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, retiring the first 11 hitters 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.
Starting pitching report
Asher retired the first 11 Mets hitters he faced before running into trouble in the top of the fourth inning. With two outs, 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 Jay Bruce home run to lead off the top of the seventh.
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.
Michael Mariot relieved Asher after the Bruce home run.
After getting through the seventh, Mariot got into trouble in the eighth inning. Back-to-back singles from Alejandro De Aza and Jose Reyes put a pair of runners on base. Two batters later, Cespedes hit a pop up into the wind and Ryan Howard couldn’t quite make a play on it, allowing the ball to fall on first base and bounce away far enough for De Aza to score for a 4-1 lead.
Mariot was then removed for Joely Rodriguez, who promptly allowed an RBI single off the bat of Bruce, who had three RBI on the night.
At the plate
The Phillies struck first Friday night. In the bottom of the second, Maikel Franco led off with an infield single and was nearly brought around when Howard hit a double off the wall in center field.
Franco crossed the plate on a Cameron Rupp sacrifice fly but the Phillies couldn’t do any more damage against Gsellman.
The Phillies had two runners on in the fifth inning with one out but failed to score.
In the sixth, Jimmy Paredes nearly tied the game with a fly ball to the wall in dead center.
Gsellman and the New York bullpen took care of the rest.
The Mets didn't allow a hit from the final 12 hitters they faced.
The theme of the weekend, of course, is the Howard farewell to the home crowd. The longtime slugger was greeted with a standing ovation before his first at-bat. He then promptly doubled off the wall in center field. If not for the wind, the ball likely would’ve gone over the fence for his 25th home run.
Pete Mackanin has said all along Howard will play this weekend to give a proper exit for both player and the fans.
Howard, who went 1 for 4 with two strikeouts, was treated with loud ovations all night, and that trend is expected to continue through the weekend.
Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis left the game in the seventh inning with what the Phillies called “right hamstring tightness.”
Mackanin wasn’t happy with first base umpire Will Little in the top of the eighth inning and was thrown out of a game for the first time this year. Mariot threw a fastball in on 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.
The three-game series continues Saturday with a 1 p.m. start. Mets righty Bartolo Colon (14-8, 3.42 ERA) faces Phil Klein (0-1, 8.22).
The season wraps up Sunday with Jerad Eickhoff (11-14, 3.72) scheduled to face Mets ace Noah Syndergaard (14-9, 2.60), but if the game is meaningless for New York, Syndergaard will likely be held back for the wild card playoff game.