PHILADELPHIA — The Saturday doubleheader was supposed to be the weird part of the Mets’ weekend trip to Philly.
Chris Bassitt had Friday’s game and was predictably solid, giving the team a win as they readied for two games of irregular starting pitchers. The first, Trevor Williams, staked his claim as player of the weekend. Williams gave the Mets four shutout innings in his spot start, and with the offense doing their thing, the Mets earned an 8-2 win to begin the suffocatingly hot day at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies, for whatever reason, just cannot figure out the Mets. If they played even decent baseball against the National League East leaders, Philadelphia would be in the thick of the division race. Instead, the opening game loss dropped the Phils to 4-13 against the Mets, gluing their eyes to a Wild Card spot rather than an NL East banner.
Losing the first game, the one where they had the clear advantage in the starting pitching matchup, tells you where the Phillies are right now. Even with Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler spinning the first two games of the series, they were utterly outplayed.
Wheeler was hatcheting through the Mets lineup for the first four innings on Saturday afternoon, sitting his former teammates down at a cheetah’s pace. But when he reached the bottom of the order for the second time, the roof collapsed. Jeff McNeil led off the fifth inning with a hit, Tyler Naquin followed him with a walk, and after Brett Baty moved them up with a productive groundout, No. 9 hitter Michael Perez put his stamp on this mesmerizing season.
Buck Showalter is fond of saying that there’s a reason why a team felt comfortable starting Perez in the World Series. But it’s not true. While he did play in the 2020 World Series for the Rays, Perez never actually started. He didn’t even get an at-bat, just a few innings of defense.
Nevermind his skipper’s foggy memory. On Saturday, Perez woke up the Mets’ offense with his two-RBI single in the fifth inning, allowing McNeil and Naquin to soar across the plate. In addition to catching Williams for the first time and guiding him through the Phillies lineup, the timely hit embodied the Mets’ ethos of everyone doing what they’re asked of, no matter how unfamiliar their role might be.
Perez was also in the middle of Saturday’s strangest play. Perhaps trying to emulate the team that they can’t seem to overcome, the Phillies tried the Mets’ double steal play that worked to perfection on Friday night. The problem was, they ran it with two strikes, and when Garrett Stubbs swung through strike three, the Mets already had an out before the wheels of motion started turning.
Jean Segura was on his way to second for the front end of the double steal, but with a strikeout at the plate, Francisco Lindor was able to catch the throw from Perez and not worry about Segura taking second. Instead, he immediately fired home to get Bryson Stott, who had broken from third base. As Stott unsuccessfully flopped over Perez’s tag like an amateur high jumper, he provided an accurate illustration of the difference between these two teams.
Try as they might, the Phillies also can’t crack the Mets’ bullpen. Seth Lugo, Joely Rodriguez, Adam Ottavino and Sam Clay did the honors of closing out Philadelphia after Williams’ terrific temp job, and the crowd that included a drunken buffoon who ran on the field could do nothing but watch in disgust.