After Friday night’s pulse-pounding 2-1, 10-inning victory over the Mets, it sure felt like the newly phundamental Phillies were ready to win their first series in five tries over their divisional rivals, but a disappearing offense and some outstanding pitching by New York scuttled those hopes, with resounding 1-0 and 6-0 victories by the Mets on Saturday and Sunday.
It was a disappointing finish to a series that shifted the vibes considerably, but all is not lost. After a series like that, we all need a little perspective, so here are five takeaways from a series that started with so much promise and ended with disappointment.
You Need Your MVP Players
Mets starters have a 3.43 ERA on the season, 3rd-best in MLB and 2nd-best behind only the Dodgers in the National League. Runs were going to come at a premium, so it was especially damaging that Kyle Schwarber’s achy calf acted up heading into a series against Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom and Chris Bassitt. Scherzer and deGrom both have ERAs under 2.00 (1.93 and 1.62, respectively) and Bassitt’s is a respectable 3.27.
Without Schwarber and Bryce Harper, who is scheduled to start taking batting practice at Citizens Bank Park this week and could be ready for a rehab assignment soon, the lineup was without their two most powerful left-handed bats against a right-heavy pitching staff that overwhelmed youngsters Darick Hall, Matt Vierling, Nick Maton and, aside from his outstanding effort on Friday, Bryson Stott.
Jean Segura also missed Saturday’s game against deGrom for a scheduled maintenance day (you know, like your yearly HVAC service), so yet another important bat was unavailable.
Imagine facing a Mets lineup without Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor. It wouldn’t be a surprise if a lineup without their two best hitters struggled.
Certainly you would have liked for J.T. Realmuto to remain hot and for Nick Castellanos’ mini power surge at the beginning of last week to continue, and in the absence of Schwarber and Harper, they must hit. They didn’t, and the offense as a whole went 2-for-23 with runners in scoring position.
Perhaps a little more small ball is in order until Schwarber returns, especially against a stingy team like New York. The Phillies struck out a whopping 36 times in three games, an average of 12 per game. The big two-run double or three-run homer never materialized, so perhaps an undermanned offense against one of the best pitching staffs in baseball should have done more to find creative ways to put pressure on New York’s pitchers. Sometimes movement spurs action.
Aaron Nola Proves His Playoff Mettle
In his biggest start of the season, against the best pitcher in baseball, Aaron Nola turned in his best performance of 2022.
Aaron Nola, Wicked Knuckle Curve and Back Door Two Seamer.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 14, 2022
And Sword. ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/BreLMeVFla
Although he couldn’t match deGrom’s overwhelming repertoire, Nola spun eight innings of one-run ball, giving up just four hits while striking out eight, pitching a complete game in the loss.
Nola’s past performances in playoff atmospheres are mixed, at best. His September struggles are well documented (4.60 career ERA), and there is reason to worry those issues could return. But here in the dog days of August, in a huge series that certainly felt like a postseason preview, Nola was at his absolute finest.
Why the Phillies Got David Robertson
Nola’s dominance on Saturday night meant the bullpen got the night off, but Phils’ relievers spun some huge innings in Friday night’s victory, and on Sunday, they gave the bats a chance to come back by holding New York scoreless once Wheeler left the game.
The acquisition of David Robertson at the trade deadline was meant for games like Friday night. With the score 1-1, manager Rob Thomson called on Seranthony Dominguez to get the game to the 10th. Without Robertson there to take care of the bottom of the 10th, Thomson would have had to go with someone like the recently-departed Jeurys Familia, or Brad Hand, or one of the younger arms like Conor Brogdon or Andrew Ballatti.
David Robertson gets the save and the Phillies take game 1 in NY! pic.twitter.com/vyC6Gp3Jes— Brodes Media (@BrodesMedia) August 13, 2022
Maybe those guys would have gotten the job done, but we’ve seen too many games in our recent history to feel great about those guys in that spot. Robertson came in and slammed the door shut, just as he did all season long in Chicago, and should the Phils reach the playoffs, it will be precisely those types of situations in which Robertson’s addition to the ‘pen will be felt most.
The Phils’ Fundamentals Really Have Improved
During Friday’s game in which the Phils made every defensive play they needed and the Mets floundered a bit, there was a fair amount of dunking on Mets’ broadcaster Keith Hernandez, who asked to be off the Phillies series because he couldn’t stand their lack of fundamentals.
David Robertson, who many people had tabbed as a Mets trade target last month, closes the game for a 2-1 Phillies win. Keith Hernandez might have enjoyed the Phillies’ defensive effort tonight.— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) August 13, 2022
Simply put, the Phillies are giving away outs much less frequently than they have in recent years and, at the moment, are playing above average, defensively.
When the autumn postseason tournament rolls around and pitchers’ duels are the name of the game, one little misplay can make the difference between winning a wild card spot and missing out for an 11th straight season.
The Phils are a more balanced roster than they were when they broke camp this spring, and it showed this weekend at Citi Field.
The Mets Really Are Very Good
The Los Angeles Dodgers keep winning games, although their loss on Sunday dropped their winning percentage under .700 (just a ho-hum .699, 79-34). In any other year, the Mets’ 75-40 record and .652 winning percentage would be the best in the NL, and their +133 run differential is no joke.
With a healthy Scherzer and deGrom, as well as Bassitt and Carlos Carrasco, it’d be hard to pick against them in any short series, although Phils’ starters Suarez and Nola matched them pitch for pitch. But they also boast a lineup full of guys who string together bunches of hits in much the same way the Kansas City Royals did when they went to two straight World Series in 2015 and ‘16.
The Mets have four players each worth at least three Wins Above Replacements, according to Fangraphs: Lindor (5.0), Jeff McNeil (3.6), Brandon Nimmo (3.4), and Pete Alonso (3.1). Alonso is their big slugger, while Lindor, McNeil and Nimmo provide an outstanding balance of offensive and defensive skills, and let’s not forget Starling Marte, with an fWAR of 2.3. They also utilize platoons well, with Darin Ruf, Daniel Vogelbach, Luis Guillorme, Tyler Naquin and Mark Canha giving the Mets options and a very deep bench.
They also have the best closer in baseball right now in Edwin Diaz, and a capable group of set-up arms. It’s true the Phillies were without Schwarber and Harper this weekend and that, with those two players in the lineup, the shrinkening gap between the Mets and Phils will be even smaller.
But it’s fair to say New York is still a more complete team than Philadelphia at the moment.