A.J. Burnett struggles as Phillies fall to Mets, 5-4

Phillies starting pitcher A.J. Burnett. (Steven M. Falk/Staff Photographer)

On Thursday, the Phillies turned soon-to-be free agent Roberto Hernandez in two minor league players to be named later because a contending team was short a starting pitcher.

The Los Angeles Dodgers pursued Hernandez after they realized Josh Beckett’s hip injury was going to put him back on the disabled list. Another team’s injury became the Phillies gain, even it turns out to be minimal.

On Friday, another contending team may have lost a pitcher. Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez left his start in Toronto with an apparent arm injury.

The Phillies still have pitchers to trade, but A.J. Burnett no longer looks like an attractive commodity.

After eking out of trouble in the third inning, loading the bases with two outs only to escape unscathed, Burnett allowed four straight hits to begin the fourth, all four batters came around to score, and the Phillies eventually dropped a 5-4 defeat to the New York Mets.

Burnett tied a season-high by allowing 11 hits. He was charged with five runs in six innings, marking the third time in his last five starts that he has given up at least five runs.

Burnett has a 6.66 ERA since the All-Star break. Cue the horror music.

“It's time to move on. It's time to get better,” Burnett said. “I’m pretty sure they didn't bring me over here to be like this all year, inconsistent. I've got to get the ball back in the zone, get back in my lanes and get the ball back on the corners where it belongs.”

In defense of Burnett, Friday’s loss wasn’t entirely on the starting pitcher. The Phillies were nine outs away from being blanked for the 14th time this season when Marlon Byrd hit a solo home run in the seventh inning.

The Phillies were not shut out. But the offense didn’t arrive on the scene until the game was two-thirds over, and they didn’t muster anything resembling a rally until scoring twice before the Mets recorded an out in the bottom of the ninth.

With the game-tying run on third, the Mets’ pen righted itself in time to secure the win.

For the second time in 12 days, it was Bartolo Colon who handcuffed the Phillies’ bats. The 41-year-old Colon allowed one run in eight innings; he is 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA in three starts against the Phillies this season.

“He does a good job of changing speeds with his fastball,” Cody Asche said. “He mixes some four-seamers in there to keep you honest. I think he’s good at reading the hitter, too. Kind of being a step ahead of him. I think that’s why he’s survived so long in this game and done so well. He’s tough.”

The 37-year-old Burnett, signed to a one-year, $16 million deal this winter, is 0-2 with an 8.50 ERA in three starts against the Mets in 2014.

Burnett has a 5.15 ERA in his last 18 starts.

“He’s just not been able to get ahead of hitters with a pitch down in the zone, work ahead in the count,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “A lot of times tonight, looking up, it was 2-0 or 3-1 pitches.”

“Just one of those grinds, man,” Burnett said. “I have to figure out a way to stay positive. Quit getting beat on my third pitch and find my hook earlier in the game. I think when I'm more aggressive I'm better off.”