NEW YORK - The Phillies and Mets, separated by one game at the bottom of the National League East, gathered Friday at Citi Field to commit a crime against baseball. They played for 4 hours, 39 minutes in a battle to see who could fail most, and it was a taut contest.
Fans stood at 10:08 p.m. for the seventh-inning stretch, and some shook their heads. Ninety minutes later, Marlon Byrd slashed an RBI double just inside the right-field line. The Phillies won, 3-2, to break a four-game skid. It required 11 lethargic innings.
These days, for the Phillies, an ugly victory is welcomed. The two teams combined for 32 runners left on base.
They played nine innings in 3 hours, 58 minutes despite a 2-2 score. Both teams stranded 28 runners in nine innings, two shy of the record for a nine-inning game. Nine arms threw 369 pitches. It was, at times, difficult to watch.
Chase Utley - who rose above the lackluster play and reached base four times - doubled with one out in the 11th. Mets manager Terry Collins opted for Byrd when he intentionally walked Ryan Howard. Byrd had struck out three times and walked twice in his first five plate appearances. He smacked Carlos Torres' fifth pitch into right for the decisive hit.
The Phillies bullpen, with the exception of Antonio Bastardo, kept a chance for victory alive. Jonathan Papelbon saved it with his 13th straight scoreless inning.
Bastardo coughed up another late-inning lead. He issued a two-out walk to Daniel Murphy in the eighth. David Wright smashed a double to the wall. Leftfielder Domonic Brown was slow to fetch the ball, which bounced away from him. His relay to the infield was well late. Wright, who does not show much emotion, pounded his hands together at second base.
Brown drove in the first two Phillies runs on two opposite-field singles. Utley was struck on the knee by a Jenrry Mejia curveball to begin the fifth. Howard popped out and Byrd fanned. Utley, with two outs, became aggressive. He attempted his first stolen base of 2014 and barely beat Travis d'Arnaud's throw to reach scoring position with two outs.
Brown lofted a slider, low and away, to left field for the go-ahead run. That advantage lasted until the eighth.
The Mets lugged a 23-inning scoreless streak into Friday. They failed to even register consecutive hits during that ignominious slump. Murphy and Wright notched back-to-back singles as the second and third batters to face starter Roberto Hernandez. Curtis Granderson plopped a double into right field for a 1-0 Mets lead. The streak ended with haste.
Hernandez, somehow, threw 75 pitches in three innings and allowed but one run. The Mets loaded the bases in both the first and second innings. They stranded two more in the third.
The home team was not alone in its ineptitude. The Phillies left five men on base in the first two innings. They cracked Mejia in the third. Utley doubled. Byrd walked, which put Brown in key spot. He delivered a run-scoring single to the opposite field. Mejia threw 101 pitches and could not complete five innings.
Brown's recent swings are defensive. He has six extra-base hits (five doubles and a homer) this season. Just five of his 28 hits were pulled to right field. Pitchers have attacked him on the outer half of the plate, and the 26-year-old outfielder has not yet adjusted his power stroke.
"I think he's seeing pitches away," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "I think they're mixing it up pretty well, hard in and going away.
"For him, it looks a little long, his swing right now. Little bit long rather than a little more short and compact. Looking for hard, solid contact more often. That's what he's working on."
The Phillies spent much of Friday searching for two well-struck balls in the same inning. Finally, in the 11th, a path to victory emerged.