PHILADELPHIA — Sunday just got more interesting for the Phillies.
They beat the Mets in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park, 4-1, to maintain their lead over San Diego for the second NL Wild Card. That followed an 8-2 loss in Game 1, which began with a Mets fan inexplicably throwing a first pitch, and a 7-2 loss in Friday’s series opener. The Phillies are 5-13 this season against New York, which has caused some serious hand-wringing among Phillies fans wondering if their team can beat the best teams in the National League.
Inside the Phillies clubhouse, however, the players maintain they can.
“We know what kind of team we are,” Phillies ace Zack Wheeler said. “We’ve got to win some ballgames against some of these top teams like that. But at the end of the day, we’ve played well. It’s been against lesser teams, but those are the games you’re supposed to win. And we’ve been winning
“You know you have to win these games to get to where we want to be. We all know that. We know what kind of team we are. We’re going to keep pushing.”
A win in Sunday’s series finale could change the narrative on the Mets. First, it will split the series. That would be no small feat, considering the Phillies entered the weekend 0-5 in series against New York this season.
Philadelphia was a combined 3-9 in its first four series against New York, but each one came with Joe Girardi leading the way. It was a different team with a different atmosphere.
The Phillies played the Mets for the first time under interim manager Rob Thomson last weekend at Citi Field. They lost two of three, but had a great run in the second game to win that series. If the Phillies win on Sunday, they can leave the stadium saying they’ve played better against New York down the stretch, which could play out if these teams meet in the postseason. They might think they have to pay if it happens, considering they went 0-9 in games started by Wheeler and Aaron Nola against the Mets this year.
But the club is confident anyway. Philly is 61-41 (.598) this season against everyone other than New York, including postseason contenders like the Dodgers (4-3), Cardinals (4-3), Braves (6-6), Padres ( 4-3) and Brewers (4-2).
“The playoffs are a funny thing, man,” Nick Castellanos said. “Anything can happen, you know? We have a very good team. Not all of us are healthy either. So it should be interesting to see what the Phillies are like when we’re firing on all cylinders.”
The Phillies won Game 2 thanks to an impressive start from lefty Bailey Falter, who allowed just one run in six innings. Falter loaded the bases and allowed a run to score on a wild pitch in the first inning. Jeff McNeil then hit a liner to right field with two outs, but Castellanos made a nice sliding catch to end the frame.
“It could have gone either way after that first inning,” Falter said. “JT [Realmuto] i [pitching coach] Caleb [Cotham] he calmed me down at the right moment and from there we started working. Huge props to Castellanos for that sliding catch. That was huge. A game changer, I think.”
Falter retired 10 consecutive batters at one point. He found himself in a jam in the fifth with runners on first and second and two outs, but he got Starling Marte on a 2-2 fastball in the top of the zone.
Realmuto singled to score a run in the first. Alec Bohm doubled to score two runs in the third. Rhys Hoskins singled to score an insurance run in the eighth. The Phillies’ bullpen took care of the rest, which included a six-out shutout by David Robertson.
The Phillies needed six outs from Robertson because they were without Seranthony Domínguez. He was “concerned” after feeling tightness and swelling in his right tricep after playing Saturday morning and said he should know more on Sunday.
Dominguez’s health is critical to the Phillies’ success, but on Saturday night, the Phillies savored a rare win against a division rival.
“We’re at the point now where every game we win is important,” Castellanos said. “We’re getting to the crossroads. I don’t know how many of us are back in the division, but it’s no secret that the Mets are a very good baseball team. So we’ll do what we can. Hopefully we’ll get a win tomorrow , and then we win the games we’re supposed to win the rest of the season and we’re in good shape.”