Now that the playoff talk has been realistically muted, the next question becomes this: Can the Mets at least avoid the embarrassment of a losing season?
It doesn’t look good for the orange and blue.
The Mets took another step backward Saturday night, when they weren’t particularly sharp on any front in a 5-3 loss to the Phillies at Citi Field.
Their fifth straight loss caused the Mets to fall five games below .500 with 13 games remaining. Anything worse than a 9-4 finish will assure the Mets of a fourth losing season in their past five and their second straight under manager Luis Rojas.
If nothing else, the Mets (72-77) are putting heat on the first-place Braves by serving as road kill for the Phillies, who began the night two games behind in the NL East. After the Phillies play the series finale against the Mets on Sunday, they have seven straight games against the dreadful Orioles and Pirates.
Carlos Carrasco’s first-inning struggles continued as the second batter of the game, Jean Segura, cleared the left-field fence to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead. But Carrasco escaped the rest of the frame unscathed and actually dropped his first-inning ERA from 15.00 to 14.40.
Segura blasted a two-out homer in the third that extended the Phillies’ lead to 2-0. The homer was Segura’s 14th of the season, which includes four against the Mets. Behind 0-2 in the count, he jumped on a slider from Carrasco and launched a shot over the fence in left-center.
Carrasco gave the Mets a chance by allowing just those two earned runs, on five hits, over six innings with five strikeouts and two walks. He had kept the Mets in the game last Sunday against the Yankees by allowing two earned runs over five innings. Carrasco’s ERA dropped to 5.24, the lowest it has been since after his third start of the season on Aug. 10. The right-hander missed the first four months of the season rehabbing from a torn hamstring.
Freddy Galvis’ RBI double in the seventh against Brad Hand placed the Mets in a 3-1 hole. Hand allowed a double to Brad Miller leading off the inning before unleashing a wild pitch. Trevor May entered and allowed a two-run double to Bryce Harper that widened the Mets’ deficit to 5-1. Two of the runs in the inning were unearned, after Pete Alonso dropped a pickoff attempt with Odubel Herrera on first base.
Brandon Nimmo, in his second game back from the injured list, smashed a triple against Aaron Nola in the sixth that led to the Mets pulling within 2-1. Francisco Lindor’s ground out brought in Nimmo, and Aaron Nola was finished for the night after the ensuing batter, Alonso, walked. Left-hander Jose Alvarado entered and struck out Michael Conforto on three pitches to escape the inning.
Dominic Smith delivered a pinch-hit RBI single in the seventh that brought in the Mets’ second run of the game. Nimmo launched a homer leading off the eighth against Hector Neris that pulled the Mets within 5-3.
Nola lasted 5 ²/₃ innings and allowed one earned run on four hits and one walk with nine strikeouts. In his previous appearance against the Mets, on June 25, the right-hander struck out 10 straight batters to match the record set by Tom Seaver in 1970. That record has since been matched by Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes.
The Mets had a scoring chance against Nola in the second, when Jeff McNeil delivered a two-out single to put runners on the corners. But James McCann finished a seven-pitch at-bat by swinging and missing a knuckle-curve for Nola’s third strikeout of the inning.