NEW YORK — Phase I of Joe Girardi’s plan to get his starting pitching team some extra rest failed miserably on Friday night, and now the pressure is on Zach Eflin and Zack Wheeler.
In the opener of his team’s most important series to date, Girardi called up left-hander Bailey Falter from Triple A to face one of the best offensive teams in the majors and the results weren’t good. The Phillies suffered an 8-6 loss to the Newfoundland East League leaders New York Mets at Citi Field.
The Phils’ seventh loss in 10 games against the Mets this season set them back 8½ games in the division — and the first Memorial Day hot dog hasn’t even reached the grill yet.
Overall, the Phillies have lost 8 of their last 12 games and are 21-25.
It’s not late in the season, but it’s not earlier either.
“We have to find something quickly,” said sniper Nick Castellanos. “We’re not happy with what’s going on. It’s a shitty feeling. There’s no getting around it.
“We care about these guys the most in this clubhouse. (Sh– it) isn’t good. We’re not in a good mood. But all we can do is be professional and have them tomorrow.”
A Saturday night loss will drop the Phillies to five games below the season-high .500 mark.
Pitching for the first time in 10 days, Falter allowed four hits, including a two-run homer, three walks and five runs over three innings in his third league start. He threw a whopping 82 pitches.
Not all damage was due to Falter. Rookie shortstop Bryson Stott made a pitching error on the first down play of the first inning and the Mets turned it into an unearned three-run. Two of the runs scored on fly balls to middle right field. Both times the Mets challenged Castellanos’ arm and won. The third run of the inning came on a fly ball hit by Mark Canha against the shift. In other words, nothing from the Phillies worked early in the game.
Girardi and the Phillies brain trust gave Falter the start because they wanted to give their five-man starting rotation an extra day off. So instead of having Eflin, Wheeler, and Kyle Gibson in the series, the Phils had Falter open with Eflin and Wheeler in Game 2 and Game 3.
The plan may still succeed if Eflin and Wheeler can pick up wins on Saturday night and Sunday night.
In the short term, it’s just another Girardi throwing decision to question.
“No,” Girardi replied when asked if he had any doubts about Falter leaving. “No. No. No. And everyone is going to ask that question, but we have to take care of people. It’s a long year, isn’t it? I told you about Zach Eflin. He’s going to make four regular starts. rest, basically, after leaving COVID. These guys worked hard. So, no. It didn’t work out. Our defense is what cost us.
“(Falter) could have been out of the first inning in 19 pitches and everything is different. It’s hard to judge exactly what he would have done if we had a clean first inning. But we didn’t, and you have to find ways to overcome it. Our defense has cost us dearly.
After Falter’s exit, the Mets built their lead to 7-0 with a pair of runs against Nick Nelson in the fourth.
While Girardi’s throwing decision didn’t pay dividends, his catching choice did. He rested JT Realmuto and went with substitute Garrett Stubbs behind the plate.
Stubbs rewarded his manager’s faith with a three-run homer to score a six-run rally in the sixth inning. The home run, the second of Stubbs’ career, both coming last week, made it 7-6, but the Phils didn’t come close. In fact, the Mets widened their lead in the bottom of the sixth. Nelson walked the first batter off the frame and the Mets turned that into a run.
Three of the Mets’ eight runs have started with walks.
The Phils’ last best chance to tie the game or move forward came in the top of the eighth when they put the runners up for second and third with one out. Stubbs hit Joely Rodriguez and pinch hitter Realmuto jumped first baseman Pete Alonso in foul territory to end the threat.
Eflin will face Taijuan Walker on Saturday night. Wheeler will face Chris Bassitt on Sunday. The Phillies are dangerously close to a double-digit deficit in eastern Newfoundland. They need wins. Quick.