The Philadelphia Phillies suffered their seventh straight loss shortly after 4 p.m. on Sunday. But it took the New York Mets less than two hours to make the Phillies' struggles a secondary story heading into Monday's opener of a four-game series between the two reeling division rivals.
The Phillies' longest losing streak of the year continued Sunday afternoon, when the visiting Miami Marlins completed a three-game sweep with a 6-4 victory. The Mets' weekend in Chicago went from promising to soap operatic with a 5-3 loss to the Cubs that cost New York a chance at winning the four-game series.
Mets ace Jacob deGrom struck out nine in six innings and exited with a 3-2 lead, but Seth Lugo, New York's most reliable reliever, gave up a three-run homer to Javier Baez on his 42nd and final pitch of a laborious 1 1/3-inning stint.
Afterward, Mets manager Mickey Callaway bristled at repeated questions over his lack of usage of closer Edwin Diaz, who has pitched just once in the last eight days and didn't warm up Sunday.
"Again, no, we're not going to use him for five outs," Callaway said. "I know you guys keep on asking, but my answer is going to stay the same."
Shortly thereafter, Callaway directed a profanity-laced diatribe at a reporter who said he'd see Callaway Monday in Philadelphia. Mets pitcher Jason Vargas then stared down the reporter and profanely declared he'd knock him out.
No punches were thrown and the Mets issued an apology a few hours later, which concluded with the promise to " ... have further discussions internally with all involved parties." First-year New York general manager Brodie Van Wagenen is reportedly expected to join the team in Philadelphia on Monday.
A distracted Mets team might be the best medicine for the Phillies, who have been outscored 48-15 during their losing streak, a stretch in which Philadelphia has gone from 1 1/2 games behind the National League East-leading Atlanta Braves to 6 1/2 games back.
The struggles mere months after signing superstar free agent Bryce Harper have increased the scrutiny on second-year manager Gabe Kapler and his coaching staff. On Sunday, Kapler continued to stress the need for the Phillies to remain a cohesive unit.
"It's ebbs and flows," Kapler said. "It's times of (poor) performance and times of successes and we get together as a group in the tough times. We fight together. That's what we're doing right now."
Eflin lost his second straight start last Wednesday, when he gave up three runs (two earned) over six innings as the Phillies fell to the Washington Nationals, 6-2. Matz also lost Wednesday, when he allowed five runs over five innings as the Mets absorbed a 7-2 defeat at the hands of the Braves.
Eflin is 2-4 with a 5.40 ERA in eight career starts against the Mets, whom he's faced more than any opponent. Matz is 1-3 with a 5.02 ERA in seven starts against the Phillies.
--Field Level Media