December 10, 2023

Phillies fall short to Mets in three-game series


Gregory Fisher/USA TODAY

I feel like I write the same thing in every recap: The Phillies’ offense could not produce enough. At this point, I am running out of different ways to say it. Well, that was not the outcome we expected. In game one, the Mets pulled off one of the most historic comebacks in the major leagues. The bullpen could not back good starting pitching and a solid offensive performance. Sunday, the Phillies’ offense was nowhere to be found. Miraculously, they split the doubleheader despite scoring four total runs in 18 innings of baseball on the day.

Game summaries

When the Phillies were in New York last weekend, they were the victim of a historic no-hitter. Game one in this series was also one for the history books. The Phils’ 8-7 loss was one of the most brutal in the last decade. 8-7 doesn’t sound so bad, but what if I told you that the Phillies were up by six heading into the ninth inning? Yeah, it was bad.

Aaron Nola threw seven solid innings, and he allowed just one run to cross the plate. His curveball produced copious swings and misses through all seven innings. He was in line for the win, but James Norwood was only able to record one out in the ninth inning before being pulled after a home run and double. Corey Knebel came into the ninth with a four-run lead and an out already recorded, yet the Mets found a way to take the lead. Mark Canha, J.D. Davis, and Brandon Nimmo knocked one run in each to tie the game at seven, and Starling Marte launched the first pitch he saw from Knebel off of the wall in left-center field.

This put the Mets in the driver’s seat heading into the bottom of the ninth. The Phillies could not get anything going against Mets’ closer Edwin Diaz, so a one-two-three inning in the bottom of the ninth sealed one of the Phillies’ most embarrassing losses in the past ten seasons.

Of course, this game had some positives other than Aaron Nola’s dominant performance. Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos had back-to-back home runs, and Jean Segura was 3-4 with an RBI. Unfortunately, the Phillies’ bullpen could not hold what seemed to be a very comfortable lead.

Bryce Harper held a players-only meeting after Thursday’s game to give his team a speech after a heart-wrenching loss. It worked. With Max Scherzer on the mound, Bryce Harper went deep in the first inning to give the Phillies an early lead. In the third and fourth innings, the Phillies tacked some singles together to add two insurance runs.

While the early offense was good to see, Kyle Gibson stole the show. Through five innings, he faced the minimum thanks to three double plays. He ran into some trouble in his last inning, the sixth, but he got out of it after allowing just two runs.

Seranthony Dominguez got off to a shaky start by walking the first two batters, but he struck out the next three to end the inning. Jose Alvarado hit 102 miles per hour with his fastball (!) in the eighth, and Corey Knebel was able to rebound from Thursday’s game. He recorded the save to lock up the Phillies’ 3-2 win.

In the second of two on Sunday, the Phillies’ offense was silenced by Mets’ starter Chris Bassitt. He has been excellent for the Mets thus far, and he continued this in Philadelphia. Bassitt gave the Mets 5.2 innings, and he allowed just one run—a Jean Segura home run.

The winner of game two, Chris Bassitt, lowered his season ERA to 2.45 after his performance on Sunday.

The Mets only needed one swing from Pete Alonso to seal the win. Nonetheless, he gave them two. In the first inning, Alonso took Phillies’ starter Christopher Sanchez out of the yard to give the Mets an early 2-0 lead. That was enough, but he added a three-run moonshot in the top of the fifth off of Nick Nelson. Nelson had been perfect up until that point. He was starting to lose command of his pitches, and he left a four-seamer right down the middle.

Andrew Bellatti threw a wild pitch in the sixth inning, which allowed another run to cross the plate. The Phillies saw Chasen Shreve, Drew Smith, and Seth Lugo come out of the Mets’ bullpen, but they only managed to record one hit in 3.1 innings against the Mets’ pen. This 6-1 loss put the Phillies at a 12-16 record, and it also allowed the Mets to become the first team in 2022 to have 20 wins.

Bryson Stott’s return

Due to Didi Gregorius’ sprain, Bryson Stott got the call that he was returning to the major leagues before Saturday’s game. This game was postponed, but he started in both games of Sunday’s doubleheader. Stott didn’t light up the box score, but he made a large impact in game one.

Stott was 1-3 with an RBI single in the fourth inning. This single gave the Phillies their much-needed third run. Stott was also involved in two double plays, which kept Kyle Gibson’s pitch count to a minimum.

There is no timetable for Gregorius’ return, so it is unclear how long we will see Stott in the major leagues. While he is up here, I’d expect to see him starting every day, as the Phillies do not want to hurt his developmental process.

Is the offense balancing out?

Some guys on the Phillies were unstoppable to open the season, and others were easily stoppable. Exactly one month into the season, it seems that the Phillies’ offense is finally balancing out.

Alec Bohm and Johan Camargo have come back down to Earth. After the first two weeks of the season, Bohm was hitting an astonishing .440. He is still hitting exceptionally well, but he has brought his average down to .312. Bohm has been a very clutch hitter thus far, and he is hitting the pitches he is being given. Last season, it seemed that he was trying to find the perfect pitch. Now, he is taking pitches on the outside part of the plate to the opposite field, and he is flipping his wrists to pull the inside pitch. He is not hitting for a lot of power, but a contact hitter like Bohm is important for a power-heavy team like the Phillies. Camargo, who also started the season off, has cooled down as well. His average is down to .250, and he has been playing more of a super-utility role.

We knew it would happen! Slowly, Kyle Schwarber is heating up. He has gotten his average eleven points above the Mendoza Line, and his power numbers are still there. He has a .792 OPS on the season, and he is up to seven home runs. The most promising thing is that Schwarber has mixed some hard-hit singles in with his home runs.

Jean Segura has been streaky in 2022, but he seems to be getting more and more consistent. Segura started the season off hot with those two home runs, but he has been really cold up until the last week. He hit a home run in game two of the doubleheader, and he was a few feet short his next at-bat. Segura has used the entire field, and he is significantly above the league average in exit velocity and hard-hit percentage.

A solid rotation

The Phillies’ starting pitching has been a pleasant surprise. So far, Aaron Nola and Kyle Gibson lead the Phillies’ rotation. Nola has faced the Mets two starts in a row, and he pitched well in both. When Nola’s curveball doesn’t hang, it is extremely effective, and he can use it to get a strike and create swings and misses. We have seen Gibson use his cutter to jam hitters and produce groundballs.

Wheeler started the season off poorly, but he has regained his velocity and started keeping his off-speed pitches low in the zone. We know what Ranger Suarez and Zach Eflin can do, and we are going to need them to step up, especially if the Phillies’ offense keeps hitting the way they are.

Rhys Hoskins will heat up

Rhys Hoskins is not off to a hot start in 2022, but Rhys Hoskins is also the most inconsistent player on the Phillies without a doubt. This is not an excuse for his poor performance, but I am confident that he will heat up. Statcast shows that his average exit velocity, barrel percentage, hard-hit rate, and base on balls rate are all well above average. His spray chart shows that he has used the entire field. Believe it or not, Hoskins has the highest exit velocity numbers of his career in 2022!

So, why are his numbers so low? It is simpler than it may seem: He is hitting the ball at people and swinging and missing. Swings and misses have always been an issue for Rhys, but he is striking out this season in crucial situations more often than he was before. If you ask a few hitting coaches the easiest way to barrel the ball, the majority of them will tell you that you need to see the ball. All this means is that Hoskins needs consistent repetitions if he wants to get back on track. And trust me, he will.

After a wet weekend in South Philly, the Phillies will travel towards more rain in Seattle to take on the Mariners in a three-game set.

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