NEW YORK — In the bottom of the fifth inning of the Phillies’ eventual 8-2 loss to the Mets on Saturday night, Francisco Lindor took a 92 mph sinker from Zach Eflin and launched it straight toward the left-field wall. It was obvious that Lindor didn’t think it was going to go out or going to drop. He wasn’t hustling down the first-base line. But as the ball got closer to the wall, left fielder Kyle Schwarber and center fielder Odúbel Herrera converged on the same spot. Schwarber stuck out his glove, but to no avail. He collided with Herrera, the ball dropped, Lindor got a triple, and two runs scored.
It was a sloppy play, a routine ball that needed to be caught. What made matters worse was that the Phillies didn’t give Eflin enough run support. In the top of the fourth, while down 1-0, they loaded the bases with two singles and a walk and only one out. J.T. Realmuto hit a two-run single to drive in Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos, giving the Phillies a 2-1 lead. But that was the extent of the Phillies’ damage that inning, and for the game for that matter. Herrera popped up on a 2-0 count, Johan Camargo walked to load the bases again, but Schwarber flied out.
Including Saturday night’s game, the Phillies have faced Mets starter Taijuan Walker four times already this season. Walker increased his splitter usage over those four outings, but wasn’t giving the Phillies a drastically different look. Nevertheless, the Phillies’ offense failed to show up in the way Eflin needed it to, tallying only the two runs, six hits, and three walks against the Mets’ starter in his five innings.
The Mets, on the other hand, teed off on the Phillies’ staff, recording 10 hits, eight runs, and four walks. The Phillies are now 21-26. They’ve lost nine of their last 13 games, and are five games under .500. When asked why his team has struggled of late, manager Joe Girardi said he couldn’t point to just one thing.
“It’s a plethora of things,” he said. “At times, we haven’t pitched well, at times we haven’t hit well, at times our defense has let us down. There’s not one thing in particular. It’s different things.”
If the Phillies lose on Sunday, they will be 10.5 games behind the Mets in the NL East.
“We’ve just got to keep going,” said Harper. “You never want to lose nine out of 13 or lose any series that you’re playing and we’re doing that right now. I hate when people say it’s early, I don’t like that, because you’ve got to play. It’s not early because these guys are playing the way they are. We’ve got to keep going, we’ve got to keep plugging along, we’ve got to keep pounding forward. Come in tomorrow ready to go. Nobody feels bad for us, so we can’t feel bad for ourselves.”
A rough night for Eflin
This was easily Eflin’s worst start of the season. He allowed seven earned runs through six innings (although one of those runs could have been saved by Herrera or Schwarber). Even still, Eflin struggled, allowing eight hits, two walks, and a three-run homer to Jeff McNeil , with four strikeouts.
Eflin struggled in his previous outing against the Mets, too — allowing five earned runs through 4 1/3 innings on May 1 — but had pitched well over his last two outings. On May 22 against the Dodgers, he struck out a career-high 12, allowing only two earned runs through seven innings of work. That start felt like a distant memory on Saturday.
“I was just battling my command the whole game,” Eflin said. “A lot of sinkers were leaking, they were doing a good job of taking advantage of that. They scored quick runs, too. A walk, bloop hit, and then, next thing you know there’s a double. Same thing happened last outing where they just got timely hits. Maybe I’ve got to be better in those situations and make my pitches and stuff. But I really felt like I was fighting myself.”
Much needed multi-hit night for Castellanos and Realmuto
The Phillies collected only seven hits on Saturday night, but four of them came from Realmuto and Castellanos. Realmuto, in particular, has been heating up lately: He’s hitting .412/.542/.765 over his last seven games. Castellanos is batting .258/.281/.355 over that span, but now has a three-game hitting streak.