Odubel Herrera ripped off his helmet and put his hands to his head Sunday as he simply waited to be tagged out in the fifth inning of a 6-2 loss to the Mets. Even Herrera — who often matches his dynamic play with maddening miscues — could not believe this latest blunder.
Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud threw to third and Herrera was tagged as he began to walk to the dugout. Wilmer Flores tagged Herrera again for good measure. Herrera was too defeated and embarrassed to even try a rundown. The Phillies’ rally was pretty much silenced.
The Phillies loaded the bases without an out when Nick Williams flied out to center. Third base coach Juan Samuel elected to hold Freddy Galvis at third as Michael Conforto fired home. The throw sailed to the right of the plate and briefly got away from d’Arnaud.
Herrera then broke for third, sprinting with his head down. He finally looked up when he neared the bag, realizing Galvis had never moved. The crowd at Citizens Bank Park booed and Herrera was out.
“When I got there and I saw Freddy, I knew it was too late and that I had made a mistake,” Herrera said.
“It’s very frustrating, definitely frustrating because I know I messed up,” Herrera said. “That was a situation for us where we could have tied the game or gone ahead. But I messed up and I have to learn from it.”
There is no doubt that Herrera is the team’s best player. He’s batting .342 with a .970 OPS since June 1. He has the third-highest WAR since 1968 among Phillies players through their first three seasons. He’s one of baseball’s best defensive centerfielders. Herrera reached base three times Sunday and extended his hitting streak to 16 games, the team’s longest single-season streak in seven years.
But what should be a career-best season has included some lowlights. He ignored a stop sign at third base in June and cost the Phillies a potential winning run. He was benched twice in May for what seemed to be a lack of effort. Herrera was yanked from a game last month and benched the next day after not running out a dropped third strike. Sunday was the latest chapter. The Phillies can tolerate Herrera because of his overall play. But the miscues continue to frustrate.
“I prefer to say that he’s more positive than negative, and if you look back on the last six, seven weeks, he has not made many mistakes,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “Today was an innocent mistake. He just didn’t keep his head up. That’s the only thing he did. So I’ll take him any day.”
Zach Eflin allowed four runs in 5 1/3 innings in his second start since returning from triple A Lehigh Valley. All of his runs scored on two-run homers by Michael Conforto and Curtis Granderson, both on curveballs. Baseball is funny, Mackanin said: You can “pitch pretty well, make a couple of mistakes, and get burnt.” Eflin allowed seven hits, struck out five, and issued no walks.
“I threw the ball really well, had command of all five of my pitches,” Eflin said. “Good two-seam, good four-seam. Threw some really good change-ups, a few good sliders and some really good curveballs. It’s unfortunate it’s one of those days that you get beat by two bad pitches.”
Rhys Hoskins picked up his first RBI on a fielder’s choice in the first and then singled to right in the fifth for his first major-league hit. He was hitless in his first 12 at-bats but did not look overmatched as he made a series of hard-hit outs.
“I think he started to press a little bit and he was anxious to get that hit,” Mackanin said. “So I think the monkey is off his back now. Everybody was happy to see that on the bench.”
After Herrera ambled off the field, Mets righthander Chris Flexen threw a wild pitch that allowed Galvis to score. The inning then ended shortly after. It would be the Phillies’ final run of the afternoon. They were able to score just once after loading the bases with no outs. They were left wondering what could have been had Herrera not made another mistake.