PHILADELPHIA – With the Phillies in the midst of a fight for their first postseason appearance in nine years, Hector Neris entered a tied game in the top of the ninth inning Wednesday.
The Phillies reliever dropped the ball.
Neris dropped the ball while standing on the pitching rubber to balk a New York Mets runner to second base.
That runner would eventually score on an RBI single as the Mets beat the Phillies 5-4.
Philadelphia led 4-1 after five innings and 4-3 after seven. The Phillies bullpen has now blown 11 saves, while saving just nine games.
“You see that once a year somewhere,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said of the Neris drop. “Unfortunately, it happened to us tonight. It changes the complexion of the inning. You can’t do that.”
Philadelphia (24-24) is still in contention for one of two National League wild card berths. But they trail the second-place Miami Marlins by 1.5 games and the first-place Atlanta Braves by four games in the National League East. The top two teams in each division automatically qualify for the playoffs.
As frustrating as Neris’ drop was Adam Morgan’s eighth inning effort. With the Phillies clinging to a one-run lead, the left-handed Morgan entered the game with one out and no one on base.
After retiring Pete Alonso on a groundout, Morgan walked left-handed hitting Michael Conforto on five pitches. J.D. Davis followed with an RBI double off the field wall to tie the game.
The relivers can’t be expected to successful if they issue two-out walks.
It’s frustrating for them,” Girardi said of the relievers. “It’s frustrating for us. Eventually you believe it has to turn.”
Monday’s game did have its positive in the return of Phillies starter Zack Wheeler to the mound after missing his last start with a torn a nail on the middle finger of his pitching hand
Wheeler threw 7 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits and three runs. He struck out just two but walked none. Wheeler was still throwing 96.8 mph fastballs in the eighth inning.
"All in all I was able to go deep into the game," Wheeler said. "That's always a good thing."
The Phillies have been ravaged by injuries in recent days. Catcher J.T. Realmuto, first baseman Rhys Hoskins and outfielder Jay Bruce are all out of the lineup. Starting pitchers Spencer Howard and Jake Arrieta are also on the injured list.
None of Philadelphia’s injuries were more discussed than Wheeler’s nail. He has dealt with the injury since high school. He almost the tore the nail completely off when he stumbled while putting on his jeans last week.
“You can’t imagine the pain he was in eight or nine days ago,” Girardi said.
On Wednesday, Wheeler threw a gutsy 95 pitches.
Too bad the bullpen let him down.
"It's baseball," Wheeler said. "Stuff is going to happen. I can only control what I can control."
EXTRA INNINGS: Mets ace starter Jacob deGrom lasted just two innings. He allowed three runs but left with spasms in his hamstring.