Lawrence, Mets outplayed by Phillies

Lawrence, Mets outplayed by Phillies

PHILADELPHIA -- Four losses to the Dodgers and Padres last week pushed the Phillies further back in the National League East race than they had been at any time this season, and suggested their four-game series against the Mets this week might be lacking in anticipation, tension and consequence. Then the first- and second-place teams in the NL East played nine innings Monday night and made it so.

Mets vs. Phillies turned out to be the Mundane Night Game of the Week. The Phillies scored early and often, and the Mets showed fewer signs of life than the latest Mars probe has found. The result was a NL encounter that had too many American League touches and almost no suspense.

The Mets were lacking as well. They came up Danny DeVito short on this night, not that enhanced resistance would have made much difference. Their 9-2 loss was their most lopsided defeat in nearly eight weeks, one that was so lacking in tension, it was imminently forgettable almost immediately after Paul Lo Duca flied out for the 27th out.

Hardly a page-turner, this one made it quite easy to turn the page, baseball phrasing for "Forget about it."

"Turn the page, regroup and get 'em tomorrow," manager Willie Randolph said.

The best aspect of the Mets' second loss in six games at Citizens Bank Park was that there was no need to consult the out-of-town scoreboard to answer the question, "What are the Phillies doing?" as it was quite evident from the beginning, they were having their way with the team they are chasing.

By the time the Mets put a runner on base against winning pitcher J.D. Durbin -- Carlos Beltran led off the fifth with a double -- the Phillies had scored three times against Brian Lawnrence. And shortly after the Mets had scored their second run, Lawrence allowed two more. The remaining four innings were played for the benefit of the rotisserie leagues.

Pedro Martinez was in Florida, making himself more Major League-ready as this one unfolded. This much can be said for Lawrence's inadequate performance: he was preparing a place -- his -- for Martinez in the Mets' September rotation.

Not that a better performance against the Phillies would have prompted the Mets to abandon their plans for Martinez, but Lawrence could have pitched more effectively. His fourth start with the Mets was his worst -- five runs, 10 hits and a walk in 4 2/3 innings. It put his record at 1-2, his ERA at 6.31 and, perhaps, his status as a starter in jeopardy -- even before Martinez's likely return Sept. 7.

The Mets face a roster dilemma with Endy Chavez ready to return from his assignment to the disabled list and no easy way to accommodate him. They could demote Lawrence and promote Mike Pelfrey to pitch in Atlanta on Saturday.

Randolph hardly sounded convinced when he said Lawrence "kept us in the game." But he did say it.

Who knows? Given how the Phillies and Braves have extinguished themselves of late, the NL East race could be a runaway by Saturday. As it is now, one game into a four-game series, the Mets still lead the Phillies by five games, the Braves by six.

The second-place Phillies are that close because the Mets barely could touch Durbin (6-3). The same pitcher the Mets battered June 29 -- six runs, eight hits, two walks in 4 2/3 innings -- limited them to six hits and two runs in 6 1/3 frames on Monday night. His work, three home runs by the Phillies -- one by Pat Burrell, of course -- and more flawed work by the Mets' bullpen put the clubs even in one regard; they have split 12 games now.

Burrell, the Mets' nemesis, and Chase Utley, in his return from assignment to the disabled list, hit home runs against Lawrence in the third and fifth innings, respectively. Tadahito Iguchi hit a two-run, pinch-hit home run against Scott Schoeneweis in the seventh. Burrell's home run was his 38th of his career -- in merely 450 at-bats -- against the Mets. Barry Bonds (815 at-bats) and Chipper Jones (628) have 38 each, the most by active players.

The Mets had little response to the Phillies' 18 hits -- four by Jayson Werth, who has reached base in 10 successive plate appearances in two games. Jose Reyes, who loves to hit in Citizens Bank Park, was hitless in four at-bats. David Wright, who had reached base 18 times in his 23 previous plate appearances, was hitless in three strikeouts and a double-play ground ball in four at-bats.

To make his night comprehensively unfulfilling, Wright was ejected by home-plate umpire C.B. Bucknor in the top of the ninth as he sat in the dugout, expressing his dissatisfaction with Bucknor's interpretation of the strike zone. Wright quarreled with a high third strike in the second inning and the width of the zone in the eighth.

But it was merely another episode of "Turn the Page," Wright said. "[On Tuesday] I'll say, 'Hi' to him and forget it," he said. "We just had a difference in opinion."

The ejection was his second. The other came in 2005. He's no good at being a hot head, and he's even considerate about when he confronts an umpire.

"I waited until the ninth so no one would have to take my place," he said.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.