The only thing that might be able to dull the excitement surrounding the New York Mets’ first playoff appearance in nine years is the injury bug, though it appears they’ve dodged a couple of bullets in that regard for now.
They’re still on the brink of being swept by the lowly Philadelphia Phillies ahead of Thursday’s series finale, however, which might be a costly blow to their hopes for home-field advantage in next week’s NL division series.
Yoenis Cespedes left Wednesday’s 7-5 loss with bruised left middle and ring fingers after being hit by a pitch in the third inning. X-rays were negative for the prized trade deadline acquisition who has posted a .946 OPS with 17 homers and 44 RBIs in 54 games for New York.
"That’s always scary," manager Terry Collins said. "Very relieved he’s OK."
Cespedes was the first of four batters hit on the night. Both benches cleared in the sixth after Philadelphia’s Cameron Rupp hit the ground after Hansel Robles’ fastball zoomed past his head. The two exchanged words but were held back from each other. Robles, who was ejected along with Collins, said the fastball "got away."
"You can’t miss that bad up around the head," Collins said.
New York (89-69) will have to resort to a spot start as it tries to avoid a third straight loss for the first time since Aug. 14-16. Steven Matz was scratched for the second straight day, having already been pushed back after waking up with a sore back Tuesday.
The Mets are hoping he’ll still be able to pitch in next week’s NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, whom they maintained a one-game advantage over for home field after they lost 5-0 at San Francisco on Wednesday. Collins said Matz may see some relief duty this weekend as the team tries to determine his availability.
He was expected to join Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard in the playoff rotation.
"We’ve still got some time this weekend to get him some innings," Collins told MLB’s official website. "But I just don’t feel comfortable putting him out there. I know he’ll go out there, but we don’t need to subject him to having it get worse."
Taking Matz’s place will be left-handed rookie Sean Gilmartin (3-1, 2.58 ERA). Gilmartin has been effective in a long relief role this year and owns a 1.08 ERA over 8 1-3 innings against Philadelphia.
The Phillies (61-97) have won four of five, scoring 31 runs in those victories as they try to avoid becoming the first 100-loss Philadelphia club since 1961.
"I know I wake up every day, knowing I don’t want to lose 100 games," said Justin De Fratus, who pitched three scoreless innings of relief. "That wouldn’t be a nice thing to sit on in the offseason."
Jerad Eickhoff (2-3, 3.07) continues to impress in his rookie season, especially lately with a 1.29 ERA in his last three starts. He fanned 10 while allowing two runs over seven innings in an 8-2 victory at Washington on Friday, becoming the franchise’s first rookie with 10 strikeouts since J.A. Happ in 2009.
Eickhoff lost back-to-back quality starts against the Mets Aug. 26 and 31, yielding a combined six earned runs over 13 innings. Michael Conforto and Curtis Granderson homered against him in the second meeting.
New York shortstop Wilmer Flores’ status is uncertain after he left in the fourth inning Wednesday due to lower back stiffness.