10:03 am May. 29, 2012
The last time the New York Mets employed anyone but David Wright as their regular third baseman, it was Ty Wigginton. He was dispatched at the 2004 trading deadline to make room for their fast-rising prospect.
Wigginton returned to New York Monday afternoon, and collected six R.B.I., while Wright was pressed into service at shortstop. The Phillies won, 8-4.
In the third inning, Justin Turner, who has been playing shortstop for the Mets, injured his ankle in a rundown. Turner isn't really a shortstop anyway, nor is he skilled enough offensively to bat leadoff in the major leagues, but he was the best option the Mets had.
So Wright moved to shortstop for just the second time since he was in high school. Vinny Rottino, 32, with only four career games at third base in the major leagues (and just 223 total in the minor leagues), moved to third base. Scott Hairston moved to left field, where Rottino had been. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, with just a half-season of Double-A, moved to center field. Lucas Duda, whose skills in right field are substandard, remained there.
The Mets fell behind, 2-0. But in the bottom of the fifth, Duda, in the lineup for his bat, walked, and then Rottino hit his second major league home run to tie the game at 2.
In the top of the sixth, Jon Niese was clearly tiring. But the New York bullpen has the same depth issues as the everyday players, so manager Terry Collins stuck with his starter. Niese allowed a two-run homer to John Mayberry Jr., and Philadelphia went back up, 4-2.
Still, as they've consistently done this season, the Mets rallied. Nieuwenhuis collected a hit against a lefty, starter Cole Hamels. Then Scott Hairston launched a home run into the left field stands. The improbable Mets had drawn even.
But then it all crashed. The Phillies began their go-ahead rally in the seventh when a catchable fly ball fell in front of Duda, allowing Jimmy Rollins to reach on base hit. A walk and a single later, Philadelphia had the lead. Two innings later, another single fell in front of Duda to begin a Philadelphia rally, one that the reliever Manny Acosta, his E.R.A. well above 10, failed to stop. Wigginton eventually ended the afternoon's suspense, and likely Acosta's Mets career, with a three-run homer.
So where does that leave the Mets? The roster will see some subtle changes. Omar Quintanilla will be summoned from Triple-A to play shortstop. He's hit well for Buffalo, and actually stands as good a chance of being an offensive contributor as the fill-in Ronny Cedeno, who summoned a month of playing like an All-Star while himself filling in for Ruben Tejada.
Acosta will be replaced by Chris Schwinden, it appears. Schwinden hasn't performed well, but the Mets have no idea if Tuesday night's starter, Jeremy Hefner, can give them innings, and they need a long man.
Survival will be the theme of the next month: New York needs to protect their hard-won start against a stretch lasting 22 games, facing nothing but playoff contenders. The Phillies, at 26-24, are the least talented of the opponents in that stretch.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
New York's five-game winning streak came to an end Monday night against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, which fits, given their history of horrors against that franchise. The left-for-dead Angels are now just 2.5 games out of a playoff spot, and Albert Pujols is hitting. The pitching matchup Tuesday night is worth staying up for: Andy Pettitte vs. Dan Haren. Outfielder Brett Gardner and reliever David Robertson are close, but not that close, to a return.
New York is trying to add scoring help, according to coach John Tortorella.
New York will try to avoid crashing out of the U.S. Open Cup to a non-M.L.S. team Tuesday night.