NEW YORK — The pitch, a fastball from Mets reliever Yoan López with a six-run lead in the ninth inning here Sunday night, was low and inside and nearly kneecapped Kyle Schwarber.
And because Schwarber homered twice earlier in the game, and the Phillies hit Mets star Francisco Lindor in the previous half-inning, home-plate umpire Jerry Meals issued a warning to both benches.
One batter later, López hit Alec Bohm in the back with a changeup that nobody in the ballpark, not even the Phillies, believed was on purpose. The game went on, with the Mets winning, 10-6, to take the three-game series and prevent the 11-12 Phillies from poking their heads above .500.
What are we to make, though, of the ninth inning? An ember that could ignite when the Phillies and Mets meet again this week at Citizens Bank Park? Or much ado about nothing?
“I don’t know,” Schwarber said. “He was keeping it down. He could have been just missing down and in. Same dude [that caused a benches-clearing brawl last week] in St. Louis. But I’m not here to say he was trying to hit me or to say he wasn’t trying to hit me. I don’t know. All I know is he got me out.”
For the record, Phillies manager Joe Girardi thought the Mets were trying to hit Schwarber. Mets manager Buck Showalter told reporters his pitchers “didn’t have much success pitching Schwarber out over the plate,” so López tried coming inside. Girardi agreed with Meals’ warning, but didn’t believe López was trying to hit Bohm.
“That’s why I didn’t raise a stink,” Girardi said.
Indeed, none of the Phillies were too worked up, about the ninth inning or their fourth loss in six games against the Mets. Never mind that they hit four homers, three against Max Scherzer. Zach Eflin was unable to hold a 1-0 lead or a 3-3 tie.
”I think they’re a really good team,” Bryce Harper said. “They’re playing really good baseball right now. We don’t expect anything less from what they’ve been able to do. I don’t see them going anywhere.”
One night after bailing starter Kyle Gibson out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fifth inning, lefty reliever José Alvarado was unable to do the same for Eflin in the identical situation. Instead of striking out two batters, as he did Saturday night, Alvarado uncorked a passed ball and gave up a two-run single to Dom Smith.
The Mets tacked on three runs in the seventh against reliever James Norwood and another in the eighth against Cristopher Sánchez, who hit Lindor and brought Showalter to the top step of the dugout. Showalter said later, “I don’t think their guy‘s trying to hit Lindor.”
But the Mets are sensitive about being hit by pitches. They’ve been hit 20 times in 23 games, including three times by the Phillies in as many games last month at Citizens Bank Park.
“We didn’t try to hit Lindor,” Girardi said. “We didn’t try to hit anyone there. But I understand. You get hit a few times, you start to take exception.”
To be continued Thursday in Philadelphia?
“It is what it is,” Schwarber said. “I really don’t give two craps.”
A PitchCom fail?
J.T. Realmuto said recently that one of the advantages to PitchCom, the new wearable technology that allows catchers to call pitches without giving traditional hand signs, is that it decreases the chances of a cross-up.
But the Phillies had a miscommunication in the fifth inning, when Realmuto called for a slider and Alvarado threw a sinker.
“You’re not going to catch that,” Girardi said. “No chance.”
Realmuto didn’t. The ball got by him, allowing Lindor to score the tying run.
With PitchCom, a catcher wears a transmitter and pushes a button to indicate the pitch. The pitcher gets the sign through a voice recording on an audio receiver in his cap. In this case, Alvarado, a Spanish speaker, thought he heard the translation for sinker.
“I want to hear exactly what each one sounds like in Spanish to see if it’s too close,” Girardi said.
Schwarbombs vs. Scherzer
Schwarber continued his assault on the Mets by taking Scherzer deep twice in his first two at-bats.
Scherzer electrified Citi Field by fanning the first five batters before Schwarber lined a 95 mph fastball into the right-field bleachers for a 1-0 lead in the second inning. In the fourth, Realmuto worked a walk before Schwarber clobbered a changeup to right-center for a short-lived 3-2 edge.
Of 1,008 players with at least 100 career plate appearances against the Mets, Schwarber ranks first with a .752 slugging percentage. Schwarber has seven homers this season, second in the National League behind Colorado’s C.J. Cron (eight).
Harper took Scherzer deep, too, with a solo shot in the sixth inning. It marked the 15th time in 403 career starts that Scherzer gave up three homers in a game.
Trouble with the curve
Through four starts, Eflin uncorked 55 curveballs without allowing a hit, according to Statcast. His breaking ball didn’t fool the Mets, who picked up three hits against the pitch, including Phillies-killing Jeff McNeil’s fifth-inning double. McNeil finished with four hits to raise his career average against the Phils to .330 (72-for-218).
Eflin was unable to shut down the Mets after the Phillies scored. He fumbled a 1-0 lead by allowing two runs in the second inning. After Schwarber’s go-ahead homer in the fourth inning, Eflin gave up the tying run in the fourth and three runs in the fifth.
After a day off Monday, the Phillies will begin a two-game series with the Rangers at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday. Ranger Suárez (2-0, 4.42 ERA) will face Texas right-hander Jon Gray (0-1, 7.00).