Phillies wilt, then beat Mets in the ninth

The Phillies' Kevin Frandsen is mobbed by jubilant teammates after his walk-off homer in the ninth inning. RON CORTES / Staff Photographer
The Phillies' Kevin Frandsen is mobbed by jubilant teammates after his walk-off homer in the ninth inning. RON CORTES / Staff Photographer
Posted: June 24, 2013

These Phillies possess the obnoxious quality of making their fans suffer, even in victory. They render everything difficult; the most serene days are not spared.

The sun shined on Saturday, the largest crowd of 2013 stuffed Citizens Bank Park, and the home team sprang to a six-run lead. Mediocrity felt foreign for six innings until misery spread when Jonathan Pettibone grabbed his back.

A ballpark agonized for three innings of an 8-7 Phillies win. The bullpen failed. The offense limped. The fielding collapsed. Moments after Jonathan Papelbon blew his third save in a week, Kevin Frandsen noticed his old college teammate, Carlos Torres, jog from the Mets bullpen. He wanted a bat.

"He is totally loose," Charlie Manuel said. "It's really no big deal to him. He has enough cockiness to him and he wants to show people he can play."

Frandsen attacked a fastball and flipped his bat. Having hit a game-winning home run, he pointed at the dugout and a raucous celebration ensued. The Phillies celebrated the relief of not losing in spectacular fashion.

"It probably wouldn't have been good in here," Ryan Howard said.

"It's awesome because the Phillies won," Frandsen said.

"I don't think I've never not enjoyed a win," Manuel said.

But . . .

"When we're ahead like that, you are hoping you can hold them," Manuel said. "You are hoping someone can get some outs for you."

A six-run lead wilted to two runs in a maddening seventh inning. In the ninth, Papelbon could not hold the Mets down.

There was little for Papelbon to say. He froze at the first-base line. He removed his hat and stared at the ground. Three days after the closer admonished his teammates for a lack of fundamentals, the Phillies surrendered a run on a Michael Young error, a single hit to shortstop that was vacated by Jimmy Rollins on a steal attempt, and a miscue in center field by Ben Revere.

"I don't feel like I'm in a funk at all," said Papelbon, who served a solo homer before the chaos unfolded.

Victory was probable until Pettibone succumbed to lower back tightness. He suffered the injury in the first inning and succeeded despite it. The 23-year-old rookie was pitching for his job. Veteran Carlos Zambrano will make his sixth minor-league start Sunday and the Phillies are nearing a decision on his fate.

Pettibone's performance dictated another chance; his injury may prevent it. He believes he will make his next start.

The bullpen roulette spun. The seventh inning was abysmal; it required 45 pitches from three relievers as New York batted around. Mike Stutes failed to retire a batter. Four reached and all four scored.

"We will improve," Manuel said. "But it's going to take a little while. They have to get people out and get confidence."

A day after Manuel told a reporter the Phillies would score 10 runs "when I knock you out," the manager settled for eight. Manuel, 69 years old and in the final year of his contract, is peeved at perceived shortcomings in his leadership.

Howard smashed two home runs in a game for the first time since Aug. 30, 2011, a span of 164 games. He is 7 for 15 lifetime vs. Mets righty Dillon Gee, with six of the hits being home runs.

A productive Howard could change this team's fate. Howard is hitting .282 with an .828 OPS. He has multi-hit games in seven of his last 11. Howard is notoriously a second-half hitter; his current mark is not far from his career .858 first-half OPS.

Contact Matt Gelb

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