Pitching decision backfires on a bad defensive night as Phillies lose again to Mets


NEW YORK -- Phase I of Joe Girardi's plan to get his starting pitching staff a little extra rest failed miserably 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 summoned lefty Bailey Falter from Triple A to face one of the best offensive teams in the majors and the results were not good. The Phillies suffered an 8-6 loss to the NL East-leading New York Mets at Citi Field.

The Phils' seventh loss in 10 games against the Mets this season dropped them 8½ games back in the division -- and the first Memorial Day hot dog hasn't even hit the grill yet.

Overall, the Phillies have lost 8 out of their last 12 games and are 21-25.

It's not late in the season, but it ain't early anymore, either.

"We've got to figure something out quick," straight-shooting Nick Castellanos said. "We're not happy about what's going on. It's a sh---- feeling. There's no way around it. 

"We care the most, these guys in this clubhouse. (Sh--'s) not going well. We're not in a good mood. But all we can do is be professional and get 'em tomorrow."

A loss Saturday night will drop the Phillies a season-high five games under .500.

Pitching for the first time in 10 days, Falter gave up four hits, including a two-run homer, three walks and five runs over three innings in just his third big-league start. He threw an exorbitant 82 pitches.

Not all of the damage was Falter's doing. Rookie shortstop Bryson Stott made a throwing error on the first play of the bottom of the first inning and the Mets parlayed that into three unearned runs. Two of the runs scored on fly balls to medium right field. Both times, the Mets challenged Castellanos' arm and won. The third run in the inning came on a groundball hit by Mark Canha against the shift. In other words, nothing the Phillies did worked early in the game.

Girardi and the Phillies' brain trust assigned Falter the start because they wanted to give their five-man starting rotation an extra day of rest. So instead of having Eflin, Wheeler and Kyle Gibson pitch in the series, the Phils had Falter open it with Eflin and Wheeler coming in the second and third games.

The plan can still end up being successful if Eflin and Wheeler can deliver victories on Saturday night and Sunday night.

In the short term, it's just another pitching decision of Girardi's to question.

"No," Girardi said when asked if he had any second thoughts about starting Falter. "No. No. No. And everyone is going to ask that question, but we've got to take care of people. This is a long year, right? I told you about Zach Eflin. He's going to make four starts on regular rest, basically, after coming off COVID. These guys have 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 it's all different. It's hard to judge exactly what he would have done had we had a clean first inning. But we didn't, and you've got to find ways to overcome it. Our defense cost us."

After Falter exited, the Mets built their lead to 7-0 with a pair of runs against Nick Nelson in the fourth.

While Girardi's pitching decision did not pay dividends, his catching choice did. He gave J.T. Realmuto a rest and went with backup Garrett Stubbs behind the plate.

Stubbs rewarded his manager's faith with a three-run homer to key a six-run rally in the sixth inning. The home run, the second of Stubbs' career, both coming in the past week, made it a 7-6 game, but the Phils got no closer. In fact, the Mets padded their lead in the bottom of the sixth. Nelson walked the first batter of the frame and the Mets turned that into a run.

Three of the Mets' eight runs started as walks.

The Phils' last best chance to tie the game or go ahead came in the top of the eighth when they put runners on second and third with one out. Stubbs struck out against Joely Rodriguez and pinch-hitter Realmuto popped out to first baseman Pete Alonso in foul territory to end the threat. 

Eflin will face Taijuan Walker on Saturday night. Wheeler faces Chris Bassitt on Sunday. The Phillies are dangerously close to a double-digit deficit in the NL East. They need wins. Fast.

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