NEW YORK –- Bryce Harper boiled.
Jake Arrieta fumed.
The Phillies are facing their first gut check of the season after suffering their fourth loss in five games in Monday night’s 5-1 loss to the Mets at Citi Field. There have been worse losses, including an earlier one on this seven-game road trip, but none sparked stronger feelings following a controversial ejection of Harper in the fourth inning and Arrieta’s choice words about the team’s readiness to compete against a division rival.
“I don’t think our guys were ready to play,” Arrieta said. “We were flat. The dugout was flat. The defense wasn’t good. We didn’t throw the ball well as a staff overall. We got beat.”
Isn’t that troubling?
“It’s troubling, yeah,” he said. “I’m out there doing everything I can to win a game. I need my guys behind me and they weren’t.”
Arrieta meant Harper. Home-plate umpire Mark Carlson’s strike zone had frustrated players on both sides all night, and it particularly irritated the Phillies’ superstar right fielder. He had struck out swinging in the first inning and struck out looking in the fourth. Harper had questionable calls in each plate appearance, but he said something and motioned toward Carlson after his strikeout in the fourth.
“He made a comment when he was in the batter’s box and then he made a comment as he left the batter’s box after he struck out, yes,” Carlson confirmed.
Harper said something more from the dugout when Carlson appeared to miss a 1-1 pitch up and out of the zone to Cesar Hernandez in the same inning.
Carlson ejected Harper.
“That can't happen,” Harper said. “I've got to stay in that game and be there for my team, the fans and this organization. I've got to be better.”
It was the 12th ejection of Harper’s career. It was the first time a Phillies player had been ejected since Justin De Fratus on June 16, 2015. The Phillies couldn’t believe it happened.
“There was normal chirping from the dugout that is in every dugout every single night,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “It was no different.”
“Nothing out of the ordinary,” Hoskins said. “I’m sure the other side was doing it, too. For whatever reason, he picked to listen to our side.”
“What he said warranted an automatic ejection,” Carlson said. “Personal and language, yes.”
“I guess I overstepped,” Harper said.
Kapler sprung from the dugout, shouting and pointing all around the field as he approached Carlson. Harper followed, initially stumbling as he left the dugout. He pushed Kapler to the side, wanting to get closer to the umpire. Kapler pushed Harper back from Carlson. Contact was made, which Carlson said he will put in his report to Major League Baseball.
But was it intentional or incidental?
“That decision will be made by Major League Baseball after watching the video,” crew chief Brian Gorman said.
Bench coach Rob Thomson and third-base coach Dusty Wathan eventually wrangled Harper, but Harper kept yelling and pointing at Carlson. Kapler kept shouting and pointing, too.
This is where Arrieta spoke critically of Harper’s ejection.
“We need him in right field,” he said. “I don’t care how bad [the umpire] is. I need him in right field, I need him at the plate and he wasn’t there. So that hurts.
“I’m out there, trying to make pitches, he misses some calls. So what? Like, we need him out there. We were flat from start to finish. Two-hour delay, it doesn’t matter. We have to be ready to play. We weren’t and it showed.”
Harper said he had not spoken to Arrieta following the game, but he understands his importance to the team. The Phillies’ lineup, already weakened with Jean Segura, Odubel Herrera and Scott Kingery on the injured list, became even weaker without him.
“It just can't happen from my side,” he said. “In a game like that against the Mets, division rival, it just can't happen, for me, myself, and this team as well. We're a better team with me in the lineup and I've got to stay in there.”
Ejections sometimes spark a team, but this one snuffed out any chances of a comeback. Hernandez singled in the at-bat, but the Mets retired the final 16 batters they faced.
"It definitely changes the dynamic of their lineup,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “He's an impactful player. It might make you pitch the guy before or after him a little bit different."
The Phillies must regroup and try to win Tuesday and Wednesday to win the series and finish the road trip at 3-4.
“I mean we've got to play better, plain and simple,” Harper said. “These games matter. They matter now, they matter in September, so we've got to go out there tomorrow, put our best foot forward and try to win a ballgame.”
“I said it from the start,” Hoskins said. “This first month was pretty important, with all the divisional games. I don't think anybody in here is hitting the panic button at all. We've lost two games in a row twice in this season. We've been pretty good at bouncing back. I think all of us in here are feeling pretty confident going into tomorrow. We're fine. I don't think anybody in here is panicking.”
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .