Consider Tuesday night's 6-0 loss to the Phillies a yellow light on the Mets' hopes for a meaningful last two months.
One day they bare their teeth and their fans are thinking: We're going to need a bigger bandwagon. The next they are eaten up by a last-place team. Life along baseball's highway.
The whys and wherefores of Tuesday night's difficulties included a pair of solo Philadelphia home runs against Dillon Gee (4-4, 3.77 ERA), the Mets' inability to dent Phillies starter Cole Hamels (6-5, 2.55) and Chase Utley's grand slam off reliever Josh Edgin as soon as Gee was removed with two outs in the seventh inning.
"It's what he's paid for," Edgin said of Utley, who drilled a 2-and-2 pitch into the upper deck in rightfield for his fifth career grand slam and first since 2010. "And I left it right down the middle of the plate. Put it out there for him to hit. And he did."
Utley's blow against Edgin meant that Gee, who had loaded the bases on a single, hit batsman and walk, was responsible for five runs, though he allowed only five hits.
In his fourth game back from a long sentence on the disabled list for a strained back muscle, Gee said the game "felt a lot better than it looked. For the most part, I had decent command. I was throwing strikes, getting early outs. I thought I threw the ball better than the previous two outings, and when the end result isn't there, it's very frustrating."
Against Hamels, meanwhile, the Mets' offense went from collecting five hits in the first three innings to only one through Hamels' last 5 2/3 innings of work. That was on Juan Lagares' two-out comebacker in the fourth, which glanced off Hamels' glove and between his legs, and Lagares barely beat Hamels' barehanded flip to first after the pitcher tracked the ball down near the first-base line.
Hamels wound up with a pitching line of eight scoreless innings, six hits, no walks and eight strikeouts.
"I had four hitters come back to the dugout and say, 'His changeup is dynamic,' " Mets manager Terry Collins said. "When he's hot, he's tough to hit."
Then Ken Giles closed out the Mets on one hit in the ninth.
In the first inning, the Mets had runners on first and second with two outs, but Chris Young struck out. In the third, they had Curtis Granderson's single erased when Daniel Murphy bounced into a double play and, after David Wright doubled, Eric Campbell struck out.
Philadelphia's first run came on Jimmy Rollins' two-out homer off the top of the rightfield fence, at the 375-foot sign, in the third. The next was Grady Sizemore's towering shot off the rightfield foul pole with two outs in the fourth.
"I'm sure he wishes he had a couple of pitches back," Collins said of Gee, "because he got ahead of both of those hitters. But he got to 100 pitches and that's going to help strengthen up his arm. [His pitching] was a very positive evening for us."
Nothing like recent nights, as the Mets rolled into action leading the National League in July victories, with 14, and having allowed two or fewer runs in seven of their previous nine games.
So the caution light is flashing. "We gotta get after it tomorrow," Collins said.
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