It’s not quite the Twins against the Yankees, but the Phillies have a real problem with their division rival up the Jersey Turnpike. Another ninth-inning meltdown from Hector Neris spoiled another brilliant Jake Arrieta start, and the Phils lost for the third time in as many tries against the Mets this season. In doing so, they fell to 7-14 this season against NL East opponents, and extended the pain of longtime Phils PR man Larry Shenk:
END THIS NONSENSE: Mets have feasted at Citizens Bank Park the last two-plus seasons, 21-6. Time to end this nonsense, trust the process, BeBold— Larry Shenk (@ShenkLarry) May 11, 2018
Through eight-plus innings, it looked like the Phils were indeed going to end this nonsense. The unfathomable Odubel Herrera killed any drama around continuing his on-base streak, now at 40 games, in the bottom of the first inning. And he did so in style:
40 game on base streak. 1-0 Phillies. suck it, Mets. pic.twitter.com/aCTliKp8Zk— chris jones¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@LONG_DRIVE) May 11, 2018
The Phillies kept threatening against Mets starter Stephen Matz, chasing him after five innings with a pitch count near 100 and never going down in order, but couldn’t add to the lead thanks in part to two double plays. But Arrieta, pitching as if he were still pissed about getting pulled last Sunday against the Nationals, made it stand up through his longest start this season: 7.1 innings. The veteran allowed just five hits and two walks with five strikeouts on 101 pitches before giving way to Tommy Hunter, who retired the last two Met batters in the eighth.
That set the stage for Neris. He recorded the first out thanks to a great running catch in shallow left field by Maikel Franco, then got ahead of Wilmer Flores 1-2, but threw a flat splitter that Flores pulled past Scott Kingery for a one-out single. Michael Conforto followed, took a strike, then absolutely murdered another flat splitter... about ten feet foul down the right field line. Two pitches later, he straightened out on a fastball, blasting it 428 feet off the AT&T sign in right-center to give the Mets a 2-1 lead. Newly acquired Mets catcher Devin Mesoraco slammed Neris’s next pitch out of the yard to make it 3-1. Jeurys Familia set the Phillies down in order in the bottom of the 9th, and that was bloody goddamn that.
I know we’re not supposed to talk about stuff like this, but right before the decisive pitch to Conforto, Neris’s body language was awful. Like he didn’t want to be there. Real-time lizard brain reaction aside, I think he’s a serviceable major league pitcher. But he’s maybe the fourth or fifth most talented arm in the bullpen right now. If his head isn’t right, there’s no reason to keep him in the ninth-inning role.
With the Braves losing in Miami, the Phils missed out on the chance to claim first place in May for the first time since 2011. They get two more chances against the Mets this weekend, facing Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom.