Exactly a year ago on Tuesday, on Aug. 28, 2011, the St. Louis Cardinals were 9 1/2 games out of a playoff berth. Yes, they had to jump over only two teams and not four, but they also had five fewer games left in their season than the Phillies do today.
Unlikely? Yes. But there is at least an outside chance that the Phillies play themselves into playing meaningful baseball in September.
Of course, it's highly unlikely if most of the final 33 games play out like Tuesday's, a game not unlike many of the 128 that preceded it. Although the performances of starters and relievers alike have been strong over the course of the last 2 months, pitching has been an issue for most of the season and Tuesday was no different.
Sophomore slumping Vance Worley blew a three-run lead and couldn't get out of the fifth inning. The bullpen that followed blew a one-run lead in the eighth and blew up in the 10th.
Rookie righthander B.J. Rosenberg allowed four straight one-out hits in the game's final frame as the Mets ran away with their third straight win after losing six in a row. Rosenberg, who helped the bullpen's weekend surge by striking out Jayson Werth in the eighth inning Friday, returned to reality on Tuesday, when he gave up a go-ahead double to Ike Davis after David Wright began the rally with a single.
Rosenberg has a 12.66 ERA in 13 games this season.
"I didn't feel like myself," he said. "Everything was up."
Worley and the erratic bullpen wasted home runs from Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. Howard's first-inning grand slam put the Phils in front, 4-1.
While a three-run lead would likely hold with the way Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Kyle Kendrick have pitched lately, and it would look like gold for run-deprived Cliff Lee, it was not enough for the struggling Worley.
For the fourth time in his last five starts, Worley didn't get to the sixth inning. He couldn't even get out of the fifth.
Worley served up a two-run homer to Mike Baxter in the fourth. The homer was Baxter's first of the season, his second in 194 career plate appearances, and it cut the Mets' deficit to 4-3.
In the fifth, New York tied it when Worley yielded back-to-back hits to begin the inning before Wright launched a sacrifice fly to center. After blowing the lead, Worley wouldn't face another batter.
Whether he's struggling to pitch with loose bodies in his pitching elbow or it's a result of NL teams seeing him in his second full year through the league, Worley has come undone in the last 2 months. After sporting a 2.92 ERA in his first 12 starts, looking like the guy who finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year race last season, Worley has a 5.80 ERA in his last 11 starts.
"His command is definitely a problem," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He used to throw quality strikes. I don't see that now."
Worley gave up four runs on nine hits in 4 innings. In his last five starts, he has allowed 51 of the 121 batters he's faced to reach base, which translates to an on-base percentage north of .420.
"I'm tired of losing," Worley said. "I have to do a better job. It all starts with me, I have to go deeper in the game."
If the Phils have any grand visions of making a miraculous run in September, they might be better off sending Worley off to get his elbow cleaned out and calling up Triple A Lehigh Valley's Tyler Cloyd (12-1, 2.35 ERA) or Jonathan Pettibone (4-0, 1.70 ERA in six starts since being promoted to Triple A) to pitch in his place.
"We haven't considered that yet," Manuel said. "But at the same time, we can do a lot of things . . . There are things we can do. But until we discuss it, I don't know yet."
Utley gave Worley a brief reprieve, hitting a solo homer to put the Phils back in front and chase Mets starter Chris Young from the game with one out in the fifth. But the Phils' bullpen, which posted 6 shutout innings over the weekend, couldn't handle the heavy workload left over by Worley.
After pitching a scoreless seventh, Josh Lindblom walked Wright on four pitches to begin the inning and Antonio Bastardo took over. After retiring the first two batters he faced, Bastardo served up a game-tying double to Kelly Shoppach.
Shoppach played a part in the going-away party in the 10th, too, launching a two-run homer off Rosenberg to give the Mets a comfortable four-run lead.
Domonic Brown returned to the starting lineup Tuesday night after not being in the lineup for two games with a sore left knee. But he was replaced with Juan Pierre when the 10th inning started.
Brown, who already is wearing a brace on his right knee from a previous injury while at Triple A Lehigh Valley, was slow to retrieve a ball in the leftfield corner that turned out to be the game-tying double in the eighth inning. Afterward, he said he was fine. But he was pulled from the game anyway.
"I really don't know - I didn't feel too bad at all," Brown said. "They asked me if I was all right. I said, 'Yeah.' Maybe they thought I was fibbing to them. But I feel like I'm all right, able to play."
Contact Ryan Lawrence at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at ryanlawrence21.