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May 10, 2015

Phillies drop series as Mets’ bats wake up in rubber match, 7-4

Chad Billingsley surrendered five runs but hit his third career home run

The pink bats were out for Mother’s Day and the Phillies took on the New York Mets in the final game of a three-game set on another beautiful day in South Philadelphia. Unlike the first two games, we were treated to a decent offensive showing in this one, which the Mets took by a score of 7-4.

The Phils (11-21) dropped to 10 games under .500 and now sport a run differential of -60, 14 runs worse than the next lowest total in the majors. Other than that, though, everything’s great! Here’s what I saw:

1. Working out the kinks

Shopping in the bargain bin tends to be a mixed bag. Last night, we saw Aaron Harang offer another strong performance, albeit in a losing effort. As for Ruben Amaro, Jr.’s other offseason free-agent acquisition currently in the starting rotation? Well, let’s be nice and call it a “work in progress” thus far.

Chad Billingsley was sailing along pretty smoothly through four innings (one run on only 42 pitches), but once the Metropolitans’ lineup started getting a third look at him, things went south in a hurry. Pretty much every ball after that point was hit hard, starting with Curtis Granderson tattooing a two-seamer that ran over the heart of the plate off the AT&T sign in right field. Even though his line was pretty much the same as his shaky debut in Atlanta on Tuesday (5.0 IP, 8 H, 5 ER both times), Billingsley felt today’s performance was a little better.

“I wish I could have [the Granderson pitch] back, but I felt a little more comfortable out there,” Billingsley said. “I threw some strikes early on and will just have to come back to get ‘em in five days.”

The pitch before Granderson killed a baseball was a borderline strike three call that home plate umpire Chris Conroy passed on. Despite that, Billingsley wasn’t in the excuse-making mood after the game.

“You’ve got to forget about it,” he said. “3-2 count, I just wanted to throw a fastball down and it just kind of came back middle-in to him and he hits that ball.”

2. Too slow?

Sandberg left himself susceptible to some second-guessing in the sixth inning. Billingsley made it out of the fifth with no further damage after the Grandy Man’s dinger, but as already mentioned, the Mets were right on all of his pitches. As soon as Wilmer Flores doubled to start the inning, there was an argument to be made that Billingsley should’ve been pulled. There at least probably could’ve been some bullpen activity to start the inning.

He wasn’t and there wasn’t, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis promptly followed with a double. Justin De Fratus was hurriedly ushered into the game and Nieuwenhuis stole third on him, scoring on Cameron Rupp’s overthrow. It was 5-2 Mets just like that. So, not a good inning, and one you could argue the manager should’ve been prepared for with a quicker hook.

“I was getting a little tired,” Billingsley said. “I got behind the first guy and you’ve got to come back in the zone, and the guy hit a double.”

3. Billingsley goes deep

Party at Taylor’s house! On a positive note for the Phillies’ starter, how about Billingsley curling a Bartolo Colon offering just inside the left-field foul pole in the bottom of the third? You can’t predict baseball.

“I think it was just a heater that came right back into my bat,” Billingsley said. “I wasn’t really trying to [go deep], but it happens.”

A career .140 hitter, it was Billingsley’s third dinger in his eight years as an MLB pitcher, all spent in the National League. And let me tell you, the snark in the press box was turnt all the way up:

4. Batting against Bartolo

When the news came on Friday night that Bartolo Colon’s start would be bumped up a day and we’d get to see him pitch in Philly, I was personally ecstatic. He just so happens to be the Internet’s favorite pitcher, after all. They say that baseball is losing the younger generation, and whether or not that is true, fans of all ages can be entertained by moments of brilliance like this:

At the tender age of 41 and consistently pumping fastballs (although they come in different varieties), all the guy does is throw strikes. The Phillies managed eight hits and four runs off him, but Colon is now the first pitcher in Mets history to go six consecutive starts without a walk. His ERA rose to 3.30.

“You know you’re getting fastballs and you know he’s going to be in the zone,” Grady Sizemore said.

“He can go in an out, locate up and down, and change speeds with one pitch," he later added. "And that’s pretty impressive.”

5. Utley-Watch

Here are Chase’s four at-bats: Strikeout swinging, double off the right-field wall (though the ball probably could’ve been caught), fly-out to left, hit on the elbow with a pitch (and then disgustedly waved away trainer Scott Sheridan, who came out to check on him at first base). His batting average is “up” to .116. Utley spoke to the media after the game about his extremely poor start to the season.

“One, try to hit some balls where no one’s playing, that would be beneficial,” Utley said when asked about what he could do to stem the tide. “Just try to stay positive. As a professional athlete, obviously having results builds some confidence. When you don’t get those results, it’s hard to keep that confidence going.”

6. Good Ben, Bad Ben

Ben Revere’s noodle arm reared its ugly head again in the fourth inning when he made a poor throw home trying to nab Lucas Duda scoring from second base on a single. Later in the game, he made an excellent diving grab and doubled a runner off second base to help reliever Jeanmar Gomez escape what was already a two-run eighth inning.

7. Odds and ends

Cody Asche broke an 0-for-23 streak with an opposite field double in the sixth inning…. Cesar Hernandez came off the bench to deliver two hits… Aaron Nola’s days in Reading might be numbered, as last year’s first-round pick submitted another sterling start with a line of 8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB and 8 K’s against Erie.