NEW YORK – Maybe the baseball gods are trying to tell Ruben Amaro Jr. something.
Maybe they’re trying to help him with Decision 2013.
Think about it.
The Phillies come back from the All-Star break Friday night, knock the ball all over the lot and beat the New York Mets to go a game over .500.
Everyone and everything is happy, happy, happy.
The club reports for work Saturday afternoon riding a wave of momentum knowing that Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee are about to get the baseball on back-to-back days.
Could a sweep be far behind?
Get out your wallet, Ruben, it’s time to buy.
Not so fast.
On consecutive days, the Mets beat up the two most highly paid pitchers in Phillies history. The Mets followed their ambush of Hamels on Saturday with a 5-0 takedown of Lee and the Phils on Sunday (see story).
The Phils had four hits on the day. They struck out a dozen times.
At a time when the Phillies are desperate to win series, they ended up losing two of three to the Mets with their top two pitchers on the mound.
“When we’ve got those two guys pitching, I always think we’re going to win,” manager Charlie Manuel said.
The Mets scored all five of their runs against Lee. All of the runs came on a trio of homers. All three homers came with two outs and two strikes on the batter. Lee allowed back-to-back homers to David Wright and Marlon Byrd in the first inning.
Yes, game over in the first inning.
That’s because the Mets had Matt Harvey on the mound. The flame-throwing right-hander, who started the All-Star Game on Tuesday night, held the Phils to three hits over seven walk-free innings. He struck out 10.
Harvey was pure dominance, throwing four pitches, including a 99 mph fastball, for strikes. The 24-year-old has beaten the Phils three times this season and is 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA in five career starts against them. Facing this guy for the next decade should be fun – wink, wink.
“He’s a handful,” Michael Young said. “He’s got four plus pitches. He’s one of the best in the league at a very young age.”
Lee has given up seven home runs in his last two starts, both losses. His third homer allowed on Sunday was a three-run shot to Juan Lagares with two outs in the fifth. It came on a hanging 1-2 curveball.
“I’ve got to figure out a way to make better pitches,” Lee said. “Especially because all three home runs [Sunday] came with two strikes and two outs. It’s frustrating for me.
“Harvey has been pitching unbelievable. I knew going in it was going to be a game where I couldn’t allow too many runs, and the two home runs in the first inning didn’t help. When he’s pitching I’ve got to keep the score lower than that.”
Lee’s inability to keep the ball in the yard and the offense’s inability to hit Harvey dropped the Phils back under the .500 mark. They are 49-50.
The optimism that filled the clubhouse after Friday night’s win was gone as players packed for a trip to St. Louis after Sunday’s game.
Amaro accompanied the team to St. Louis, where it will spend an off day Monday before playing the Cardinals in three games Tuesday through Thursday. The Cardinals have the best record in the majors.
Amaro will spend Monday’s off day pondering whether to keep this team together or start selling off pieces and focusing on the future. Before Sunday’s game, he indicated that he was on the fence (see story).
Seeing Lee lose (and Hamels the day before) might push Amaro off that fence and into sell mode. He was not available for comment after the game.
“We have to keep going and we have to keep battling,” Manuel said. “We’ll still fight. We’ll just keep it going.”
After St. Louis it gets no easier for the Phils as they go to Detroit for three with the AL Central-leading Tigers.
If there was a sliver of good news for the Phillies in this disappointing weekend in New York it was that they did not lose any ground in the NL East. They remain 6 1/2 games behind first-place Atlanta, which lost two of three to the White Sox.
Still, Manuel acknowledged, “It’s up to us to play better.”