PHOENIX — Because baseball can so often be cruel, it figured that at the end of a tortured road trip, the Mets would be subjected to extra innings. This forced manager Terry Collins to lean upon a bullpen that has buckled from the strain of their workload.
There were no good choices. That’s why Rafael Montero jogged out of the rightfield bullpen in the 11th inning, a de facto sign of surrender on Wednesday, when the Mets fell, 5-4, to the Diamondbacks.
The Mets’ seventh consecutive loss was made official when Montero fired a fastball down the chute to the first batter he faced, Chris Herrmann, then watched the ball sail over the fence for a walk-off homer.
“It’s very easy to unravel right now and I will not let that happen here,” Collins said. “We are not going to do that.”
Rarely have the the Post-Cespedes Mets looked this hapless. They had not lost seven straight since June 2015, before the trade for Cespedes vaulted the franchise into an era of on-field prosperity. They had not endured two losing streaks of at least six games in the same season since 2013.
And they had not finished winless on a road trip of at last six games since September 1999.
“We’re going to get better,” Jose Reyes said. “We’re not going to stay the whole season playing like this. At some point this has to turn around, so hopefully it will be sooner than later.”
Woeful starting pitching has been the first domino to fall, the reason that the Mets’ bullpen has been fried before Memorial Day. And while the embattled Matt Harvey showed signs of regaining his form — allowing three runs with an arsenal that looked more lively than it has all season — he lasted only 5 1/3 innings.
The Mets (16-23) gave Harvey a lead, and when the righthander lost it, the offense delivered again.
Michael Conforto hit his 10th homer, a two-run shot in the first to make it 2-0. But in the third, Jake Lamb’s homer off Harvey gave the Diamondbacks a 3-2 advantage.
The Mets regained a 4-3 lead in the fourth. Juan Lagares hit a solo shot to tie the game. Three batters later, Reyes doubled home the go-ahead run, atoning for an earlier baserunning gaffe that had cut short a Mets rally.
But it would come down to the bullpens, and that spelled trouble. Fresh off having his next turn in the rotation skipped, Robert Gsellman entered in the seventh, charged with protecting a narrow lead.
Instead, Yasmany Tomás laced a run-scoring double to tie the score, the third time in the series he delivered a critical hit. Soon, Collins would be out of options.
Before Gsellman entered, Josh Edgin went two-thirds of an inning. Jerry Blevins pitched the eighth and closer Addison Reed threw two scoreless innings to extend the game. Both Fernando Salas and Hansel Robles were deemed unavailable before the game.
Newcomer Neil Ramirez hadn’t pitched in nearly three weeks, and Collins resolved that his Mets debut would come in a lower leverage situation. Rookie Paul Sewald was saved to close out the game in case the Mets pushed ahead.
That left Montero, who took the mound with a 9.00 ERA, and precious little evidence this season to believe he could pitch a scoreless inning Within minutes, it was over, with the Diamondbacks mobbing the field and the Mets shuffling to their charter back to New York for a desperately needed off day.
“I felt bad,” Montero said through a translator. “You’re not supposed to feel good. It’s normal. But we’ve just got to keep on playing.”
After dropping 10 of 11 earlier this season, the Mets clawed back to the .500 mark with a 6-1 victory over the Giants on May 9. They haven’t won since, slipping to seven games under.
“Last year, everybody counted us out, too and we fought back,” Reyes said in a quiet clubhouse.
Collins made the rounds, making small talk with players as they ate their postgame spread, this after using his postgame news conference to rehash a team meeting earlier on the road trip. He urged the need to stay the course.
“We got back to .500 and we’ll do it again,” Collins said. “We’re going to turn this around.”