Sandberg holds team meeting before Mets series

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Sandberg holds team meeting before Mets series

NEW YORK – He didn’t break any furniture or throw any chairs around the clubhouse, but Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg sent a pointed message to his players in a team meeting before Friday night’s game against the New York Mets at Citi Field.

Sandberg spoke only briefly to the team. His message: Today’s a new day, but what happened the last four days against the Toronto Blue Jays was unacceptable. The Phils lost four times to the Jays by a combined score of 31-11. According to a source, Sandberg, a taskmaster and stickler for fundamentals and attitude, was irked by his team’s sloppy play and the way it went about its business against Toronto.

Sandberg confirmed that he spoke to his team, but had no further comment.

After Sandberg got a few things off his chest, the players continued the conversation in the closed clubhouse for about 10 minutes. One participant described it as “a good talk.”

Will the talk make a difference for the Phillies, who entered Friday night in last place in the NL East with a record of 15-18?

Stay tuned.

Alec Asher lone bright spot as Phillies continue to limp to finish with another loss to Mets

Alec Asher lone bright spot as Phillies continue to limp to finish with another loss to Mets

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.

Instant Replay: Mets 5, Phillies 1

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Instant Replay: Mets 5, Phillies 1

BOX SCORE

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.

Bullpen report
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. 

Goodbye Ryan
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.

Freddy exits
Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis left the game in the seventh inning with what the Phillies called “right hamstring tightness.”

Pete tossed
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.

Up next
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.