NEW YORK — Maybe the Phillies’ front office had a better Monday than its players.
Time is ticking toward Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline, which is the most important thing happening for the organization this week. The backdrop of change created a somewhat strange scene in Monday night’s 7-1 loss to the Mets at Citi Field, where the Phillies and Mets opened a three-game series.
They played a game, but everybody had other questions on their mind.
Could this be A.J. Burnett’s final start with the Phillies?
Is Marlon Byrd headed to a contender? Antonio Bastardo?
Is anybody going to be traded?
“I have no idea,” said Burnett, asked if he thinks the Trade Deadline is on players’ minds in the clubhouse. “I have no clue what they’re thinking. I don’t like to talk about it, you know that. I’ve mentioned that to you guys. So as soon as I hear talk, I walk away. I don’t even want to be around that. I just want to focus on today, focus on our team and the game that’s ahead of us, not where we could end up or what could happen. That’s not me. So I tend to stay away from it.”
Burnett made his final start before Thursday’s Deadline. He is a candidate to be traded, but a limited no-trade clause and a pricey player option for next season has complicated the matter.
He threw eight scoreless innings in his previous start Wednesday against the Giants, throwing 131 pitches in the process (he threw a career-high 132 pitches as a 25-year-old in 2002). But he fared far worse Monday, allowing eight hits, seven runs, two walks, one home run and striking out four in just five innings.
“Flat, everything,” Burnett said. “Everything. I don’t hang breaking balls. Just from the get-go, I tried to find a groove there in the middle, just all night, felt off. Felt up, flat.”
He said the pitches thrown in last week’s start had nothing to do with it.
Burnett walked Mets right fielder Curtis Granderson to start the bottom of the first inning. Daniel Murphy followed with a double to center field to score Granderson to make it 1-0. Three more runs scored with help from an RBI single by Lucas Duda and back-to-back two-out doubles by Travis d’Arnaud and Juan Lagares to make it 4-0.
Burnett pitched relatively cleanly until he ran into more two-out trouble in the fifth. He walked Duda, allowed a single to Chris Young and served up a three-run home run to d’Arnaud to hand the Mets a 7-0 lead.
Burnett left the game with a 4.15 ERA. If the Phillies cannot trade him before Thursday, they will try to get him through waivers next month and trade him before Aug. 31.
The Phillies had nothing going against Mets right-hander Bartolo Colon. He allowed 10 hits, one run, one walk and struck out six in 7 2/3 innings. The Phillies scored their only run in the eighth, despite 13 hits, when Domonic Brown and Carlos Ruiz hit back-to-back doubles with two outs.
The Phillies have been held to two or fewer runs 40 times this season. Only the Padres (51 times) have fared worse. The Phillies also have had nine or more hits and scored three or fewer runs in a game 12 times this season. Only the Rockies (15) and Braves (14) have fared worse.
“Yeah, it’s just about getting that one extra hit, whether it’s just a single or a ball driven to drive in a couple runs,” Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. “That was the case tonight for sure.”
It has been the case for many nights. No question the front office is looking for starting pitching and offensive help in potential trades before Thursday.
Which is the greater need?
“Overall, I think you need the starting pitching to compete,” Sandberg said. “Offense, sometimes that can be improved in some regards, but I’d say, generally speaking, good pitching with defense gives you a chance.”
Maybe they will get some of those things before Thursday.