Phillies follow Jonathan Papelbon’s team meeting with another loss

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NEW YORK — About two hours before the Phillies took the field and were beaten by the New York Mets on Wednesday night, Jonathan Papelbon quietly asked a couple of reporters to leave the clubhouse because he wanted to say something to his teammates.

The players’ only meeting lasted just a few minutes. When it was over, Papelbon was vague about his reason for getting his teammates together.

“It was a team meeting about baseball, about playing the game,” he said, straight-faced. “It wasn’t a big deal.”

Papelbon then joked that the meeting was about setting up a Kangaroo Court, though that didn’t seem to hold water because meetings like that aren’t usually thrown together in the moments before a team goes out to stretch.

To know Papelbon is to know he does not like to lose and he especially does not like to be pushed around. Ric Flair would not approve. It’s very possible that Papelbon addressed his dislike for such in the meeting. After all, the Phillies were pushed around by the Mets on Tuesday night. It said it right there in a headline in the New York Daily News: Harvey’s Ut-check: Plunking Sends Message Mets No Longer Pushovers. The accompanying story praised the Mets for their recent dominance of the Phillies and swaggering pitcher Matt Harvey for making a statement by sticking a fastball between the 2 and 6 on iconic Phillie Chase Utley’s back.

If Papelbon’s team meeting was meant to rally the troops before the finale of the three-game series, well, it didn’t work.

The Phillies lost, 6-1, to their tormenters from Queens (see Instant Replay). The Mets swept the three-game series. They have beaten the Phillies in 15 of the last 19 meetings, dating to last season.

That’s some serious pushing around.

“Personally, I see it,” said Cody Asche, responding to a question about the Mets’ recent dominance of the Phillies. “I see the discrepancy in the win-loss record.

“Do I have an explanation? No. Do I wish it was different? Yeah. If we are going to make moves, we have to take care of the teams in our division, so we definitely have to play better against the Mets.”

The Phillies did a lot of things poorly in this series. Their defense was sloppy at times. They couldn’t bunt. Manager Ryne Sandberg made some questionable moves. The starting pitching was tagged for 19 hits and 10 runs over 10 2/3 innings in the final two games.

Most haunting was the atrocious work of the hitters with men in scoring position. The Phils went 3 for 27 with runners in scoring position in the series. They are 11 for 69 (.159) in those situations for the season.

Sandberg always talks about the importance of having base runners. The Phillies had plenty of them on Wednesday night. In fact, they had runners in scoring position in seven of nine innings, yet scored just one run and left 11 men on base because they were an unsightly 2 for 16 with runners in scoring position.

“That’s the first thing you ask for, base runners and opportunities,” Sandberg said. “We had 11 men left on base. We couldn’t come up with a drive to put up a crooked number. We had the opportunities and could not do it, just the one run in the first.”

That run came after a triple by Odubel Herrera, who batted leadoff and had three extra-base hits. Asche also had three hits and is now 12 for 24 on the season. This is a “developmental” season to use general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.’s word, so the performance of young players Herrera and Asche was promising.

But guys like Papelbon are itchy to win. The Phillies have lost four in a row and The Horse has been relegated to being a bullpen spectator.

Jerome Williams started for the Phillies and allowed 10 hits, including two homers, in five innings. Meanwhile, Jon Niese, bobbed and weaved his way through 6 1/3 innings. He allowed nine hits, but just one run.

The Mets have serious talent in their rotation. Before Niese, the Phillies were beaten by Harvey and Jacob deGrom in the series. Both those guys have Cy Young potential.

Now it’s on to Washington and four more top pitchers — Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg.

“That’s a challenge for us, so obviously we have to do things better on the offensive side of things,” Sandberg said.

“Don’t press, keep grinding and have good at-bats,” Asche said. “The law of averages has to take over sometime. The hits are going to come.”

They came Wednesday night, but the runs didn’t follow and the Phillies, much to Jonathan Papelbon’s chagrin, were tormented by the Mets once again.

Video: Pete Alonso hits home run no. 50

Pete Alonso
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Rookie first baseman Pete Alonso has launched what appears to be the beginning of an auspicious career, made all the more notable by the 50 home runs he’s produced for the Mets so far this season. The All-Star slugger pushed his home run streak to four straight games on Friday, collecting no. 50 on an eighth-inning fastball from the Reds’ Sal Romano.

It’s just the latest of a long line of accomplishments for the 24-year-old infielder. Entering Friday’s series opener against Cincinnati, the first-time All-Star carried a .266/.366/.590 batting line with a league-leading 49 homers, 113 RBI, a .956 OPS and 4.9 fWAR through 648 plate appearances. Among those who are still rounding out their rookie seasons in 2019, he ranks first in home runs and fWAR by a long shot: the White Sox’ Eloy Jiménez is second in home runs with 28 dingers, while the Astros’ Yordan Álvarez plays second fiddle in fWAR with 3.7 Wins Above Replacement.

Even more remarkable: Alonso is the second rookie in MLB history to deliver at least 50 home runs in a single season. The first? Aaron Judge, who clubbed a jaw-dropping 52 homers for the Yankees in 2017.