Even in this weird season, giving up a 4-1 lead and losing to the mediocre Mets may be the low point

By Sam Bush

In this strange and depressing Phillies season, there have been highs like the back-in-the-day performance of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins that won a game the other night.

And then there are gut-wrenching nightmares that result in a defeat so awful that describing them is almost too much to bear.

Starter Cole Hamels faced his own demons just by taking the hill at Citi Field on Sunday. Pretty much since that December 2008 interview on WFAN when he called the Mets out as “choke artists,” they’ve throttled him: before Sunday, Hamels was 7-14 with a 4.65 ERA in 27 career starts against the team from Queens. Three batters into Sunday’s game, following an Eric Young single, a walk to arch-nemesis Daniel Murphy and an RBI single from David Wright, he trailed 1-0.

But that was it, as Hamels—still in dogged pursuit of career victory 100—then shut the Mets out over the next seven innings. He stranded men in scoring position in the first, third (Murphy double), fourth (bases loaded, one out), and sixth.

At that point, he’d thrown 111 pitches and presumably was about to turn it over to the bullpen. But manager Ryne Sandberg sent Hamels back out for the seventh. He worked around a one out double to Murphy (who else?) to escape the seventh with 133 pitches, a career high.

Guess what happened next.

The Mets suddenly rallied for three runs in the ninth inning then ended a five-game skid by beating the Phillies 5-4 on Ruben Tejada’s single in the 11th.

Down 4-1, the punchless Mets fought back in the ninth, sparked by Daniel Murphy’s two-run homer. They did it while Sandberg held out closer Jonathan Papelbon, rather than use him for a third straight day.

In the 11th, Young opened with an infield single, barely beating the flip from second baseman Chase Utley’s glove. The Mets sent up pitcher Zack Wheeler as a pinch-hitter, and he put down a perfect sacrifice bunt that moved Young to second.

Juan Lagares drew an intentional walk and Anthony Recker loaded with the bases with another infield hit stopped by diving third baseman Reid Brignac. Tejada won it with one out, hitting a sharp single to left-center against Jeff Manship (1-1).

Tejada’s teammates chased him down near first base to celebrate.

Scott Rice (1-1) got Brignac on a grounder with two runners on to finish the 11th.

Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo got the call to begin the ninth, and a three-run lead quickly evaporated. Eric Young Jr. led off with a double and Murphy followed with a home run that made it 4-3.

Young ended his 0-for-18 slump by hitting a one-out double off the wall, and Roberto Hernandez emerged from the bullpen — he started for the Phillies on Friday night and threw 99 pitches.

Pinch-hitter Bobby Abreu singled off the glove of a diving Utley, and a slow grounder by Lagares drove in the tying run.

The 2008 World Series MVP began the day with a 7.02 ERA in three starts during a season already beset by tendinitis in his left biceps and a bout with the flu.


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