Joe Girardi, as he has done in each game this season, wrote two lineups on Tuesday for a doubleheader in New York that had his center-fielder batting eighth.
Roman Quinn, who has just one hit this season, was the Phillies’ eight-hole hitter in a 4-3 loss in Game 1. Adam Haseley, who has just three more hits this season, replaced him in the second game for a 4-0 loss.
Girardi hides his center fielder at the bottom of the lineup, and the doubleheader sweep at Citi Field — which followed two losses in three games in Atlanta — cannot solely be pinned on the Quinn and Haseley. The Phillies are not expecting them to carry their lineup and that’s why they bat eighth.
But both losses were dramatically shifted by the play of Haseley and Quinn.
The Phillies seemed to have a rally in the fifth inning of Game 1 after Quinn and Brad Miller walked with one out. The two runners performed a double steal as Rhys Hoskins struck out, but Quinn came off the bag at third and was tagged out to end the inning.
He thought the throw from catcher James McCann had sailed to left field. Instead, it was in the glove of the third baseman and Quinn was tagged out after he left the bag. The Phillies could have had runners on second and third for Bryce Harper. It would have been a chance to break the game open. Instead, the inning was over.
“He stole the base, he just went beyond the base. That was the problem,” Girardi said. “I think he thought it went over the third baseman’s head and he kind of started to stand up and third baseman pushed him off the bag.
“I didn’t have a problem with him stealing third base. I’ll tell you that.”
Aaron Nola allowed three runs in the fourth inning of Game 2, but that inning could have been different had Haseley caught the line drive by Kevin Pillar that dropped in front of him. Haseley seemed to misjudge it off the bat and the ball dropped in for a single instead of the second out. Haseley had a chance to redeem himself in the fifth but flied out with two runners on to end the inning.
“I’m going to have to look at it on video, but I think he had a shot at it,” Girardi said of Pillar’s hit.
Quinn is on the team because of his speed, but that burned him Tuesday. Haseley is considered the team’s best defensive option in center, but he didn’t look the part Tuesday night.
Quinn and Haseley are hitting a combined .131 with a .372 OPS while the team’s pitchers are batting .118 with a .294 OPS. The Phillies have played just 11 games and their center fielders have a combined 38 at-bats.
The sample size in center field is not large, but the production has been so underwhelming that the team could be nearing a change.
Mickey Moniak, Scott Kingery, and Odubel Herrera are at the alternate site in Allentown. Moniak and Kingery are already on the 40-man roster, but Herrera would require a roster move. Girardi said earlier this week that Kingery is not yet ready, which could force the Phillies to look at Moniak or Herrera.
“Right now, these are the guys who we have,” Girardi said. “Obviously, there are guys down in Lehigh Valley who are trying to get up here. If we felt that they were ready, they would be here. But I don’t think we feel that they are where they need to be.”
Nola allowed seven hits Tuesday, but all of his runs came in that fourth inning. He struck out seven, walked one, and kept the Phillies close on a night when he didn’t have his best stuff. He needed 92 pitches for five innings.
But the offense — not just the eight-hole hitters — continues to drag. Taijuan Walker started Game 1 for the Mets and struck out eight, seven of which came in the first three innings. Marcus Stroman, who pitched two days after his start was suspended Sunday after nine pitches, allowed four hits in Game 2 over six scoreless innings.
The Phillies, in two games, had one extra-base hit. They struck out 14 times in 27 at-bats in Game 1 and had just two chances with runners in scoring position in Game 2.
“We’re capable of swinging better,” Girardi said. “But right now we’re facing some guys who are throwing pretty well.”
Chase Anderson allowed a two-run homer to Dominic Smith in the first inning of the first game, but that was all he gave up in five innings. Three relievers — JoJo Romero, Jose Alvarado, and Connor Brogdon — pieced together scoreless innings until the Phillies took a one-run lead in the eighth.
But the lead didn’t last. Pete Alonso greeted Hector Neris in the bottom of the eighth by dropping a leadoff single to score Francisco Lindor, who started the inning on second base due to the extra-inning rules. Neris loaded the bases and Jonathan Villar ended it with a single to left field.
The Mets, for the first of two times on Tuesday, celebrated a win as the Phillies walked off the field. But it’s worth wondering if those outcomes could have shifted in the other direction if the Phillies had gotten a little more from their eight-hole hitters.