PHILADELPHIA -- Rhys Hoskins could not believe how quickly his fortunes turned.
He thought he hit a game-tying, three-run home run to right field with two outs in the ninth inning on Sunday night against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. He thought he made up for a defensive gaffe that opened the floodgates in the eighth as the Phillies turned a two-run lead into a four-run deficit. But after Hoskins crossed home plate and celebrated the 100th home run of his career with his teammates in the Phillies’ dugout, the replay official in New York ruled that the ball had hit the top of the metal railing and ricocheted back onto the field.
Hoskins’ clutch milestone homer turned into a two-run double instead. Bryce Harper struck out swinging to end the game. The Phillies lost, 8-7.
“They had clear evidence to turn it over, and that’s what it was,” Hoskins said.
Phillies manager Joe Girardi said he assumed Major League Baseball got the call right. Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin watched everything unfold from inside the clubhouse. He said he thought the ball hit the railing.
“Immediately, we couldn’t tell because Rhys stopped at second and then he started running like he was rounding third for a homer,” Eflin said. “We freaked out. We were screaming. We were hollering. We were going crazy in there, probably as much as the guys in the dugout. It’s just so crazy to know that baseball comes down to inches so many times.”
The Phillies are two games below .500 (13-15) for the first time this season. They have won only one of their last seven series. There have been many frustrating moments, but Sunday’s loss against the Mets had to have been one of the most.
They never should have needed Hoskins’ blast in the ninth, but they kept giving the Mets too many opportunities to score. It came to a head in the eighth. The Mets scored the game-tying run when Jonathan Villar scored from first on a single off Hoskins’ glove. Hoskins retrieved the ball in shallow right field as Villar cruised into third.
Nobody paid attention to Villar as he rounded the bag. When Hoskins casually tossed the ball to second baseman Nick Maton, Villar sprinted home. He scored without a throw to the plate.
“It’s a mental error that can’t happen at any point in the game,” Hoskins said. “Certainly not late in the game. I just put my head down. We know that Villar is an aggressive baserunner and you can’t take our eye off him, and I did. I’ve got to run the ball back into the infield and make sure that we get time, so we’ve got a chance to fight for another day.”
The Mets scored four more runs in the inning to take an 8-4 lead.
“We’re making way too many mistakes defensively,” Girardi said. “We need to clean it up. We talk about it all the time and we work on it, but we need to clean it up. We’re giving them way too many extra outs, and you always got to be on your toes in this game and you’ve got to understand who runners are and you’ve got to think ahead, you know? It’s unfortunate.”
The Phillies entered the game ranked 27th in baseball with -8 Outs Above Average, according to Statcast, and 23rd with -3 Defensive Runs Saved, according to FanGraphs.
Earlier, Andrew McCutchen did not catch Dominic Smith’s fly ball to left field in the second inning, turning a potential out into a double. Roman Quinn threw out Smith at the plate on the next play to save a run. The ball popped out of Bryce Harper’s glove on Michael Conforto’s single to right in the third, which denied him a chance at a play at the plate as the Mets tied the game at 1. Alec Bohm’s error on a Pete Alonso ground ball extended the inning.
Eflin got into a jam with runners at the corners and one out in the sixth. James McCann hit a one-hopper back to the mound, but the ball popped out of Eflin’s glove. He recovered, and he thought he had enough time to turn an inning-ending double play. But his throw to second went too far to Maton’s right. Didi Gregorius, who backed up the play, caught the ball instead.
The run scored to give the Mets a 2-1 lead.
“That’s really not going to sit well with me,” Eflin said.
But can the Phillies’ defense get better? Or is the personnel the personnel?
“You can keep trying,” Girardi said. “I’m never going to give up on it. That’s what we do. That’s our job, so I’m never going to give up on it.”
“The talent in the room gives me the confidence that we will,” Hoskins said.