NEW YORK — The losses continue to pile up for the Phillies. Ugly losses. Dispiriting losses. Losses that make you question the leadership of the club, both in the corner of the dugout, where manager Joe Girardi stands, and in the clubhouse, where there are plenty of veteran players who are better than this and should be embarrassed by the way the team is playing.
The last defeat unfolded at Citi Field on Saturday night, where the sad-sack Phillies suffered an 8-2 loss to the New York Mets.
The Phils took a 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth inning and gave it back in the bottom of the inning. The Mets scored three times against Zach Eflin in the inning and three more times the next inning. At times, it seemed as if the Mets were toying with the Phillies. Other times, the Phillies looked like the Keystone Kops as the adventures of their blundering outfield — a big problem this week — continued.
Ready for some ugly numbers?
The loss was the Phillies’ ninth in their last 13 games.
They have fallen to a season-worst five games under .500 at 21-26.
They are 3-8 on the season against the NL East-leading Mets (31-17) and their deficit in the division, two days before Memorial Day, is a whopping 9½ games.
Who’s going to rescue this $230 million team of which so much was expected? Does Girardi have something up his sleeve? Will president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski shake things up with a jarring personnel move? Will veterans like Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, JT Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins do more? It’s hard to ask more of Bryce Harper, who has played hurt and produced.
In the short term, the Phillies will ask Zack Wheeler to stop the losing when he gets the ball in a nationally televised series finale Sunday night.
“I hate it when people say it’s early,” Harper said. “I don’t like that because you’ve got to play, and it’s not early because these guys (the Mets) are playing the way they are.
“We’ve got to keep pounding forward. Nobody is going to feel bad for us. (Sunday night) is a huge game for us. (Chris) Bassitt going for them. Having Wheels on the mound is huge for us. We’ ve got to get him a few and do our job.”
Like Eflin, Wheeler will be working with an extra day of rest after Bailey Falter was inserted into the rotation in Friday night’s series-opening loss.
Eflin took a major step backward from his previous start when he struck out 12 and allowed just two runs in a 4-3 win over the Dodgers.
The right-hander was tagged for eight hits and seven runs over six innings. He walked two and struck out four.
“I was battling my command the whole game,” Eflin said. “I felt like I was fighting myself the whole game.”
Did the extra day between starts affect him?
“No,” he said.
The Phils trailed 1-0 after two innings but strung together three hits and a walk to take a 2-1 lead on a two-run single by Realmuto in the fourth.
The lead vanished in what seemed like a blink of an eye. Eflin walked the first batter in the bottom of the inning then gave up a bloop hit to Pete Alonso before Jeff McNeil launched a three-run homer through the raindrops and into the second deck above right field to give the Mets a 4-2 lead.
The Mets built their lead to 7-3 with another three-spot in the fifth. Eflin gave up a one-out bunt hit and a double before Francisco Lindor hit a ball to left-center that Schwarber and Odubel Herrera collided under at the wall. It fell in for a two-run triple. You can’t hide from bad outfield defense and the Phils have had a lot of it on this road trip that so far has produced two wins and four losses.
Five games under .500 and 9½ games back before Memorial Day.
Hard to believe given some of the names and paychecks in that clubhouse.
“There’s leadership in that room, don’t worry about that,” Girardi said.
Then what’s the problem?
“It’s a plethora of things,” Girardi said. “At times we haven’t pitched well. At times we haven’t hit well. Our defense has let us down. It’s not one thing in particular. It’s different things.”
What will Sunday night’s series finale bring?
Will someone step up to rally this team?
Will someone step up and shake this team?
“We have to play better against the Mets,” Girardi said.
If they don’t, the deficit in the NL East will reach double digits before Memorial Day.