Phillies stick it to Mets to complete 3-game sweep
NEW YORK - In the four seasons since Citi Field opened its doors, a time that coincided with the Phillies' rise to the top of the National League and the New York Mets' descent to making regular appearances in late-night talk-show hosts' monologues, Charlie Manuel and Co. haven't exactly steamrolled over their sad-sack division foes.
The Phils had even suffered through two of their lower moments in the last three seasons in Flushing.
Two years ago, they failed to score a run in a New York sweep. In their final trip to New York last season, in the midst of their winningest regular season in franchise history, the Phillies extended a mid-September, season-high, eight-game losing streak.
But the divergent paths of the Mets and Phillies, two teams that have been out of contention for most of 2012, came to a head on Thursday night in New York, when no more than a few thousand people showed up for the makeup game of Tuesday's rainout.
Mets righthander Jeremy Hefner faced seven batters in the first inning and was pulled before he could record an out as the Phils sent 13 players to the plate in the inning, scoring eight runs en route to a 16-1 win.
The Phillies had 19 singles, nine of them coming in the 33-minute first inning. They also got a grand slam from Ryan Howard in the seven-run ninth inning.
According to Elias, it was the first time the Phillies had scored eight runs on the road in the first inning since 1912.
"That's a Snapple fun fact for everybody,'' Howard said.
"It seemed like everything we hit started to fall," Manuel said. "We put up an eight-spot on them. The balls were falling in. Things were going our way."
The romp, their first sweep ever at Citi Field, salvaged a road trip that began when the Phillies dropped three of four to the worst team in baseball at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
But when the Phils return to Citizens Bank Park Friday night, they will have lost ground in the National League wild-card race. After a 4-3 road trip, the Phillies (76-74) are two games over .500 for the first time since June 2, when they were 28-26.
The Phils are also four games back of the St. Louis Cardinals for the second NL wild-card spot, meaning they've lost one game since leaving Philadelphia last week riding high on a seven-game winning streak. With 12 games remaining - including the next six against two of the best teams in the NL, the Braves and Nationals - the Phillies have to make up a four-game deficit and leapfrog three teams in the process.
"It's up to us to keep playing," Manuel said. "It's all we can do. We'll just play each game every day, try to win it, and see what happens. We're going to have to get some help. Somebody has to beat the Cardinals. And Dodgers. And Milwaukee."
If they played their final dozen against the Mets, overcoming that math might be possible.
One night removed from watching Josh Edgin throw a meatball to Howard in the ninth inning of the Phillies' dramatic, come-from-behind win on Wednesday, Mets manager Terry Collins watched Hefner throw an extended batting practice.
The Phils greeted Hefner with six straight singles. After Kevin Frandsen, the seventh batter of the inning, drew a bases-loaded walk, Hefner was mercifully pulled from the game.
His replacement, Collin McHugh, hit the first batter he faced, Erik Kratz. The only reason Citi Field didn't explode into a cacophony of boos was simply because there weren't enough people in the ballpark.
The announced attendance of 20,010 was likely a clerical error, with an unintended extra zero thrown into the calculations.
Hefner only could have hoped for similar hospitality when his final pitching line was announced in the press box. After the Phillies scored eight runs on nine hits in a first inning that ran longer than a sitcom episode, Hefner was charged with seven runs on six hits and one walk in zero innings.
"It was just one of those things where guys just went up there and put the bat on the ball,'' Howard said. "Hit the ball hard. The next guy kept coming up and doing the same thing. We got to them early.''
Hefner's incompetence was nearly equaled by the parade of relievers who gave up a touchdown in the ninth inning. The Phils departed Citi Field the same way they began on Thursday night: crossing home plate with the frequency of rush-hour commuters through the turnstiles at Grand Central Station.
Edgin, the ninth of 10 pitchers Collins used, served up the grand slam to Howard the night after giving up his more dramatic shot.
The recipient of the first batch of runs was rookie Tyler Cloyd. He had an 8-0 lead before taking the mound, but didn't let the lopsided score throw off his game.
Cloyd held the Mets to one run on three hits in eight innings.
"He did exactly what you do with a lead like that," Manuel said. "You go out there and hold them."
"It definitely gives you a little cushion," Cloyd said. "But you still have to go out there and make good pitches. Still, you can throw more balls over the heart of the plate, so that makes it a little easier."
When it was over, Cloyd collected his second big-league win while Phils had season highs in hits (21) and runs (16) and some life remaining in their season, too, thanks to the hapless Mets.