It was rough watching the Phillies get swept by the Mets as baseball heads into the summer stretch.
Fans of the longtime division rival in New York were gloating after Philadelphia lost three nights in a row at Citi Field, dropping games 2-0, 4-1, and 4-2.
But it wasn’t the first time the Phils faced that ignominious outcome.
Here’s a look back at three times NYC’s orange and blue made a clear sweep of the Fightins’ red.
1966: Succumbing to Tug McGraw and a bunch of newbies
In August 1966, the largest crowd of the season came out to Connie Mack Stadium to see the Phillies take on the Mets. The Phillies still thought they had a shot at the pennant, while the Mets were in ninth place — which is not really a “place” at all; more of just a waiting room for the end of the season.
But New York brought their bats to Philly, unlike the home team, which was ironic, given that it was Bat Day at the stadium. (Considering we can’t even have Dollar Dog Night anymore without it turning into a biblical plague, it makes sense that this promotion was abandoned.)
The Mets had only been a team for five years at this point, so the scent of the NYC sewers the organization had crawled out of was still fresh on their uniforms.
Yet they still seemed to have a better grasp of baseball than the 83-year-old Phillies, using the doubleheader in Philadelphia to win their 54th and 55th games of the season — a new franchise record.
Down 4-3 in the eight, the Mets sent Jim Hickman to the plate; the only player on their roster who had been on their inaugural squad. He smashed a John Morris offering out of the park and delivered his team a 6-4 victory in game one. It was the Mets’ eighth pinch hit homer of the season. The Phillies, for what it’s worth, had one all year. They also committed three errors in this game.
No matter! It’s a doubleheader, after all. You can erase an afternoon loss with a twilight victory.
But in game two, 21-year-old Tug McGraw of the Mets outpitched Phillies ace Jim Bunning and neither of the Phillies’ two hits could even the score. They tried arguing for a third one when a Johnny Callison liner was trapped, not caught, by Mets right fielder Al Luplow, but by that point, nobody cared. They lost game two 5-1, suffering a doubleheader sweep at the hands of a Mets team 12 games behind them in the standings.
As usual, the poison pens came out.
“It was Bat Day,” wrote Allen Lewis in the Inquirer, “but as far as the Phillies’ pennant hopes went, it was Bad Day.” Scathing.
The Phils went on to finish the season with a winning record, 87-75, but that was only good enough for fourth place in the NL East. They didn’t make the playoffs.
1987: Dykstra steals and fruitless manager talks
Every baseball season begins with the novelty of promise; a novelty that swifty fades with the passing of every week and the losing of many games. In April 1987, the Phillies lost eight of their first nine games, smothering promise to death before it had a chance to be kept.
According to then-manager John Felske, the Phillies had two big problems: catching the ball and throwing the ball.
This was their undoing in the first of a three-game set against the Mets on April 14, when they committed three errors (including big free agent catcher signing Lance Parrish’s second passed ball of the year) adding to their season total of nine in their first seven games. The Phillies had also allowed 14 straight opposing players to steal a base safely — the Mets’ Lenny Dykstra being the most recent, as he stole second in the ninth and scored when Phillies outfielder Ron Roenicke dropped a fly ball and then fell down chasing after it. Terrible.
The Phillies let a lead slip away and lost, 7-5. Felske took a breath, calmed himself, told reporters he was too hot to have a reaction that night, and scheduled a team meeting for five o’clock the next day with his 1-6 squad. Calmer, he spoke for six minutes with a soft, reassuring voice, telling his team all they had to do was relax.
Well, they relaxed too much and left 13 runners on base. Not even six strong innings from Kevin Gross were enough to fight off the Mets this time, and Parrish was proving to be a hell of an acquisition as he ended five different innings with outs at the plate. He stranded nine of the 13 runners himself. The Phillies lost, 4-1.
Felske called another team meeting. This one lasted 25 minutes and had a lot more yelling. Most of that yelling was directed at Gross, who had openly complained to reporters about being pinch-hit for after six innings (and only allowing two hits). Felske stressed the importance of the team, not the individual.
The next day — as a team — the Phillies lost, 9-3, and the Mets finished off the sweep. They had a 7-0 lead by the end of the second. Bill Giles said the Phillies were getting killed “economically” and “emotionally.” John Felske didn’t call a meeting.
“By June or July, we’re all going to be looking back on this and we’ll laugh like hell,” Felske told reporters.
He was fired that summer.
The team eked out a record of 80-82, another fourth place finish — this time, 15 games behind the second-place Mets.
2006: Knocked out of wild card contention
In June 2006, the Mets came into Philadelphia the better team — and left town the even better better team. They went from 6.5 to 9.5 games over the Phillies in the NL East, and turned the 33-32 Phillies from a playoff hopeful with a winning record to a wild card maybe with a losing one.
After the Phillies lost game two 9-3 following a rain delay of over an hour, tempers were flaring like singles off Jose Reyes’ bat. It was only mid-June, and most of the Phillies players stressed as fans and writers began glaring and muttering.
“Actually winning big games remains a goal for another day,” wrote Inquirer columnist Phil Sheridan.
The Phillies followed up their 9-3 kick in the stomach with a tighter, more competitive loss the following day, getting swept out of their own stadium with a 5-4 defeat. At this point, “wild card” was being whispered more and more, and when Charlie Manuel heard it, he began retching in the clubhouse. Manuel wasn’t “playing for no damn wild card,” nor did he want to, given how much more crowded the field was for that playoff spot.
“The Phillies are as likely to win the Stanley Cup as they are to surge ahead of six teams and claim the wild card,” Sheridan wrote. (Getting swept by the Mets puts poison in every pen.)
Not even a magical three-run David Delluci homer could change the Phillies’ fortunes. The fielding and throwing errors with which the Phillies covered the diamond didn’t help, either.
In game two, the Phillies were already down 6-0 when they finally got their bats in gear, but the Mets just kept adding and the Phillies just kept having David Bell in their lineup. By the time of the final out, the 9-3 loss felt inevitable.
Additionally, there were four winners in the Daily News Home Run Payoff Inning, which meant four people won $1,000; a cost we can assume helped bring about the downfall of the newspaper industry. Truly, an impactful Phillies loss.
And finally, the killing blow: With the Mets up 5-2, game three featured a two-run Pat Burrell shot off Steve Trachsel that cut the Mets’ lead to one… but it turned out that was a big enough lead to win when the Phillies failed to add anymore runs.
Another Father’s Day weekend ruined by baseball, but at least dads got to teach their kids about one of life’s greatest lessons: Sometimes, you can do everything right and still lose. But you can also do everything wrong and lose even faster.
Several months later, despite Ryan Howard’s win as National League MVP, the Phillies finished behind the Mets, notching second place with an 85-77 record. It wasn’t enough to earn a wild card spot.
Correction: Due to an editor error, a previous version of this article’s headline misstated the number of times the Mets had swept the Phillies.