PHILADELPHIA (AP) — When the Philadelphia Phillies need a fly ball, they hit a grounder. When they need a grounder, they strike out.
It's been a rough start for the five-time defending NL East champions.
Jordany Valdespin had a pinch-hit three-run homer off Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning for his first major league hit, leading the New York Mets to a 5-2 victory over the Phillies on Monday night.
Before it got to that point, the Phillies blew several chances. They loaded the bases with one out in the seventh and had runners on second and third with one out in the eighth — both times against Bobby Parnell — and didn't score.
"We had big chances and couldn't do it," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We have to get somebody in. We're having trouble doing it. When you don't take advantage of chances, usually something not too good happens."
The Phillies are off to a 14-16 start. They haven't been over .500 since they were 1-0.
David Wright hit a tying two-run double off Roy Halladay in the sixth, and New York won its third straight game.
Valdespin was 0 for 6 before hitting a drive way out to right off Papelbon (0-1). The 24-year-old infielder from the Dominican Republic had appeared in just seven games.
"It was a great moment for me," said Valdespin, who was called up to replace injured shortstop Ruben Tejada. "He's one of the best closers in the big leagues. They called me last night and told me to be ready."
On the same day Tejada was placed on the disabled list, the injury-plagued Mets saw catcher Josh Thole leave after getting elbowed in the head during a collision at the plate. There was no word on Thole's status.
Tim Byrdak (1-0) retired the only batter he faced to get the win. He struck out pinch-hitter Eric Kratz to end the eighth with a runner on third.
Frank Francisco finished for his eighth save.
Halladay bounced back from his worst start in five years and took a one-hitter into the sixth before getting in trouble. Halladay allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings, striking out seven. The only batter he walked score.
"I felt good the whole time. I felt I made good pitches," Halladay said. "You have to overcome it and move on."
In a 15-13 extra-inning loss at Atlanta last Wednesday, Halladay gave up 12 hits — one below his career high — and eight runs in 5 1-3 innings. The two-time Cy Young Award winner had a 6-0 lead going into the fifth before surrendering six. Halladay left the team the next day for personal reasons.
Halladay had retired 13 straight before running into two-out trouble in the sixth. Andres Torres walked and Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a single. Wright followed with a grounder just over the third base bag. The ball kicked off the foul stand and bounced into shallow left field, allowing both runners to score.
Mets starter Jonathon Niese allowed two runs and four hits in five innings.
Shane Victorino was called for interference in the seventh because he slid out of base line to take out shortstop Justin Turner on Hunter Pence's grounder to second, and the double play negated a run and ended the inning.
"I went after it to avoid the double play," Victorino said.
Ty Wigginton was thrown out trying to score on Freddy Galvis' tapper to the mound in the eighth. Thole went down after taking a shot to the head and had to leave the game. Byrdak replaced Parnell and fanned Kratz.
In the top of seventh, Ike Davis hit a hard liner off Halladay's right thigh for a single. Halladay waved off a trainer and stayed in to finish the inning, getting help from left fielder John Mayberry Jr.'s second diving catch of the game.
Mayberry's sacrifice fly in the first gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead. Jimmy Rollins led off with a line-drive double to right-center. He reached third when Torres bobbled the ball for an error and scored on Mayberry's liner to center.
Placido Polanco hit an RBI double in the second.
NOTES: Phillies 1B Ryan Howard took batting practice for the first time since February at the team's spring-training facility in Clearwater, Fla. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. called it "progress." Howard, the 2006 NL MVP, has been sidelined since having a procedure to remove an infection near his surgically repaired left Achilles tendon. ... Amaro said Chase Utley will stay in Philadelphia and field grounders and run. He'll join Howard in Clearwater "when he feels comfortable," according to Amaro. Utley, the five-time All-Star second baseman, had been working out with a specialist in Arizona to strengthen his chronically bad knees.