The Mets, defending champions of the National League, once harbored grander goals than extracting morsels of comfort from moral victories. Yet there they were Friday night, indulging in a time-honored tradition of a losing team.

It’s a dubious distinction that became official after an 8-6 loss to the also-ran Padres, one that dipped the Mets below the .500 mark for the first time since April 17.

It came one day after manager Terry Collins made national news with a four-minute vent session on Thursday.

“I was very impressed,” Collins said. “You saw a lot better energy tonight, a lot more passion. There was some very, very good at-bats tonight.”

Defeat came even after the Mets fell behind early and showed some fight. They trailed 5-0 in the first inning thanks to Logan Verrett, who allowed eight runs in 2 2⁄3 innings, an outing that cost him his rotation spot. By the time he was pulled, Verrett had surrendered four homers, two to Ryan Schimpf, including a grand slam.

Still, the Mets nearly crawled back from a six-run deficit, eventually cutting the lead to two runs in the seventh.

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Travis d’Arnaud homered earlier, part of a 3-for-4 night, and three relievers held the Padres scoreless after Verrett was chased in the third inning.

“We all showed that we never give up no matter how much we’re down,” d’Arnaud said.

None of it was enough, however, to blur the Mets’ new, unflattering reality. After a season marked by injuries to their best players, the Mets have crashed through the floor.

Mathematically, the Mets remain in the hunt, only three games out of the wild card. But they stand at 57-58, losers of four straight and 12 of 16. Since the All-Star break, the Mets are 10-17, a downturn that has made Collins’ job security increasingly tenuous.

Before the game, Collins revealed the motivation for his tirade from the day before and his subsequent meeting with the team. “Once in a while,’’ he said, “you’ve just got to wake everybody up.”

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The themes were straightforward. He spoke about playing with energy and passion. He insisted that it is not too late to halt the tailspin. Mostly, he wanted to make it clear that the malaise hadn’t gone unnoticed, which he said was a “major part of the message.”

For all of their troubles, a wild card remains within reach. “We’re still in it,” Collins said.

Since stepping into the rotation for Matt Harvey, Verrett has a 7.18 ERA, his latest outing marked by a nightmarish first. In the stands, noticing the ominous lightning strikes and thunderclaps in the distance, fans prayed for rain. They were unanswered.

One day after Collins’ plea for passion, Verrett left with the Mets facing an 8-2 deficit.

“I put our team in a hole,” he said, grasping for positives. “I’m proud of the way they battled back.”

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Verrett described his spot starts as “not perfect but pretty good,” an assessment that didn’t line up with the one offered by Collins, who announced that Jonathon Niese will take Verrett’s spot.

Said Collins: “I know he’s upset about it, but we’ve got to certainly make a change there.”