NEW YORK -- Considering the jagged state of their starting rotation, the Mets were set up for trouble heading into a four-game series against the Phillies this weekend. It would not have taken much for their burgeoning playoff hopes to dim before their eyes.
For this Mets club, however, little seems insurmountable. The latest example unfolded when Robert Gsellman saved a worn-out bullpen in a 17-0 blowout of the Phillies on Sunday, the Mets consistently took advantage of Philadelphia mistakes and Asdrubal Cabrera hit a late grand slam to secure a series victory at Citi Field.
The most lopsided shutout in franchise history moved the Mets one game ahead of the Giants for the lead National League Wild Card spot. The Cardinals, who lost, 3-1, to the Cubs on Sunday night, are a half-game back of San Francisco.
"We needed one of those," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Our bullpen was shot. So it was nice to be able to have comfortable innings at the end of the game."
Gsellman struck out a season-high eight for the Mets in what was easily the best start of his young career, retiring 11 of 12 during one middle-innings juncture. He also came up with his first career hit, bunting down the first-base line due to a left shoulder injury that prevents him from swinging.
The Mets backed Gsellman with plenty of offense, taking advantage of wildness from both Phillies starter Jake Thompson and the pitchers who relieved him. Curtis Granderson hit his 30th homer off Thompson, who gave up three runs in four innings. The Mets then turned the game into a laugher when Cabrera hit his third career grand slam off Colton Murray.
All afternoon, the Phillies struggled with the bases loaded, walking two batters, hitting another and allowing Cabrera's slam. Philadelphia pitchers walked nine batters in total and hit four more. The Phillies' bullpen had a 14.29 ERA (27 earned runs in 17 innings) in the series against the Mets.
"Pretty embarrassing game today," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said.
Prior to the game, the Mets and Phillies lined up in front of their dugouts to honor late Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez. Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes taped a Fernandez jersey on the wall of the home dugout, as members of both clubs paid their respects.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Down on the ground: Opposing hitters came into the game batting .450 off Gsellman their third time through the order. But Collins stuck with the rookie in spite of that, watching Gsellman buzz through 10 of the final 11 batters he faced. Gsellman, who would rank in the top 15 in the Majors in ground-ball rate if he had enough innings to qualify, relied on his sinker to generate another dozen ground-ball outs.
"I'm pretty comfortable," Gsellman said. "I'm getting more confident and just keeping it rolling." More >
Everyday Asdrubal: Though Cabrera spent much of this homestand talking his way into the lineup with a chronically sore left knee and a welt on his right leg, none of that seems to have affected his production. Cabrera blasted his third career grand slam over the right-field fence in the seventh inning, bloating the Mets' seven-run lead to 11.
Free runs: The Mets were happy to take advantage of Philadelphia's wildness throughout the middle innings. Thompson started the trend, walking Jose Reyes with the bases loaded in the fourth inning to force in the Mets' third run.
But reliever Phil Klein was the prime offender, walking a pair of batters in the fifth inning before forcing in another run on a hit batsman. The Mets scored three times in the inning, the last of those runs coming home on a wild pitch.
Thompson shut down: Thompson went 2-3 with a 3.41 ERA in his final six starts of the season, putting him in position to win a rotation job in Spring Training. The Phillies told him after the game that he would not pitch again this season. He pitched a combined 183 1/3 innings among Double-A Reading, Triple-A Lehigh Valley and the Phillies -- 43 2/3 innings more than last year.
"I really wish the first few would have been better, but I think I made pretty big strides in the second half of my stay here, and that's something I'll look to build off of going into this offseason and Spring Training next year," Thompson said. More >
"It really kind of sunk in today that it was the last regular-season homestand. I think you could tell the energy out there. But we don't want it to be the last game played here this season." -- Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard
"Obviously the bullpen has scuffled for a while now. Everything looks bad. That shows you how much the game is all about pitching." -- Mackanin, on the bullpen's struggles
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Granderson now has 56 RBIs to go along with 30 home runs. Rob Deer and Felix Mantilla hold the record for fewest RBIs in a 30-homer season, with 64 apiece in 1992 for the Tigers and 1964 for the Red Sox, respectively.
The 17-0 final was the most lopsided shutout victory in Mets franchise history, one run shy of their most lopsided win ever (19-1 over the Cubs on May 26, 1964). The loss was the Phillies' largest margin of defeat since a 22-3 loss to the Reds on Sept. 4, 1999, at Veterans Stadium. It was their worst shutout loss since at least 1913.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Phillies challenged a call that Klein hit Rene Rivera with a pitch with the bases loaded in the fifth inning. Replay quickly confirmed the call. The ball struck Rivera on his left hand to force home a run.
The Mets successfully turned to the replay booth two innings later, arguing that Cabrera's throw beat Aaron Altherr to first base on a ground ball in the seventh. The challenge changed a one-out single into a groundout.
WHAT'S NEXT Phillies: The Phillies do not play Monday, but they open their final road series of the season Tuesday night at 7:10 p.m. ET against the Braves at Turner Field. Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff (11-14, 3.75 ERA) makes his second-to-last start of the season. Eickhoff enters the game with 187 1/3 innings. He has his eye on 200.
Mets: Grief will mingle with the responsibilities of a pennant race when the Mets travel to Miami for a three-game series beginning Monday against the Marlins at 7:10 p.m. ET. Bartolo Colon will start the opener against a Marlins team mourning the loss of Fernandez. The Marlins canceled their scheduled Sunday game against the Braves, hours after Fernandez's passing.