Phillies News

Following Walker's in-game exit, Phillies fall in extras to Mets

The Phillies had to lean on their bullpen following Taijuan Walker's 4th inning exit, resulting in an 11 inning loss Thursday night.

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In a season that’s been overstuffed with happily-ever-after endings for the Phillies, another boisterous crowd at Citizens Bank Park was getting ready. Ready to sing along with Harry, professing their high hopes for all the world to hear. Ready to celebrate a fourth straight win over the division rival Mets, three of them comebacks in the fifth inning or later.

It’s been such a magic carpet ride to the best record in baseball that nobody in the throng of 38,267 saw the cruel plot twist coming.

Not after the Phillies clawed back to take a one-run lead in the eighth. Not with relievers Jeff Hoffman and Jose Alvarado fully rested and lined up to nail down the victory. Definitely not with almost everything breaking the Phillies way this season.

Except that, Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park, the script was flipped. The Mets went ahead with two unearned runs in the eighth. The Phillies tied the score in the bottom of the ninth, but the Mets won it, 6-5, by scoring twice against Alvarado in the 11th.

The Phillies came back with one in the bottom of the inning but the game ended with the Phillies stranding the potential tying run on third and the winning run on second. Overall, the Phils were 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

This is a team that can absorb a May loss, as deflating and disappointing as it may have been. That’s one of the advantages of getting off to one of the best starts in franchise history.

How well they’ll be able to deal with the loss of one of their starting pitchers – or if they’ll even have to – remains to be seen.

Taijuan Walker wasn’t sharp early. Six of the first 15 batters he faced reached base. He’d already given up two runs and then limped into the clubhouse after being nailed on his left big toe by a shot up the middle off the bat of Mets rightfielder Starling Marte.

The initial diagnosis was that the veteran righthander had suffered a contusion but that he would undergo further evaluation. After the game it was revealed that x-rays were negative.

“It hit right off the end of his toe,” manager Rob Thomson reported. “We won’t know about his next start until he comes in (Friday).

Said Walker: “It feels better now (after the game) than when it first happened. I tried to walk it off a little bit but it got kind of hot and numb and started hurting. It’s definitely sore, bruised, starting to swell a little bit. But it could have been a lot worse.”

If Walker isn’t ready to pitch on his next turn, the Phillies have some flexibility because of an off day Monday. They also have Spencer Turnbull in the bullpen. When Walker opened the season on the injured list with shoulder soreness, Turnbull stepped in and went 2-0, 1.67 in six starts.

“That’s what depth is all about,” Thomson noted.

The bullpen was terrific again after Walker was forced from the game, with special kudos to Matt Strahm and José Ruiz, who pitched two scoreless innings apiece. Hoffman has been almost automatic all season, but couldn’t quite pitch around the fact that Tyrone Taylor reached on a throwing error by shortstop Bryson Stott to lead off the eighth and then stole second.

Hoffman walked Pete Alonso, who homered off Walker in the first, then struck out the next two batters. But Harrison Bader singled up the middle – the ball appeared to brush Hoffman’s back – and then a wild pitch allowed the second unearned run to score.

The game ended with Kyle Schwarber striking out with two runners in scoring position and flinging his bat away in frustration. He also whiffed with one out and a runner on second in the bottom of the ninth.

“You come up twice with the game on the line and you’re not able to come through, it gets frustrating,” he said. “You want to thrive in those spots, come through for the team. But we were resilient the whole night and just weren’t able to get that big one at the end.”

When it was over and the Mets started celebrating, there was a moment of stunned disbelief in the stands. Almost as if the fans couldn’t believe that a team that had found a way to win so often in the early going hadn’t been able to pull another one out.

Schwarber was asked if he, too, was almost surprised that the Phillies had come up short.

“Anytime you lose it’s frustrating,” he said. “Sometimes you’d rather just get beat 10-0 than keep finding a way to be one swing away, right? But I think it’s a good thing that we’re able to look at what was possible but also to use that frustration to show up tomorrow ready to rock and roll.”

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