If this was the opening round of the playoffs, the Mets would have clinched a victory yesterday. While this most assuredly was not the postseason, it was a helpful reminder of the dramatic transformation the Phillies will need to experience over the next 2 months if they hope to give management a reason not to break up the team before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.
After yesterday's loss, manager Ryne Sandberg singled out a baserunning error by Domonic Brown in the bottom of the seventh inning that scuttled what would have been a first-and-third situation with one out. Brown had just lined a single to leftfield when he took a hard turn at first base, thinking that Cesar Hernandez would try to score from second and there would be a play at the plate. The throw went home, but Hernandez had held up at third, and Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud threw to second ahead of Brown, who was caught tagged out in a rundown.
"I think I made the right read, the only thing is I should have stayed in the rundown a little longer, see what can happen with maybe a bad throw, maybe Cesar can score on that," Brown said. "That was pretty much it."
Sandberg had a different perspective. "As you get to the bag and round it, you pick up and see what's happening over at third," the manager said.
The Phillies failed to score in the inning, and a tie game was once again placed in the hands of a bullpen that was missing four of its relievers due to the heavy workload they had logged over the previous few days. Aumont, who was called up from Triple A Lehigh Valley earlier in the day, issued a two-out walk to eight-hole hitter D'Arnaud and then missed his location with a sinker to Duda.
"I left it up and he hit it out," the big righty said. "Obviously, you want to go in there and put some zeroes up and let the guys hit and get a win. It's unfortunate, but it's just part of the game."
Mets lefty Jon Niese mowed through the Phillies' lineup, allowing his only runs on a two-run home run by Ryan Howard in the fourth inning that gave the Phillies a 2-1 lead. It was Howard's 11th home run of the season. The Mets tied the game in the sixth when Eric Campbell hit a leadoff double and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Curtis Granderson. Niese breezed through eight innings on 91 pitches, a stark contrast to the 125 pitches that Cole Hamels threw in his seven innings of work.
Sandberg said he was satisfied with his team's swing-early approach. "He's a strike thrower," the manager said of Niese. "He's a quality lefthander. He establishes the strike zone. He doesn't walk many guys. He's a tough lefty. It was a pitcher's duel there between him and Cole. Once again, our best opportunity, which would have come right on time, was right there in the seventh, with our pitching situation."
With the Mets taking three of the first four games of the series, the Phillies are 24-30, six games behind the Braves in the NL East. A three-game series at Washington (27-28) starts tomorrow. Only four teams in baseball have been outscored by more runs than the Phillies: the Rays (23-34), Astros (24-34), Pirates (25-30) and Diamondbacks (23-36).
Hamels walked four and allowed six hits but held the Mets to two runs, one earned, in seven innings. He did not make himself available to the media following the loss, perhaps adhering to that time-tested bit of wisdom, that if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.
On Twitter: @ByDavidMurphy