PHILADELPHIA — Thursday night’s comeback victory brought a euphoric feeling to Queens, a sense that the first-place Mets could be in for a special season.
In Philadelphia, it was the opposite end of the spectrum, after blowing a six-run, ninth-inning lead.
“I’ve had some playoff losses that were pretty tough,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said Thursday night. “But it’s probably the toughest one since I’ve been here.”
And there have been a lot of difficult losses to choose from. Despite a star-studded — albeit top-heavy — roster, there haven’t been nearly as many bright spots as expected. Thus far, Girardi’s return to the dugout hasn’t gone anywhere close to according to plan. He’s lost more games (127) than he has won (121) as the Phillies have fallen well short of expectations. Remember, this is a manager who won a World Series, reached the playoffs six times and won at least 91 games five times in 10 years while with the Yankees.
In the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season, when eight teams from each league made the playoffs, the Phillies still couldn’t qualify. Last year, they won just 82 games, and this season they are off to a poor start at 11-15, already seven games behind the NL East-leading Mets.
When the Phillies hired Girardi it was viewed as a missed opportunity for the Mets. Now, the Mets have a veteran manager in Buck Showalter and have played a major part in the Phillies’ early-season woes, winning five of seven contests between the two teams. That includes a combined no-hitter and Thursday night’s miraculous come-from-behind victory.
Though it is very early, this could be a seminal moment in the Phillies’ season. After the next two games against the Mets, they have a seven-game West Coast trip against the Mariners and Dodgers then return home to face the contending Padres and Dodgers before heading back out on the road for seven games with the Braves and Mets.
“You trust the guys in the room to get it done. You trust them,” Girardi said. “There’s a lot of fight in that room. They’ll come out fighting.”
Without a contract for next year — the Phillies have yet to pick up his option — Girardi’s future could depend on it. He needs his team to respond to the toughest loss of his tenure in Philadelphia.