For the second straight day, the Phillies had a chance to make up ground on the first-place Atlanta Braves, and if they had won, they could have made a legitimate case that they still had a slim chance to win the National League East. Now, slim has left town and their deficit remains 6 1/2 games with 13 to play.
The good news if you are as enthralled by the division battle for second place as I am is that the Phillies remained a full game ahead of the Washington Nationals, who lost to the Miami Marlins. With their 9-4 loss, the Phillies fell to 6-11 against the New York Mets this season and need to go 6-7 to finish above .500 for the first time since 2011.
You're signed up to get this newsletter in your inbox every weekday during the Phillies season. If you like what you're reading, tell your friends it's free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @brookob. Thank you for reading.
— Bob Brookover (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Asdrubal Cabrera left Monday night's game with what manager Gabe Kapler called a Grade 1 left-calf strain that seems likely to sideline him for at least a few games. At this point, that might not be the worst thing for the Phillies because they are better served in these final two weeks by looking at rookies J.P. Crawford and Scott Kingery. With Cabrera out, it could allow Kingery to play shortstop and Crawford to play third base until Maikel Franco is ready to return.
Franco has been sidelined for the last four games with neck and shoulder soreness caused by his head-first flip into a camera well last week when he pursued a foul ball in a game against Washington. Kapler said before Monday's loss to the Mets that Franco was "progressing … but looks to be several days away from being ready to roll."
"I think we'd look at it as a combination of Franco, Kingery and Crawford," Kapler said when asked how he'd fill the left side of his infield in Cabrera's absence.
Kapler also tipped his cap to the Mets for their dominance of the Phillies this season. The Mets have outscored the Phils, 93-57, this season.
"They've just flat-out beat us," Kapler said. "They have beat us in good matchups. They have beat us in bad matchups."
The Mets have beaten the Philles here, and they have beaten the Phillies there. They have beaten them everywhere. Apologies, Dr. Seuss.
The Phillies' tragic number was reduced to seven with their loss to the Mets, and Scott Lauber's game story points out that the team's collapse has coincided with righthander Jake Arrieta's meltdown. The veteran righthander allowed four runs on nine hits in five innings Monday night, leaving his ERA in seven starts since Aug. 12 at an inflated 6.03.
To paraphrase the late NFL coach Dennis Green, the Phillies are who we thought they would be, Marcus Hayes writes in his latest column. Hayes still sees good days ahead for the Phillies, but he believes the six-week swoon they are going through was (almost) predictable.
Before the Phillies decide to pursue superstar free agents Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, our Matt Breen thinks they should re-sign catcher Wilson Ramos, who has proven to be one of the game's best hitting catchers this season.
Tonight: Aaron Nola goes for 17th win vs. Steven Matz, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Zach Eflin vs. Noah Syndergaard in series finale vs. Mets, 6:05 p.m.
Thursday: Vince Velasquez opens series in Atlanta, 7:35 p.m.
Sunday: End of four-game series with Braves, 1:35 p.m.
Monday: Start of final road series of season against Colorado Rockies, 8:40 p.m.
Carlos Santana drew a second-inning walk from Mets starter Zack Wheeler, giving him 100 walks for the season. It marked the third time in his career that he has had at least 100 walks in a season. He also did it in 2014 and 2015 with the Cleveland Indians.
It was the first time a Phillies hitter has drawn 100 walks since Pat Burrell in 2008. Santana is just the 12th switch-hitter in major-league history to draw 100 walks in three seasons. The last switch-hitter to draw 100 walks in three seasons was Atlanta's Chipper Jones, who did so for a third time in 2009.
Santana is fourth in the majors with 101 walks, but among the 13 hitters in baseball who have at least 80 walks this season, his .354 on-base percentage is the lowest. The Phillies, in fact, have the bottom three players in on-base percentage among those in this season's 80-walk club. Rhys Hoskins is 13th in walks with 80 and 12th with a .358 on-base percentage. Cesar Hernandez is 10th in baseball with 87 walks and 12th with a .357 on-base percentage.
While baseball analytics has appeal to me, I wonder about the impact of all the extreme shifts and position changes on the defense. High level defense must be reflexive and grounded in thousands of repetitions and a sense of orientation on the field. I can't help but think that the extreme infield shifts and position changes undermine instinct and confidence and erode defense. What do you think?
Stephen L., via email
Answer: Thanks for the question, Stephen. The Phillies' defense, or lack of it, has been a hot topic all season during Gabe Kapler's first year as manager. According to baseballsavant.mlb.com, the Phillies have implemented the shift 23 percent of the time so far this season, which is ranked ninth in baseball. The Houston Astros have used the shift a major-league-high 37.9 percent of the time.
The big difference? The Astros have been a great fielding team, and the Phillies have been one of the worst, committing 109 errors in 149 games. Only the St. Louis Cardinals have committed more. That tells me that the Phillies can get better at fielding even when they implement their shifts, but I think it hurts them that they have so many moving parts in terms of what positions players are asked to play.
It will be interesting to see if the Phillies defense improves next season. It needs to get drastically better.