Zack Wheeler showed some improvement from his recent performances, but Lucas Duda and the rest of the Mets' lineup could not say the same.
And that's why the Mets and their young righthander found themselves on the losing end of yet another frustrating ballgame.
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Wheeler allowed three runs (two earned) in 62/3 innings, and his teammates couldn't make up the difference en route to a 3-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Mets' seventh defeat in nine games.
The Diamondbacks came in with the worst record in the National League, mainly because of their pitching struggles, but had no problem preventing the Mets from getting a big hit.
The Mets had the tying and go-ahead runners on with one out in the seventh and eighth innings but couldn't score.
Daniel Murphy hit a comebacker for an inning-ending double play in the seventh, and Duda and Wilmer Flores flied out to leftfield in the eighth.
Duda (0-for-4) stranded seven runners. The Mets, hitless in their final five at-bats with runners in scoring position, left eight runners on.
"I've got to drive those runs in, no doubt," Duda said. "I'll take the blame for this one today."
Added manager Terry Collins: "He's our guy in the middle of the lineup who we hope comes up in big situations with men on base, which he did today, [but he] didn't drive anyone in. It's a part of the game you've got to get through."
The lack of offense took the focus off Wheeler, who came in struggling to find momentum. In his most recent four starts, he had a 5.31 ERA and poor command, walking 15 in 201/3 innings. But Wheeler looked like a different pitcher against Arizona, allowing six hits and a walk with seven strikeouts in 62/3 innings.
Collins called Wheeler's outing "a huge step forward for him, an enormous step" because he didn't break down after some early struggles.
Wheeler began the second inning by walking Miguel Montero before Aaron Hill doubled off the leftfield wall. Martin Prado and Cody Ross followed with consecutive RBI singles, opening a 2-0 lead for Arizona.
The Diamondbacks made it 3-0 in the third when Paul Goldschmidt reached on a one-out throwing error by shortstop Flores and scored three batters later on a single by Prado.
"He was angry with the way things started," Collins said of Wheeler, "and he beared down and pitched very, very well throughout the entire ballgame."
Wheeler allowed only three baserunners -- two singles and a hit batter -- in his final 32/3 innings.
Said Wheeler, "I struggled in the second and third but they only got one hard-hit ball the whole day. It was just ground balls getting through the holes. Really can't do anything about that."
Though he kept them close, the Mets struggled to provide much support. Curtis Granderson's one-out double drove in Murphy in the third to make it 3-1, and it likely would have driven in David Wright from first had the ball not bounced over the right-centerfield wall. Wright had to go back to third and never left as Chris Young struck out and Duda flied out.
Wright hit a two-out homer in the fifth, launching a 2-and-0 changeup over the leftfield wall to cut the deficit to 3-2.
That also was the score when Wheeler walked off the mound for good with two outs in the seventh.
It didn't change after he left, either.