PHILADELPHIA — On a day when Jake Arrieta’s wizardry against Mets hitters was enough for a 3-2 Phillies win, Michael Conforto and his matching mastery of Philadelphia pitchers was again the last best hope.
Conforto was about the only batter to do anything Wednesday against Arrieta, his 385-foot, 109.8-mph homer in the seventh ending the shutout bid. In the top of the ninth, facing reliever Adam Morgan with the Mets trailing by two and the would-be tying run on first base, Conforto had a primo chance to add to his career 16 homers and 46 RBIs (in 51 games) against the Phillies.
Instead, a looping liner fell foul and a routine fly ball found rightfielder Bryce Harper.
Four batters later, with the bases loaded, the game ended with Keon Broxton whiffing on Hector Neris’ full-count fastball down the heart of the plate.
The Mets (10-8) headed to St. Louis with a series loss, an 11th-inning Rhys Hoskins error Monday away from a five-game losing streak. The Phillies (11-6) have the best winning percentage in the National League.
“We just got to do more,” Conforto said. “We had opportunities all game and just didn’t come up with enough runs. We have to do a better job and we’ll see them in New York [Monday-Wednesday].”
Zack Wheeler and Arrieta were nearly equals, something close to the best versions of themselves, with marginal differences: Arrieta was a tad more efficient with his pitches and did a better job keeping the ball on the ground.
The Mets had three hits in the first six innings; all came on grounders to second baseman Cesar Hernandez. Pitching into the ninth inning, which he began at 101 pitches, Arrieta held the Mets to two runs, six hits and two walks. He struck out three.
“He kept the ball on the ground, he kept ball down, executed his pitches and pitched a really nice game against us,” manager Mickey Callaway said.
Wheeler, meanwhile, took another step forward, lasting seven innings and giving up three runs. But two came on solo home runs from Hernandez and Scott Kingery.
“The pitch Kingery hit, I left up and he got his hands extended,” Wheeler said. “It was probably a dumb pitch to Hernandez, trying to throw a backdoor slider that came right back over the middle. Those were two mistakes that really cost me and really cost the team a win. Other than that, I did well.”
The pitch before Kingery’s homer, he checked his swing on a 1-and-2 pitch, a curveball outside. Wheeler and Callaway thought he swung.
“We had about three or four check swings today and none of them got called,” Callaway said. “They were all close.”
Wheeler (6.35 ERA) was feeling his curveball, which he threw 22 times, his most in one game since June 2017, according to Brooks Baseball.
But he also again struggled with his control, walking three. He’s up to a team-high 14 free passes, followed by Jeurys Familia (nine in 8 1/3 innings) and Jacob deGrom (seven in 22 innings). The Mets have walked 71 batters this year, the fourth-highest total in the majors.
That has to get better, Callaway said.
“That’s concerning,” he said. “We have to throw the ball over the plate to have success. We’ll regroup. We’re not a bunch that usually walks a lot of guys.
“We talk about ebb and flows with hitters, I think it’s just something we’re going through right now. We got to get back to challenging guys. Catchers have to set up on the plate and we have to challenge guys.”