MIAMI — Eleven minutes after a 4-2 loss to the Marlins on Thursday, a mess of a game to end a mess of a series, Michael Conforto said with his words that he had moved on. His tone suggested maybe it wasn’t that simple.
"Definitely not the way we wanted it to go. Obviously, we want to win every single day we show up," said Conforto, a de facto voice of the clubhouse who was unusually blunt and sullen-sounding. "At this point, we’re moving forward. We’re going to Philly."
The Mets (56-52) indeed are going to Philadelphia, for a three-game weekend set that all of a sudden will be a battle for first place. Their lead in the NL East was down to just a half game after the Phillies scored four runs in the ninth to beat the Nationals,7-6. The Mets dropped three of four to the last-place Marlins — a club that, in year four of its rebuild, still has a roster that is less of a who’s who and more of a wait, who?
So it went in the finale, in which the Mets left the bases loaded in the first, sixth and ninth innings and stranded 15 runners altogether. Javier Baez went 0-for-5 with five strikeouts and eight men left on.
The penultimate out came from Baez, who stepped to the plate as the potential tying run in the ninth. His only swing-and-miss in that at-bat was his eighth of the day. It came on a slider outside from Anthony Bender.
"Javier Baez was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts," manager Luis Rojas said. "I thought he was going to hit a bomb in that fifth at-bat."
Albert Almora Jr. (3-for-5) grounded out to second base to end the game.
Shutting down the Mets this time was rookie lefthander Braxton Garrett, who tossed five scoreless innings after becoming the third Marlins pitcher this series to be called up from the minors on the day of his start. The Mets had five hits and four walks against him, part of their eight hits and eight walks in the game.
The missed chances began in the first, when they loaded the bases with nobody out. J.D. Davis and Baez struck out and Conforto flied out to end that threat.
"Once again, we show up as if we weren’t prepared to face that pitcher and what the pitcher had," Rojas said, later clarifying that he believes Mets hitters do prepare enough. "It haunted us, needing those runs later in the game."
Conforto added: "Maybe there was some executed pitches. The starter for the Marlins, he cracked down when he needed to. He made some good pitches. That makes things a lot harder at the plate."
Also contributing were relievers Paul Campbell, who got five outs to lower his ERA to 7.62 in his first appearance back from a PED suspension, and Ross Detwiler (5.92 ERA).
The Mets’ 3.81 runs per game ranks third-worst in the majors, just ahead of the Marlins (3.92).
They don’t know why they stink at scoring. Conforto reiterated after the game that the Mets still believe what they have said for four months: The offense will come around at some point.
"I don’t know if I have an answer for you," he said. "But we still expect it to come together."
The game turned in the eighth, when a three-run rally against Jeurys Familia started with a borderline ball four call for Miguel Rojas. Familia responded by allowing three consecutive hits, including a go-ahead single by Jorge Alfaro and a two-run double by Lewis Brinson. Runs scored on consecutive plays at the plate.
Rich Hill had his best start out of three with the Mets, lasting five innings and allowing one unearned run, three hits and a walk.
The run scored in the third, after Conforto kicked Rojas’ single, allowing Rojas to reach second. He stole third and scored on Jazz Chisholm Jr.’s sacrifice fly to left.
A veteran of five postseasons, including several with the Dodgers last decade, Hill said he typically does not look at the standings until around Sept. 15. And when a team that expects to win is not? Don’t freak out.
"You ride it out," Hill said. "The teams that panic and try to do something drastically different end up succumbing to those valleys."
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