Citi Field is haunted by a spectral pitch. Kodai Senga calls it the ghost fork, and it’s a mystery. The Phillies didn’t have Bryce Harper due to a scheduled rest day, but they did have exactly what you need to solve a mystery: a cadre of meddling kids and a dog (although Major probably doesn’t go on the road). It is unclear if they traveled to Queens in a 70’s van.
Bryson Stott battled valiantly as the first batter, but struck out on the seventh pitch, the first victim of the ghost fork. Trea Turner flew out, and Nick Castellanos grounded out. Ranger Suárez, effective despite his lack of a supernatural pitch from beyond the grave, sent the first three Mets he saw back to the dugout. A quiet start. But of course, you don’t expect the haunting to properly begin before sundown.
In the top of the 2nd Kyle Schwarber struck out swinging at a cutter rather than the ghost fork; the equivalent of jumping at a shadow that turns out to just be a lampshade. But of course, that sort of scene only makes the next appearance of the monster scarier. J.T. Realmuto was ghost fork victim number two. Bohm popped out to second, and Senga was through the second without facing a single batter more than he had to. Suárez couldn’t say the same, allowing Starling Marte to record a two-out single on a liner over Turner’s head. But the next batter grounded out, and two quick innings were over.
The Phillies recorded their first hit via Kody Clemens, who softly lined to left to start off the 3rd. He was subsequently stranded as his teammates failed to reach base. The Mets did the same, but with Eduardo Escobar playing the role of Clemens. The Mets had more groundouts and the Phillies had more strikeouts; other than that the teams appeared to be mirroring each other as they struggled to find offense.
In the top of the 4th, Castellanos sent a shot to deep center, only to see it hit the glove of a leaping Brandon Nimmo. It looked like it would’ve hit the top of the wall rather than gone out, but it still conjured up unhappy memories of Michael Harris II’s highway robbery on Sunday night. The Phillies once again went down without putting a runner on base.
Finally, the two teams’ paths diverged via the bat of Francisco Lindor, who hammered a no-doubt solo shot for the first run of the game. DH Mark Vientos hit a sharp liner to right, but sharp fielding from Castellanos turned what looked like a sure double into a mere single. A lineout to center and a groundout later, and the Phillies were out of the inning, with the damage limited to one run.
The Phillies offensive woes continued in the 5th, as Senga tormented Bohm with the fork (victim #3) and Marsh with the cutter. Suárez continued along his path as well, allowing a walk but inducing yet another grounder to start a double play.
Clemens became victim #4 of the phantom pitch in the top of the 6th. Dalton Guthrie tried to reveal that the ghost was just a ball with a bedsheet on it, but joined Clemens not long after as victim #5. In the bottom of the 6th, Suárez induced more grounders as he retired the Mets in order. The innings began to bleed into each other; you could rerun any inning but the 5th and likely nobody would have noticed, unless they used the Mets fans’ ghost K signs as a guidepost.
Entering the 7th with only a single hit, the Phillies turned to Turner, Castellanos, and Schwarber for a spark. Turner got some lift on the ball, but not enough to prevent a flyout. Castellanos swung and missed on the fastball. Schwarber was victim #6 of the ghost fork. “Where are you?” isn’t just the subtitle of a beloved 70’s cartoon about a talking dog, but also a very valid question to ask about the Phillies’ offense.
In the bottom of the 7th Marte reached first with a single to left, then made it to second thanks to a sacrifice bunt. Pham fought Suárez to a full count, then held off on a high pitch to earn the walk; after 99 pitches, 7.2 innings and 1 run allowed, Suárez was replaced with Connor Brogdon. Escobar then hit a chopper that Turner couldn’t quite corral, allowing a run to score. More would’ve scored on a subsequent liner to right by Nimmo, but Nick Castellanos, showing his penchant for perfect sliding catches at the perfect time, slammed the door on the inning.
But defense alone cannot win a game, and the middle of the Phillies’ lineup arrived in the top of the 8th still looking to add a second hit. The replacement of Senga (final ghost fork victim count: 6) with Adam Ottavino offered an opportunity, which Realmuto took advantage of by taking a base on balls. Deciding to be on the other side of a steal for once, he made for second and was called safe, but replay showed that the tag from McNeil was in time. Whether you call it bold or foolish, it was for naught. The Phillies were denied their first runner in scoring position of the night. Bohm and Marsh were retired on a grounder and strikeout respectively.
Yunior Marte took the mound in the bottom of the 8th, allowing a walk to Lindor and sending Francisco Alvarez and Pete Alonso back to the dugout. Daniel Vogelbach was put in as a two out pinch hitter for Vientos and battled over 9 pitches, only to succumb to the strikeout. The Phillies thus entered the final frame trailing by more runs than they had hits.
David Robertson was tapped to shut the door on his former team. He got the first out by making Clemens swing and miss. Next up was Josh Harrison as a pinch hitter. He did his job and singled, thereby ruining the “one-hit wonder” puns I had cued up for this recap. Bryson Stott hit into a double play, and a miserable night came to a merciful end. The Phillies did not pass first base, they did not pass go, and they did not collect $200.
The Phillies are back in action against the Mets tomorrow night at 7:10. The mystery of the ghost fork remains unsolved. If you have any tips, call our hotline. Anonymity guaranteed.