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Phillies take first place as Mets’ August tumble continues

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Mets drop the first game in the series and their lead in the division

MLB: New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

The fact that the Phillies’ longest winning streak of the season has coincided with the Mets’ most uninspiring stretch of the season should be taken into account before proclaiming the Mets’ season over, but it should also be noted that the Mets started the day with an opportunity to turn the division momentum around entirely with their most important series of the season so far. One game in, however, it does not appear as if much has changed.

The Phillies took the first game of the series with a 4-2 victory over the Mets in Philadelphia, never trailing and always in control even while spending most of the game either tied or only up one run. Marcus Stroman, and the entire Mets pitching staff in general, did what they needed to keep the Phillies offense in check, but the Mets offense could not leverage some horrid Philadelphia defense and wasted a few opportunities as they limped through nine frames of sleepy hitting.

The Phillies led off the bottom of the first inning with a squib hit from Obdubel Herrera, but Nido erased the hit on a strike-him-out, throw-him-out play with Jean Segura marking the first out at the plate and Herrera marking the second out at second. Bryce Harper sent a ball deep to left-center field in the next at-bat, but Dom Smith cut off Brandon Nimmo’s long run to catch the fly and end the inning.

The Phillies opened the scoring in the bottom of the second with a towering solo home run down the right-field line from Didi Gregorious, and Marcus Stroman responded by striking out Alec Bohm and Brad Miller to end the inning. The Mets would support their pitcher in the top of the third, however.

Walks to Nimmo and Pete Alonso put two runners on with two outs with Smith up to bat. Smith then laced an 0-1 pitch into right field to score Nimmo and tie the game up, though Javy Báez ended the inning three pitches later with a groundout to shortstop. It would be the last ounce of support the hitters gave Stroman.

The Mets faced a golden opportunity in the top of the fourth after Michael Conforto led off the inning with a single. Jonathan Villar then reached on an error at first base by Miller, and Nido loaded the bases with a walk. After Stroman watched three strikes fly by him, Nimmo swung at the very next pitch and grounded into an inning-ending double play, wasting another bases-loaded opportunity.

Though the Phillies recorded three errors, the Mets’ gloves arguably impacted the game just as negatively, with outfielders missing two fly balls that led to runners on third in consecutive innings. In the fourth, Gregorious sent a ball to center field that Nimmo ran down and hauled in his glove, only to drop it once he ran into the wall, to Stroman’s noticeable chagrin. Gregorious ended up with a two-out triple, but walked back to the dugout after a Bohm lineout to second base.

The Mets weren’t so lucky in the fifth. Miller sent a high fly ball to right field that initially looked playable, but carried enough to bring to the warning track a roaming Conforto, who failed to reach the ball over his outstretched glove. The ball caromed off the fence, and with second baseman Jeff McNeil the closest fielder to back him up, Miller ended up on a third with a triple. Travis Jankowski struck out on the next plate appearance, but with the infield playing in, pitcher Kyle Gibson gave himself the lead with a single and his first career RBI. Stroman was able to limit the damage to that one run, however, striking out Herrera and forcing a flyout from Segura.

The Mets once again got their leadoff batter on base with a walk from Conforto in the top of the sixth inning, but two straight groundouts, the second inducing a double play, smothered another good start. The Mets got the leadoff runner on base in five of their nine innings but could only bring two of them home.

Bullpen MVP Aaron Loup got Harper to ground out in the bottom of the sixth inning, but ran into some trouble after allowing a J.T. Realmuto single and hitting Gregorious on the elbow. He finished the inning with consecutive strikeouts to Bohm and Miller, however, putting up another scoreless inning. Seth Lugo preserved the score by retiring the side in the bottom of the seventh despite no further support from the offense.

Though Loup and Lugo were able to hold it down, Edwin Díaz’s eighth-inning effort extended the Philadelphia lead. After Segura’s leadoff single, Harper jolted a fastball down the plate into the bushes beyond the center field fence, giving the Phillies a 4-1 lead. Díaz quickly got out of the inning, and though Jonathan Villar led off the ninth with a solo home run off of new Phillies closer Ian Kennedy, it inspired nothing else as Nimmo flew out to center field to end the game.

Despite early-season injuries, a running characteristic of the Mets offense was pluck, as the lineup often fought its way through struggles and made a game out of whatever deficit they were facing. But they didn’t look like that today, and they haven’t for a while. The game felt finished even before Harper’s dagger home run, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to call this the lowest point of the season so far. If the Mets have any hope, it’s that they can regain the division lead tomorrow with the upstart Tylor Megill on the mound, and perhaps even extend it with another win the following day. But until then, the Mets will have to soak in second place, something they haven’t felt in close to three months.

*illar of the game

Jonathan Villar hit a pretty cool home run.

Box scores

ESPN

MLB

Win Probability Added

Fangraphs

What’s WPA?

Big Mets winner: Jonathan Villar, +7.4% WPA

Big Mets loser: Brandon Nimmo, -21.3% WPA

Mets pitchers: -0.3% WPA

Mets hitters: -49.7% WPA

Teh aw3s0mest play: Dom Smith RBI single

Teh sux0rest play: Brandon Nimmo grounding into a double play in the fourth inning with the bases loaded and the score tied on the first pitch he saw

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