Earlier this week, Mets’ Hall of Famer and current team broadcaster Keith Hernandez made some hay when he said he “hates doing Phillies games” because of what I considered to be Philadelphia’s bad brand of baseball.
On Friday night, as Hernandez was off in St. Louis celebrating the 40th anniversary of his championship with the Cardinals, the Mets and Phillies turned in a game straight out of Hernandez’s era.
The 2-1 win for the Phillies was all about pitching, defense, small ball, and ironically, the battle of fundamentals. Tied at one after the first two frames, both teams fired blanks until the tenth, when Hernandez’s dreaded “bad fundies” reared their ugly head, but this time for the Mets. One inning after getting nailed at home by Phillies’ left fielder Matt Vierling, Starling Marte had his throw to the plate skip right on by catcher Tomas Nido, allowing the Phils’ to take the lead on a sacrifice fly in the 10th.
The Phillies got a run off Max Scherzer in the first inning and then fell dormant for the next six, failing to get anything else off Scherzer despite racking up nine total hits against him. Scherzer was his typically demonstrative self from him, pumping his fists and yelling words of self affirmation at himself after inning-ending outs, and also showing jubilant appreciation for Francisco Lindor when the shortstop ranged into the hole for a nice play in the fifth.
Scherzer finished with six K’s while throwing seven complete innings for the third time in his last four outings, once again allowing the team to stay away from its middle relief underbelly that will become more important as the season progresses.
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Philadelphia starter Ranger Suarez held the Mets down with his assortment of sinkers and changeups. He matched Scherzer by also going seven innings but holding the Mets to just three hits. Their lone run off him was produced by a Pete Alonso walk, a Darin Ruf double that got him to third, and a Mark Canha sac fly.
This very tightly played game could have been anything but. In the top of the third, the Mets were forced to completely rearrange the furniture. Both Eduardo Escobar (who started the game at third base) and Jeff McNeil (the starting second baseman) were pulled from the lineup, neither one of them emerging from the dugout to begin the inning. Buck Showalter then had to get creative.
With just one infielder on the bench in Luis Guillorme, Showalter grabbed him off the bench and put him at second base. But the double injury meant someone would have to play out of position, and that ended up being Canha. An undisputed king of versatility — Canha has played over 700 innings at each outfield spot and first base — the veteran was forced to visit a place he hadn’t been in years.
Canha took over at third base, playing the hot corner for the first time since 2016. In his MLB career prior to Friday night’s game of musical chairs, he had only logged 15 innings at third base, though he spent a decent chunk of 2014 filling in there for the Marlins’ Triple-A team.
Amazingly, flying in the face of a classic baseball adage, the ball really did not find him. Canha did n’t touch the ball for his first two innings at third, but he cleanly fielded a 91 mile per hour grounder in the fifth and made a painless throw across the diamond to complete the out. That was his only defensive action from him at the unfamiliar position, ensuring that, at least, the Mets would not lose because of a wildly different defensive alignment.
Wearing their assassin-like black jerseys, with Edwin Diaz shutting down the ninth inning in a rare non-save situation, trying to set up a blissful win, the Mets just couldn’t land the final blow. Adding another layer of irony to the bad funds against Philadelphia — the bizarre version of Hernandez’s comments — the Mets were closed out in the tenth by David Robertson.
Every Mets fan and their mother left the trade deadline wondering why the team didn’t get Robertson as their number one bullpen upgrade. On Friday night, with a little help from a generous third strike call to Tyler Naquin, Robertson showed them what they missed out on.