The Phillies returned home from a bad road trip Friday with only three games to play and the only thing to play for being the role of spoilers.
With the New York Mets in town looking to put a stranglehold on a wildcard spot, the Phillies, as another losing season finishes out, could be a thorn in the side of their rivals.
Alec Asher looked like he was playing the part of spoiler, retiring the first 11 batters he faced, but the Mets rallied, got behind starter Robert Gsellman, and turned back any Phillies sabotaging on this night, beating the home team, 5-1.
The two teams are heading in quite opposite directions.
The Mets, with their win, clinched at least a tiebreaker in the wildcard and guaranteed their season not ending on Sunday, the league’s final regular season date.
The Phillies on the other hand…
“We’re certainly limping home,” said manager Pete Mackanin an hour or so after being ejected for the first time this year. “Not playing well, not swinging the bats very well.”
They struck out 14 times Friday night. And after scraping a run across in the second inning, never really looked like they were in the game at the plate.
Mackanin's ejection came in the eighth inning. Mackanin wasn’t happy with first base umpire Will Little and was thrown out of a game. Reliever Michael Mariot threw a fastball in on Yoenis Cespedes and Cespedes appeared to lose control of the bat through the strike zone. When appealed to, Little ruled Cespedes did not swing, and out came Mackanin.
"I had to get thrown out there," Mackanin said.
Perhaps he just couldn't stand to watch anymore.
Gsellman battled through some early struggles and stymied the Phillies’ offense. Gsellman turned in six innings of one-run baseball, improving to 4-2 on the year. He allowed one run on seven hits and struck out seven.
Asher, in his last start of 2016, was the lone bright spot on this night.
With two outs in the fourth, his brief perfect game bid was ended with a single from Yoenis Cespedes. That was followed by another from Curtis Granderson.
Jay Bruce then worked a full count but Asher couldn’t put him away. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Bruce singled home Cespedes to tie the score.
A fourth consecutive single, this time off the bat of T.J. Rivera, allowed Granderson to cross the plate for a 2-1 Mets lead.
Asher’s night and season ended with a Bruce home run - his third in as many games - to lead off the top of the seventh.
“I wanted to go sinker away and just kind of got it mid-thigh belt,” Asher said. “He took advantage of the mistake.”
Asher, 24, went six-plus innings Friday, throwing 104 pitches while allowing three runs on five hits. He struck out four and walked zero.
His 2016 finishes with a 2.28 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 27 ⅔ innings pitched. He struck out 13 and walked four.
“Last year when Asher was here I recall being asked if it was a smart thing to do because he got rocked so badly,” Mackanin said. “We talked about if and when he did get back to the big leagues if he would be able to handle it. What kind of make up he had. Certainly he made an adjustment. Added a two-seam fastball which he never had. Has a plus changeup. He needs a little more work on his breaking ball, but nevertheless he’s pitched well since he’s been back. He’s done a good job.”
The Phillies bullpen hasn’t lately.
Mariot, in relief of Asher, gave up two runs in 1 ⅔ innings of relief, including Bruce’s third RBI of the night to give the Mets a 5-1 lead.
The Phillies offense then went quietly into the fall night. The Mets didn’t allow a hit from the final 12 Phillies hitters.
Their season will continue beyond Sunday.
“It’s step one of a bigger accomplishment,” said Mets manager Terry Collins. “We’re certainly pleased we get to play past Sunday.”
The Phillies are just limping.