Reeling Mets drop fourth straight as playoff hopes take another hit

The Mets have realistically entered the “spoiler” realm, but what exactly they might spoil and for whom is the great mystery.

One such opportunity began Friday night, when the Phillies, clinging to more realistic postseason hopes than the Mets have, arrived at Citi Field. But instead of playing spoilers, the Mets brought the aroma of spoiled milk in a 4-3 loss to their NL East rivals.

The Mets (72-76) lost for the fourth straight time and the seventh in nine games, after waiting until the eighth inning to awaken, albeit briefly. The loss was the Mets’ 15th in their last 17 one-run games.

“They all come in different shapes, but all tough losses,” manager Luis Rojas said.

What could have had the feel of a late-season battle with much at stake was reduced in significance by the Cardinals’ romp through Queens earlier this week, which produced three straight losses for the Mets. The Mets began the night 5 ½ games behind the Braves in the NL East and fell six lengths behind, with four teams ahead of them, in the chase for the second wild card.

“We’re not mathematically out — crazy things have happened in the past,” Brandon Nimmo said. “They have made movies about it, it can happen. That is the mindset you take into it.”

Reeling Mets drop fourth straight as playoff hopes take another hit
Javier Baez walks to the dugout after striking out in the eighth inning of the Mets’ 4-3 loss to the Phillies.
Corey Sipkin

Asked for a movie in which a team overcame the odds, Nimmo cited “Moneyball.”

The Phillies, who won their third straight, remained 2 ½ games behind the Cardinals in the race for the NL’s second wild card. They were three games behind the Braves in the NL East as play began.

Francisco Lindor, Michael Conforto and Kevin Pillar all doubled in the eighth inning to produce two runs for the Mets, slicing their deficit to 4-3. But the tying run was left at second base as Ian Kennedy struck out James McCann.

The Phillies had extended their lead in the top of the inning on Didi Gregorius’ run-scoring double against Jeurys Familia. The run was charged to Brad Hand, who surrendered two hits in the inning.

Taijuan Walker rebounded from a rough start against the Yankees last Saturday (in which he might have been tipping his pitches) by allowing two earned runs on three hits over five innings. Against the Yankees, he retired the last 13 batters he faced, but that came after he surrendered three homers to bury the Mets in a five-run hole.

The right-hander’s biggest misstep on this was surrendering a solo homer to Brad Miller in the fifth that snapped a 1-1 tie. The blast was the seventh allowed by Walker in his past four starts and his 18th since the All-Star break.

Walker expressed agitation over his removal at 88 pitches.

“I really felt like they should have given me a chance to go out there for the sixth,” Walker said. “It’s frustrating. I want to go out there and pitch and work as deep as possible. I know my second half hasn’t been the greatest, but in that moment I felt I should have gone back out for the sixth.”

J.T. Realmuto helped produce the other run against Walker by stealing second after he singled leading off the second. After reaching third on a fly out, he scored on Freddy Galvis’ sacrifice fly.

Seth Lugo had a second straight shaky relief outing, allowing one run in the seventh after loading the bases on two walks and a single. Matt Vierling hit a sacrifice fly that put the Mets in a 3-1 hole. Earlier in the inning, Lugo appeared to have picked off Gregorius at first base, but he was ruled safe and the call stood on replay. Gregorius scored the run in the inning.

The Mets broke through against Zack Wheeler in the fourth on Javier Baez’s bases-loaded RBI single. Nimmo, in his return from a strained right hamstring that cost him nearly two weeks on the IL, singled leading off the inning for the Mets’ first hit and after Pete Alonso was plunked by a pitch, Conforto walked to load the bases. Jeff McNeil and McCann were retired after Baez’s single, keeping the game at 1-1.

Wheeler was removed in the sixth after allowing consecutive singles to Lindor and Alonso to start the inning. Lefty Jose Alvarado entered and got Conforto to hit into a double play before walking Baez and retiring pinch-hitter J.D. Davis.