PHILADELPHIA — When the Mets talked big about not beating themselves, finishing their season strong and making an unlikely run at the dramatically expanded field of playoffs, their series of unfortunate events Tuesday was not the sort of starting point they had in mind.
The Mets suffered an ugly loss to the Phillies, 4-1, to open a three-game series that is critical to both teams’ postseason hopes.
They left 12 runners on base. Rick Porcello made another mediocre start. Wilson Ramos (rally-killing double play) and Jeff McNeil (baserunning blunder), among others, failed in major moments.
With a dozen games to go, the Mets are 21-27, matching their season-worst at six games under .500. They are 2 1/2 games back of the last NL wild-card spot.
"Like everyone knows," Brandon Nimmo said, "we’re running out of time."
Or as Ramos put it: "Not too many good days, but it is what it is. We’re still here and we have to fight."
One turning point came in the sixth, when the Mets loaded the bases with one out and Phillies righthander Jake Arrieta suddenly exited the game with a right hamstring injury. That afforded the Mets three-plus innings against the worst bullpen in the majors — 7.18 ERA entering the night — but they did not score.
Lefthander JoJo Romero entered to face Ramos. On the first pitch, he grounded into an inning-ending double play. Manager Luis Rojas indicated he did not consider pinch hitting for Ramos, who is hitting .233 with a .676 OPS.
"You feel pretty good about him in that situation, probably doing some damage," Rojas said. "Not the case. Went after the first pitch. The pitch from Romero just beat him."
In discussing his bad season, Ramos mentioned — for the second time this season — that playing baseball during a pandemic is difficult and he misses his family, which lives in Florida.
"I’m overthinking every night because I have nothing to do," he said.
The late innings were not better. The seventh ended when J.D. Davis grounded into a double play. The eighth ended when Andres Gimenez sent a grounder to third and McNeil was tagged out running from second to third, preventing Dominic Smith from scoring.
"It definitely stopped the momentum for us," Rojas said. "Just a lack of awareness."
The ninth ended when Smith, the potential tying run, struck out swinging.
In a matchup of erstwhile Cy Young winners, Arrieta (one run, 5 1/3 innings) outdid Porcello (four runs, six innings) despite having a high pitch count and lots of baserunners.
In two starts against the Mets, Arrieta has a 2.19 ERA. In his other seven starts this year, he has a 6.19 ERA.
Porcello lowered his ERA from 6.07 to 6.06. He cruised for nearly four full innings — an uncommon feat for him this year — before it fell apart against a lineup missing two of its best hitters, J.T. Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins.
All four Philly runs scored with two outs. Half came on Didi Gregorius’ homer in the fifth, immediately after Alec Bohm’s hard grounder to third knocked Davis’ glove off his hand, sending the glove and the ball flying straight up into the air. His recovery — a barehand catch of the ball and throw to first — was not enough to get the out and end the inning.
Jean Segura worked an eight-pitch walk to start a rally in the fourth. Phillies manager Joe Girardi opted to use Adam Haseley as a pinch hitter with the bases loaded, and Haseley came through with a two-run single to center.
"It was not a good inning," Porcello said. "As a result, we lose the game."
Sign up for Newsday’s Mets Messages for updates directly to your phone via text, free with a Newsday digital subscription. Learn more at newsday.com/metstext.