle third of their lineup, and they're down Matt Harvey in the rotation as well.
Saturday's Mets starter, Logan Verrett, replaced Harvey. In for the slugger Duda is aging journeyman James Loney; a clutch of rookies and situational players, including former Mets star turned big man with his fists Jose Reyes, have taken the rest of the missing at-bats. The result was a lineup with a closer talent resemblance to the 2016 Phillies than last year's league champions.
The Phillies' biggest tarnished star gave them a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Ryan Howard launched his 370th career home run, and 46th against the Mets, off Verrett. But Jerad Eickhoff gave the lead right back in the third when he allowed a leadoff double--one of the five times in seven innings the first hitter reached, including three doubles--that came around to score on a sac fly, and the Mets went up a run an inning later after the same sequence.
Leadoff problems aside, Eickhoff pitched his usual solid game: six-plus innings, five hits, a walk, three Ks. Where he got into some trouble was on the bases and in the field. After leading off the Phillies 5th with a double, Eickhoff misread Odubel Herrera's drive off the top of the right-field fence and failed to score. He eventually came around on a Cody Asche groundout to tie the game. In the top of the 7th, right after his infield single on which Carlos Ruiz was thrown out trying to score, he allowed his third leadoff double. Then Eickhoff got a comebacker on which he had Travis D'Arnaud hung up off second base, but made a poor throw that allowed the runner to get back.
But the Phillies' bullpen gave them great work tonight, starting with Edubray Ramos. The rookie worked around a bases-loading walk to get Eickhoff off the hook, and put himself in line for his first big league win when the Phillies went ahead in the 7th. Peter Bourjos reached on a one-out error, moved to second on Asche's walk and scored on Maikel Franco's bloop single.
Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez handled things from there, sandwiching scoreless innings around an opportunistic insurance run scored by Ruiz on a Mets wild pitch. The Phillies improved to 4-4 against the Mets this season, with a chance to match their five wins against New York last year in Sunday's finale.