NEW YORK -- The Phillies didn’t suffer the mother of all losses on Mother’s Day, but it was certainly in the family.
With their most dependable relievers in need of a day off, the Phillies’ bullpen could not protect a three-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning and ended up losing, 5-4, to the New York Mets on Ruben Tejada’s bases-loaded hit off Jeff Manship in the 11th inning Sunday afternoon at Citi Field (see Instant Replay).
Manship took the loss, but really, it should have gone to Antonio Bastardo, who stumbled badly as he filled in for closer Jonathan Papelbon, who, depending on whom you talked to, was either resting or ailing.
Bastardo faced four batters in the ninth and allowed three extra-base hits and three runs. His meltdown cost Cole Hamels his 100th career win -- on a day when he threw a career-high 133 pitches, the most in the big leagues this season -- and denied the Phillies’ a three-game sweep that would have gotten them back to .500.
“It would have ended the road trip on a great note,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “It was a tough pill to swallow.”
The pill was especially foul tasting because the Phillies tried to win a gunfight with a butter knife.
The Phils won the first two games of the series with the help of a bullpen that allowed just one run in 9 2/3 innings. The byproduct of that success was that Jake Diekman, Mike Adams and Jonathan Papelbon all required a day off on Sunday. It was easy to understand why Diekman and Adams needed the day. They threw 45 and 44 pitches, respectively, on Friday and Saturday. Also, Adams is coming off shoulder surgery.
At face value, Papelbon’s day off was more difficult to comprehend -- especially as he sat in the bullpen and watched Bastardo implode.
Papelbon, who has converted 11 straight save chances, threw just 21 pitches in closing out wins on Friday and Saturday. That’s a workload that requires a day off?
Answers to why the owner of the largest contract ever given to a relief pitcher (four years, $50 million) could not answer the bell were sought after the game.
At first, Sandberg said Papelbon was just getting a needed day off. Sandberg said the closer did not have a health issue. Eventually, Sandberg conceded that Papelbon was “a little sore.”
“I’m not sure,” Sandberg said.
Sandberg was asked whether he was alarmed by Papelbon’s soreness.
“No,” he said. “It was a little bit neck related. He was just kind of generally sore.”
The last guy to experience general soreness was Chase Utley -- on his way to missing a good chunk of the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
Most of the Phillies players had already showered and exited the clubhouse by the time Papelbon walked gingerly out of the athletic trainer’s room.
“Oh, yeah, sore,” he said. “Everything. Back. Legs. You know, the daily grind of the season.
“It’s a product of the last couple of games, getting up in the bullpen in a tie game a bunch of times the other night. It is what it is.”
The Phils are off Monday. Papelbon was asked whether he’d be ready to pitch Tuesday night.
“Yeah,” he said. “For sure.”
Papelbon, 33, has made 60-plus appearances each of the last six seasons. Despite the uncertainty surrounding him entering this season, he has pitched well and is a very important piece of the team. It doesn’t bode well for this club that after just 16 appearances he’s feeling sore to the point where he needs a day off with two already scheduled for this week. That ain’t good.
It also isn’t good that Bastardo, a veteran of the National League wars, couldn’t nail down a three-run lead in the ninth. He was in trouble from the time he couldn’t put away leadoff man Eric Young Jr. after being up, 0-2. He fell behind Daniel Murphy with three balls before Murphy belted a two-run homer on a 3-1 pitch. After Bastardo allowed a one-out double, Sandberg went to Roberto Hernandez and the Mets eked out the tying run on a ground out. Hernandez pitched despite throwing 99 pitches as a starter Friday night. Off days will allow the Phillies to skip his turn in the rotation this week. All the runs in the ninth were Bastardo’s.
“I missed my pitches and they made me pay,” Bastardo said.
Hamels gutted out 133 pitches without very good command. After four starts, he’s winless, still looking for that 100th win. He had it in his mitts Sunday, but it went away in the ninth inning.
“I can only do so much,” Hamels said. “I trust my teammates to go out there and do the job. Obviously sometimes it doesn’t happen. We’ll come back (Tuesday) and try to win.”
Presumably with a rested bullpen.