The Phillies scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, right after the Mets had tied the game in the top of the frame, and thus avoided getting swept, as they escaped with a 5-2 win Sunday night in Philadelphia.
The Mets trailed 2-1, as they were thoroughly flustered by Zach Eflin. But Phillies manager Gabe Kapler opted to remove Eflin for a pinch hitter in a bunt situation, despite Eflin’s low pitch count. The Mets seemed revitalized getting a chance to hit against the Phillies’ pen. Todd Frazier opened the inning with a single and the Mets were able to pinch hit for Juan Lagares with the recently-activated Brandon Nimmo, who worked a walk.
During Nimmo’s at-bat, J.D. Davis was in the on-deck circle. But when Nimmo got on, they opted to go small ball by sending up Luis Guillorme to bunt. The sacrifice was successful, putting runners on second and third with one out, with Jeff McNeil and Pete Alonso coming to the plate. But as so often happens when you play for one run – that’s all you get. McNeil hit into a fielder’s choice, with an out at the plate. Alonso walked, but ball four was a wild pitch allowing Nimmo to score. Michael Conforto struck out to end the inning.
If the decision to sacrifice wasn’t maddening enough, the Mets brought in Daniel Zamora to start the eighth inning on the road in a tie game. It was like Terry Collins suddenly re-emerged in the dugout. Who else brings in a guy who wasn’t good enough to be in the majors yesterday – Zamora had a 4.20 ERA in Syracuse – to face one of the hottest hitters in the league when there are other options? The Mets played small ball and got one run. They played matchups and got burnt. Bryce Harper singled to lead off the eighth.
Since Zamora isn’t good, he was removed for Jeurys Familia, who is shaky under the best of circumstances and not particularly good when pitching with runners on base. He immediately gave up a walk and then a ball hit to center on which both runners advanced. After intentionally walking the next hitter to load the bases, Familia served up a bases-clearing double.
It’s always tough to lose. But losing when employing two of my least favorite strategy moves – bunting instead of going for the kill and playing matchups with a sub-par reliever – makes it even more difficult to stomach.