NEW YORK -- The Phillies are done with the New York Mets for the 2014 season and they have to be happy about that.
The Phillies lost 13 of 19 games against the Mets this season, capped off with Sunday afternoon’s 6-5 defeat at Citi Field (see Instant Replay).
A few good things happened in the game. Domonic Brown had a career-high four hits, including a home run. Ryan Howard pulled a ball to right for a home run, something he does rarely these days. And Jimmy Rollins had the 657th multi-hit game of his career, tying him with Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn for most in franchise history.
"That's cool," Rollins, hearing of the feat for the first time, said.
But, as often happens with these Phillies, a few bad things happened, too. Howard grounded into a double play to thwart a potential rally in the ninth. (Shifting second baseman Dilson Herrera started the double play from right field and the lumbering Howard still could not beat out the relay throw.) The Phillies left 10 men on base for the day, a season-long killer.
“We had missed opportunities,” manager Ryne Sandberg, repeating a familiar tune, said. “We weren’t able to capitalize on some situations.”
A.J. Burnett suffered his major-league leading 15th loss. For Burnett, it all came down to one pitch.
Howard had tied the game at 2-2 with a bullet home run off Dillon Gee into the right-field seats in the top of the sixth.
In the bottom of the inning, Burnett allowed a leadoff single and a one-out walk. Up came the No. 8 hitter, backup catcher Anthony Recker. Burnett desperately needed a ground ball and a chance for a double play. The right-hander threw a first-pitch breaking ball that stayed up and spun over the heart of the plate. Recker swatted it into the left-field seats for a three-run homer and the Mets did not trail the rest of the way.
“One pitch,” Burnett said. “It was not a good pitch in that situation.”
Burnett liked the idea of throwing a breaking ball, but it needed to be down.
“It hung,” he said. “I don’t hang hooks often. It’s tough to swallow. It was right down the middle. I have to make a better pitch in that situation.”
The Phillies gave Burnett $16 million on the eve of spring training because they believed he could help put them over the top in the division race. They were sorely mistaken on that one. The Phils have been in last place in the division every day since June 28 and Burnett has not pitched well in the second half of the season.
Burnett has made nine starts since the All-Star break. He is 1-7 with a 5.85 ERA over that span and the Phils are 1-8 in those games. He is 7-15 with a 4.40 ERA on the season.
Sandberg was asked to assess Burnett’s season.
“He’s shown durability,” Sandberg said. “He’s kept his stuff through the season. When he goes out there, we feel like we have a chance to win.”
The big question surrounding Burnett, 37, is whether he will be back next season or opt to retire, as he has hinted at. He has a well-documented player option for 2015. When Burnett makes his next start, No. 30 this season, the value of the option will rise from $10 million to $11.75 million. It would be tough to walk away from that kind of glue. Oh, yeah, Burnett will cash a $750,000 bonus for making his 30th start.
The Phils arrived in New York Friday night with a chance to play themselves out of last place in this series, but two losses in three days left them in the NL East basement at 62-74. The Mets are 1½ game better at 64-73.
Burnett is unfazed by the standings.
“I’m not worried about that,” he said. “I’m just worried about pitching. The guys fought back today, but everything changed on that hanger.”
The Phils’ 6-13 record against the Mets is by far their worst record against a division opponent. They move to Atlanta to face another division opponent Monday afternoon. The Phils are 5-8 against the Braves this season. On Tuesday, the Phils will add a handful of new faces, led by Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and probably Maikel Franco as rosters expand.
Sandberg said he’ll worry about finding playing time for people and balancing winning with development on a day-to-day basis as September unfolds.
August is over for the Phillies and despite losing two of three to the Mets, they had their first winning month (14-13) of the season, not that it means a whole lot. This is a big-picture game and the truth comes out over a six-month season. Five months in, the Phils are still a last-place club.