PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies have had their share of epic late-inning meltdowns over the past several years.
But the one on Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park?
The Phillies blew a six-run lead in a crushing 8-7 loss to the Mets. It was the first time they blew a six-run lead in the ninth since May 10, 1994, when they coughed up a seven-run lead in a 15-inning loss to the Braves at Fulton County Stadium. It was only the second time it happened since 1937, and only the fifth time it happened in franchise history, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
“This is as tough as it gets,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “I’ve had some playoff losses [as a manager] that are pretty tough. But it’s probably my toughest one since I’ve been here.”
Girardi’s players shared similar sentiments, but they promised to forget it. They promised to move on.
They have no choice. They have three more games to play this weekend against the Mets and they need to start winning.
“It sucks, man,” said Nick Castellanos, who left the game in the sixth inning after being hit by a pitch. “There’s no way around it. It sucks. Baseball sometimes sucks. Tonight sucked.”
“It’s tough,” Bryce Harper said. “But we can’t sulk. … It’s a gut punch, but we’ve got to win the weekend.”
The Phillies played one of their best games of the season through eight innings before everything turned into a nightmare not even experienced by the 2020 bullpen, which was one of the worst in baseball history. Aaron Nola allowed one run in seven innings for his third consecutive quality start. The offense took advantage of Mets mistakes in the first inning to take a four-run lead. Harper and Castellanos hit back-to-back homers in the fourth to take a 7-0 lead.
They were cruising.
Then it happened.
Phillies right-hander James Norwood allowed an infield single to Starling Marte to get things started in the ninth. Norwood threw a 2-2 splitter a little more than six inches off home plate. Somehow, Marte made contact. He bounced the ball to shortstop Johan Camargo and beat the throw.
It was the lowest pitch (0.57 feet) the Phillies had allowed for a hit since August of 2017, according to Statcast.
Norwood threw Francisco Lindor a first-pitch fastball down the middle of the plate. He crushed it for a two-run homer.
Pete Alonso doubled. Jeff McNeil singled with one out to put runners at the corners. Girardi pulled Norwood for closer Corey Knebel, who had a 0.87 ERA and four saves in four opportunities in 10 appearances. Mark Canha hit an 0-1 fastball off Knebel’s right leg. The ball bounced toward the third-base line. Knebel got it, but the throw to first arrived late. Alonso scored. The Mets had runners on first and second.
“The ball doesn’t hit me the first at-bat, we’re out of that inning, we’re out the game, we win,” Knebel said. “[Stuff] happens. Bad luck. I see where [second baseman Jean Segura] is. That ball doesn’t hit me, it’s right at him. The ball doesn’t bounce far way, we’ve got two outs.”
Dominic Smith struck out swinging on a curveball for the second out.
“He gets this big strikeout, so you feel pretty good,” Girardi said. “I feel good when Corey is on the mound.”
But then J.D. Davis doubled to score McNeil.
Brandon Nimmo hit a curveball to center to score Canha and Davis.
Marte’s double on a first-pitch fastball scored Nimmo.
“Piss poor,” Knebel said. “It shouldn’t have happened tonight. We’ve got to be better. The offense did their job tonight. The bullpen. Nola, awesome outing. The game is on me. We’ve got a six-run lead going into the ninth. It can’t happen.”
It did, and now the Phillies have to move on.
“It sucks,” Kyle Schwarber said. “But what are you going to do? It’s over with. Move on tomorrow. You want to win a game, right? You always want to win a game every single day. Like, when we got no-hit, it’s just a loss. Tonight’s a loss. You’ve got to move onto the next day.
“We can’t be deflated. We can’t be down. Anything like that, right? Yeah, let them take their 30 minutes, 40 minutes, hour, whatever it is. Go home, get some sleep. We’ve got a game tomorrow, right? We’ve got three more left against these guys. So we’ve got a chance to win the series still.”