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Bullpen good, bullpen bad: Phillies 3, Mets 2 - Mets 6, Phillies 1

Relief pitching was key in the doubleheader split

MLB: New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies
Jose Alvarado pitched well. Not all the relievers did.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

After having over two whole days to simmer over Thursday night’s horrific defeat, the Phillies were scheduled for a doubleheader on Sunday in which they didn’t seem to have the starting pitching matchup in either game. But they ended up splitting the contests - a 3-2 win followed by a 6-1 loss - partly because their bullpen was good for three innings in the first game, but less good in covering nine innings in the second.

Winning the opener seemed like an achievement simply due to the opposing starting pitcher. The Phillies haven’t had much success against Max Scherzer over the years, but on Sunday afternoon, Scherzer was only the second-best starter in the game. Kyle Gibson’s strong start to the season continued as he limited the Mets to two runs in six innings.

Bryce Harper provided most of the offense to back Gibson. First came a solo home run.

He added on an RBI single in the third. The final run was provided by Bryson Stott whose RBI single was his first impactful hit in quite some time.

That was it as far as offense went, and there were a few moments when it felt like three runs was not going to be enough to win. But the back end of the Phillies’ bullpen was up to the job. Seranthony Dominguez walked the first two batters he faced in the seventh, only to strike out the next three. Jose Alvarado worked around a walk to hold the Mets down in the eighth, and finally Corey Knebel clean inning in the ninth provided some redemption for his meltdown on Thursday night.

The Phillies had a chance to earn a sweep but sweeping doubleheaders hasn’t been the Phillies’ thing in recent years.

The chances of a sweep were greatly diminished because with a couple of pitchers unavailable due to COVID, they were forced to use a series of relievers to cover all nine innings. And though the back end of the bullpen has held up okay for most of the season, the same can’t be said for most of the long and middle relievers.

The biggest problem the bullpen committee faced was Pete Alonso. Cristopher Sanchez served up a two-run home run to Alonso in the first.

Then Alonso’s three-run blast against Nick Nelson in the fifth essentially put the game out of reach.

The Phillies knew they’d be at a disadvantage without a real starter, but theoretically the Phillies have an offense that can compensate. In reality, the only scored came via a Jean Segura home run.

They had some chances to get back into the game but couldn’t get a key hit. In two separate innings, they got two baserunners aboard, but failed to get any runs home. It was especially deflating in the third when the first two batters reached, only to see Harper, Nick Castellanos, and Rhys Hoskins go down in order.

One reason the Phillies only won one of the three games they played this series was an inability to do any damage against the Mets’ bullpen. In 10.1 innings against Mets relievers, the Phillies managed a grand total of zero runs.

Unfortunately, with the status of their starters still in doubt in the coming days, they may have to rely on the bullpen even more in the days ahead. The good news is, they’ll be playing out West, so if there are any bullpen meltdowns, many of us may already be asleep.