NEW YORK – It was a bad road trip for the Phillies. It could have been a lot worse.
The Phillies lost four players to the injury list and might have lost a fifth in Roman Quinn even as they pushed across three insurance runs on their way to a 6-0 victory over the New York Mets Wednesday night at Citi Field.
They also lost five times in seven games during their tour of Denver and Queens and they surrendered their grip on sole possession of first place in the National League East.
And still things are OK for the Phillies as they near the final weekend of the season’s first full month. They got on a bus back to Philadelphia with a 13-11 record. They are tied with the Mets for first place in the division and they open a four-game series Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park with the 7-17 Miami Marlins, the first National League team to fall to 10 games below .500.
All is not well, but all is not lost either.
The Phillies will have to play a lot better on the road this season if they are going to win their division or even make the postseason for the first time since 2011. But they play their next nine games at home, where they are 8-4 this season. It’s a chance for them to get healthy and get right.
“We didn’t play our best baseball on this trip,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “However if we had not won tonight’s game, it would have been a much worse trip and I think we would really be licking our wounds right now. It was really important to get this victory, and our pitching staff stepped up and we got some big hits and we executed some fundamentals.”
By beating the Mets on Wednesday, they also gained a measure of revenge for their perceived insults from the evening before. The Phillies’ blood still boiled when they arrived Wednesday afternoon. They were sure that Jacob Rhame’s ninth-inning pitches Tuesday night that sailed up and over Rhys Hoskins’ head were no accident.
It was only natural to wonder if the Phillies’ anger would be accompanied by a retaliatory purpose pitch aimed at a New York hitter. The Mets’ SNY telecast opened with a historic look at some of the past feuds between the two National League East rivals.
My personal favorite on the brawl-light reel was the 1990 melee when Pat Combs drilled Dwight Gooden in the kneecap after the Mets pitcher had plunked the Phillies’ Dickie Thon and Tommy Herr earlier in the game. Gooden charged the mound but was tackled and pummeled in the head by Darren Daulton before he could reach Combs.
Back in the present, Kapler did not hide his disgust with Rhame’s head-high fastballs.
“I’m still fairly upset about the way last night’s game ended,” the manager said before the series finale against the Mets.
Kapler, however, also said that the Phillies “don’t retaliate and we never throw at anybody intentionally.”
Still, we watched and we waited and we sort of got what we came for in the bottom of the fourth inning. With the Phillies up 1-0, Todd Frazier stepped to the plate, fouled off a pitch, and then took a 94-mph fastball to the left shoulder. Without flinching, Frazier went to first base as home-plate umpire and crew chief Brian Gorman warned Velasquez and both benches.
Kapler and Velasquez both said afterward that there was no intent to hit Frazier.
“We did not want to put the leadoff runner on base in that particular case,” Kapler said. “I don’t think Frazier thought he got hit intentionally. In a one-run game we’ll never act that.”
No more bad blood boiled on this night, but it could again thanks to Hoskins’ reaction after he homered off Rhame in the top of the ninth inning to give the Phillies a 6-0 lead.
As the ball landed in the left-field seats, Hoskins shifted into his slow-motion gear, a very passive-aggressive way to protest what Rhame had done the night before.
Time will tell if the Mets want to keep things going when the teams meet again at the end of June in Philadelphia. Hoskins was unconcerned about it.
“I enjoyed the moment,” the Phillies slugger said. “I think to put an exclamation point on a win like that when you really needed it, I think that’s what everyone in here is most excited about. A couple guys said the phrase ‘Don’t poke the sleeping bear,’ and it seemed like in those last couple of innings that may have happened."
The Phillies had already placed four players (Scott Kingery, Victor Arano, Odubel Herrera, and Jean Segura) on the injured list since the start of the trip and it appears Quinn might be headed in that direction after suffering a groin injury on an RBI bunt single that helped the Phillies build a 4-0 lead in the eighth.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” Kapler said. “I really feel bad for Roman. It’s nothing he’s doing. It’s just that his body is not responding. All he wants to do it get going and stay going."