The Phillies could spread the blame everywhere Tuesday at Citi Field.
They suffered a 4-3 loss in eight innings to the Mets in Game 1 of a seven-inning doubleheader. They lost Game 2, 4-0. The Phillies had just 12 hits and struck out 17 times. They struggled defensively. They had a one-run lead entering the bottom of the eighth in Game 1, only for Héctor Neris to blow his first save of the season. Phillies ace Aaron Nola grinded through five innings in Game 2. He allowed three runs.
But their center fielders continue to be scrutinized through the team’s 6-5 start. Roman Quinn made the third out in the fifth inning in Game 1, when he went past third base on a double steal. Quinn likely thought Mets catcher James McCann airmailed his throw into left field. He did not.
“He stole the base,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “He just went beyond the base. That was the problem. I’m not going to talk strategy, but I didn’t have a problem with him stealing third base, I’ll tell you that.”
It looked like Adam Haseley could have caught Kevin Pillar’s line drive to center field in the fourth inning in Game 2. Instead, it fell in front of him to put runners on first and second. It led to a three-run rally against Nola.
“I think he had a shot at it,” Girardi said.
Quinn is batting .059 (1-for-17) with nine strikeouts, one walk and three hit-by-pitches. He has put the ball in play in only eight of his 21 plate appearances. Haseley is batting .190 (4-for-21) with one double and four strikeouts.
Phillies center fielders entered Tuesday with a .382 OPS, which ranked 29th in baseball.
“Right now, these are the guys that we have,” Girardi said. “Obviously, there are guys down in [Triple-A] Lehigh Valley that are trying to get up here. I think if we felt that they were ready, that they would be here. But I don’t think we feel that they’re where they need to be.”
The Phillies likely will give Quinn and Haseley more time, because it is difficult to draw conclusions from 21 plate appearances. But the Phillies have options at the team’s alternate training site in Allentown, Pa. -- Odúbel Herrera, Scott Kingery, Mickey Moniak and Travis Jankowski. Kingery and Moniak are on the 40-man roster. Girardi said the other day that Kingery is not ready for a promotion because he is working on his swing, which caused him to hit .159 (7-for-44) and strike out a team-high 19 times in Spring Training. Moniak had a 1.112 OPS in 26 plate appearances this spring, but Girardi said that Moniak will join the Phillies only when he is ready to play every day.
He might not be there yet.
Herrera hit .231 with a team-high four home runs in the spring, but he cooled toward the end of camp. Girardi said throughout camp that Herrera had quality at-bats, often mentioning how many times he faced left-handed pitching. In the end, however, Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Herrera needed more at-bats after missing so much time following his May 2019 arrest and 85-game suspension by MLB for violating the league’s domestic abuse policy.
It should be noted that Dombrowski said ownership gave him the OK to put Herrera on the roster, if he wanted.
Jankowski is on the team’s five-man travel squad, but he is not on the 40-man roster either.
It would help Quinn and Haseley if the rest of the Phillies’ offense hit as expected. It finished fifth in baseball in scoring last season, but it entered Tuesday ranked 22nd. One problem is the Phillies are striking out more. Their 27.6% strikeout rate is 6% higher than last season, the second-highest increase in the Majors, although some of that is because pitchers are hitting this season instead of a designated hitter like last season.
They also have faced some good pitching like Jacob deGrom, Max Fried, Marcus Stroman and Charlie Morton. Stroman shut down the Phillies in Game 2.
“We’re capable of swinging better,” Girardi said. “Right now, we’re facing some guys that are throwing pretty well.”
It doesn’t get much easier in New York. The Phillies are scheduled to face left-hander David Peterson on Wednesday and deGrom in Thursday’s series finale.