Commentary

Mets humiliated by Philly -- again

National League champion Phillies humiliate New York rivals in statement game

Updated: May 3, 2010, 9:12 AM ET
By Ian O'Connor | ESPNNewYork.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Jimmy Rollins was not active, and Cole Hamels had enough of his own problems to explain why the Mets are the kind of chokers even Dr. Heimlich could not save.

But those two Phillies, who have publicly ridiculed the Mets of the recent past, weren't needed for the most humiliating beatdown of a rival this city has seen since the heat of the Cold War, when the Broad Street Bullies scared the Soviets' Big Red Machine right off the Spectrum ice.

This was a whole lot more than an 11-5, series-deciding victory over the Mets, a whole lot more than a shredding of the visiting ace, Johan Santana, who looked about as interested on the mound Sunday night as Tiger Woods looked on the golf course Friday afternoon.

[+] EnlargeRyan Howard, Jeff Francoeur
AP Photo/Tom MihalekSince 2007, the Mets have come up short when faced against the Phillies.

This was the Phillies announcing to the world that they have as much respect for the Mets as Tiger had for his wedding vows.

The night after Roy Halladay shoved a complete game shutout down the Mets' collective throat, inviting Santana to return the favor, Johan took a 3-0 lead and barfed all over it. He surrendered two quick homers in the bottom of the first before unraveling in the fourth in a way that put struggling Yankees starter Javy Vazquez to shame.

The bases were loaded with two outs, Mets up 5-3, and all Santana had to do was strike out his 47-year-old adversary while more than 45,000 people stood and screamed. Jamie Moyer -- no, make that the petrified remains of Jamie Moyer -- managed to work the count to 2-0 and 3-1 before fouling off a full-count pitch and staring at a fastball that landed high and tight.

"It shows that we're all human," Moyer said.

Only Santana's human frailty was just warming up. Never mind that Shane Victorino was 2-for-24 against the Mets' ace as he watched the Santana-Moyer drama unfold before him.

"I was hoping he got a walk," Victorino said.

He was a Phillie, after all, meaning he was absolutely certain he'd end up 3-for-25 against that Met.

"Honestly, [Santana] might not have been throwing as hard as he usually does," Victorino said. "I don't think his velocity was up."

So Victorino does what he always does to the Mets -- he killed them, and not so softly. He hit a grand slam before Chase Utley -- who else? -- followed a single by Placido Polanco with a two-run homer off a pitch as flat as the mood in the visiting dugout.

"[Santana] didn't have his best fastball tonight," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel agreed. "He definitely didn't have his best stuff. ... His velocity is down from what we saw from him last year."

The same pitcher who had allowed one run over his last 21.1 innings, and seven runs in the month of April, handed the Phillies eight runs in the fourth and a career-high 10 runs in all.

In any other ballpark, against any other team, an embarrassing early May defeat under the ESPN Sunday night lights would be easily discarded with the Monday morning trash. It's baseball. The sport has a way of emasculating the mightiest of men.

But this was Citizens Bank Park, and these were the Phillies, the very team that has haunted and taunted the Mets for the last three years.

In 2007 and 2008, the Phillies rose out of the rubble of the Mets' endgame collapses. Hamels called them chokers. At the championship parade, Rollins stopped celebrating long enough to shoot this dagger:

"We can talk about the New York Mets. They brought in that great pitcher, Johan Santana, but they forgot that it takes more than one player to bring home a championship."

This time around, the Mets rolled into town as the hottest team in baseball, with the hottest pitcher in baseball, Mike Pelfrey. They won Game 1 of this series, their eighth straight victory, and then watched as Halladay gave Pelfrey an education in precision and poise he won't soon forget.

So Sunday night was as big a game as a May 2 date can offer. On Sunday morning, on 1050 ESPN, Mets GM Omar Minaya acknowledged that taking two of three from Philly would bolster his team's faith.

"We got our guy Santana going tonight," Minaya said. "If we can get a win there ... I think it's very good for us."

Only this turned out to be very bad for the Mets. David Wright cleared the wall for three runs in the first, flexing the muscle he couldn't flex last year and making his own personal statement before Santana touched the ball.

Right then and there, the Mets had to love their chances. Their franchise player was holding a 3-0 lead and facing a pitcher who was old enough to drive when Santana was born.

But then the Phillies turned into the Phillies, and the Mets turned into the Mets.

"It's a big rivalry," Moyer said, "and it's early in the season and you try to set a tone or a precedent."

A tone? A precedent? Haven't the Phillies been busy setting those in the company of the Mets since the end of 2007?

One more question: Deep down, didn't the Mets leave this city wondering if they'll ever beat these guys when it matters most?

"You've got to ask them that," Victorino said. "I don't know. I can't answer for them. If you're asking about our situation, it wouldn't [affect us] because that's not the team we are."

The Mets still had five at-bats left after surrendering nine runs in the fourth, plenty of time to fight back from an 11-5 deficit against a tattered pitching staff.

They didn't manage a single hit in those five innings.

So the Mets lost more than their hold on first place.

They lost any reason to believe they have the Phillies' respect.

Ian O'Connor is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

Ian O'Connor

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Ian O'Connor has won numerous national awards as a sports columnist and is the author of three books, including the bestseller, "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter." ESPN Radio broadcasts "The Ian O'Connor Show" every Sunday from 7 to 9 a.m. ET. Follow Ian on Twitter »

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