HEADLINE

Phillies visit Mets, running out of time

The Sports Xchange

September 06, 2018 at 10:59 pm.

NEW YORK — The Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets have been going in opposite directions for a month. The last chance for the Phillies to begin reversing their slide might arrive Friday night, when they visit the Mets in the opener of a three-game series at Citi Field.

Phillies ace right-hander Aaron Nola (15-4, 2.23 ERA) will look to continue building his case for the National League Cy Young Award when he opposes Mets left-hander Steven Matz (5-11, 4.20).

Both teams were off Thursday after playing series-deciding games Wednesday. The Phillies fell to the host Miami Marlins 2-1 while the visiting Mets beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-3.

The loss for the Phillies (73-66) extended their streak of series without a series victory to nine. Since a four-game sweep of the Marlins from Aug. 2-5, Philadelphia has gone 10-18 while losing eight series and splitting another.

The only thing to go right for the Phillies over the past four weeks is the inability of the Atlanta Braves to take full advantage. The Braves, who were 1 1/2 games behind Philadelphia on Aug. 5, have gone just 17-15 since. However, first-place Atlanta beat the Diamondbacks 7-6 in 10 innings on Thursday and lead the Phillies by 3 1/2 games in the NL East.

With only 23 games remaining, the Phillies are running out of time, and they realized Wednesday was a squandered opportunity. The loss to the last-place Marlins came hours after the Braves blew a six-run lead in a 9-8 loss to the Boston Red Sox — a game most Philadelphia players were watching in the visiting locker room at Marlins Park.

“I think we all knew what was going on,” Phillies starting pitcher Nick Pivetta told reporters after he took the loss by allowing two runs over four innings. “I think what’s more important is to focus on the game that we have at hand. They lost, that’s great. But at the end of the day, I’ve still got a job to do. We’re trying to win baseball games over here. That’s a game I personally really needed to step up, shut it down. But it’s how baseball goes sometimes.”

Baseball has been going a uniquely Mets-ian way lately for New York (63-76), which has gone 18-12 while winning or splitting eight of its last nine series dating back to Aug. 6.

Of course, it’s way too little, way too late for the Mets, whose playoff hopes were erased during a June in which they went 5-21. But at least the late-season run is an indication New York might be laying a foundation for 2019 under rookie manager Mickey Callaway.

“It’s real gratifying,” Callaway told reporters Wednesday night. “We spend a ton of time trying to work on the right things with these guys, and I think it’s all paying dividends.”

Nola took the loss in his most recent start Sunday, when he allowed four runs over 5 2/3 innings as the Phillies fell to the Chicago Cubs 8-1. The four runs were the most surrendered by Nola since he gave up four runs against the Milwaukee Brewers on June 17. Nola is locked in a three-way battle for the Cy Young with the Washington Nationals’ Max Scherzer, the two-time defending winner, and Mets ace Jacob deGrom, who is scheduled to pitch the series finale Sunday.

Matz didn’t factor into the decision Saturday, when he allowed one run and struck out a career-high over seven innings in the Mets’ 2-1, 11-inning win over the San Francisco Giants. He has given up four runs over 19 innings in his last three starts.

Nola is 5-1 with a 3.29 ERA in seven career starts against the Mets. Matz is 0-2 with a 4.97 ERA in three career starts against the Phillies.