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Mets can’t find the final blow and lose to the Phillies, 2-1, in 10 innings

Earlier this week, Mets’ Hall of Famer and current team broadcaster Keith Hernandez made some hay when he said he “hates doing Phillies games” because of what he considered to be Philadelphia’s bad brand of baseball.

On Friday night, as Hernandez was off in St. Louis celebrating the 40th anniversary of his championship with the Cardinals, the Mets and Phillies turned in a game straight out of Hernandez’s era.

The 2-1 win for the Phillies was all about pitching, defense, small ball, and ironically, the battle of fundamentals. Tied at one after the first two frames, both teams fired blanks until the tenth, when Hernandez’s dreaded “bad fundies” reared their ugly head, but this time for the Mets. One inning after getting nailed at home by Phillies’ left fielder Matt Vierling, Starling Marte had his throw to the plate skip right on by catcher Tomas Nido, allowing the Phils to take the lead.

“I got a bad read and it kind of short hopped me, ate me up a little bit,” Nido said. “I feel like I misjudged the throw a little bit. That’s why it ate me up. Looking back on it, I had a little more time than I thought.”

The Phillies got a run off Max Scherzer in the first inning and then fell dormant for the next six, failing to get anything else off Scherzer despite racking up nine total hits against him. Scherzer was his typically demonstrative self, pumping his fists and yelling words of self affirmation at himself after inning-ending outs, and also showing jubilant appreciation for Francisco Lindor when the shortstop ranged into the hole for a nice play in the fifth.

“We had some great defense tonight,” Scherzer said. “Guys were playing good defense behind me. In that situation, you don’t try to punch as many tickets. You’re just trying to collect outs.”

Scherzer finished with six K’s while throwing seven complete innings for the third time in his last four outings, once again allowing the team to stay away from its middle relief underbelly that will become more important as the season progresses.

This very tightly played game could have been anything but. In the top of the third, the Mets were forced to completely rearrange the furniture. Eduardo Escobar started the game at third base before leaving with left side tightness. Jeff McNeil, the starting second baseman, lacerated his right thumb on a weird play at first base that required two to three stitches, per Buck Showalter. Both were pulled from the lineup, leading Showalter to get creative.

“I guess [Phillies’ first baseman Rhys Hoskins] stepped on it, I don’t know,” Showalter said of the McNeil play. “They did an ultrasound and went and did an MRI on Escobar. Those tests are back. I think they’re deciding what direction to go.”

Neither Showalter, the injured players, nor the Mets provided any definitive updates beyond that.

With Luis Guillorme as the only infielder on the bench, Showalter put him at second base. But the double injury meant someone would have to play out of position, and that ended up being Mark Canha. An undisputed king of versatility — Canha has played over 700 innings at each outfield spot and first base — the veteran was forced to visit a place he hadn’t been in years.

Canha took over at third base, playing the hot corner for the first time since 2016. In his MLB career prior to Friday night’s game of musical chairs, he had only logged 15 innings at third base, though he spent a decent chunk of 2014 filling in there for the Marlins’ Triple-A team.

“I just went up to Buck and was like, ‘You know, I’ve played third before. I can do it,’” Canha said afterward. “It was a little nerve wracking. I was just trying to focus, not try to do too much, and just make the routine plays without worrying about making crazy plays or anything.”

Amazingly, flying in the face of a classic baseball adage, the ball really did not find him, even in various shifts that were very new to him. Canha didn’t touch the ball for his first two innings at third, but cleanly fielded a 91 mph grounder in the fifth and made a painless throw across the diamond to complete the out.

“As soon as he got it I was like, ‘Oh, thank god,” Scherzer said with a laugh. “He came through for us.”

That was Canha’s only true defensive action at the unfamiliar position, ensuring that, at least, the Mets would not lose because of a wildly different defensive alignment.

“I played with my outfield glove today,” Canha said, gesturing to a first base glove in his locker that wouldn’t quite do the trick. “It’s a little bigger but it worked out. You’re kind of hoping they don’t hit it to you ever. Don’t think, basically. Just play like you’re playing wiffle ball in the backyard.”

Wearing their assassin-like black jerseys, with Edwin Diaz shutting down the ninth inning in a rare non-save situation, trying to set up a blissful win, the Mets just couldn’t land the final blow. Adding another layer of irony to the bizarro bad fundies situation, the Mets were closed out in the tenth by David Robertson, the target of many Mets’ fans unrequited trade deadline wishes. On Friday night, with a little help from a generous third strike call to Tyler Naquin, Robertson showed them what they missed out on.

“It’s time to be big boys,” Canha said, referencing the ongoing stretch with the Phillies, Braves and Yankees. “We’ve been doing great, the schedule hasn’t been easy this whole month, and we’ve done a great job up to this point. It’s time to strap it on right now.”


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