PHILADELPHIA — By the end of the Mets’ 7-6 loss to the Phillies on Sunday, moments after manager Buck Showalter was ejected for arguing a borderline check-swing strike three call on Mark Canha, the game had laid claim over its many competitors to a terrible title: worst loss yet.
At the start of the bottom of the eighth inning, the Mets led 6-3 and were six outs away from a rare series victory. Then a pair of relievers, rookie Josh Walker and Jeff Brigham, combined to allow four runs on one hit — yes, just one hit.
Brett Baty committed a crucial error and Brigham then walked in a run and hit consecutive batters with the bases loaded to force home the tying and go-ahead runs.
The Mets are 35-42, have lost 15 of their last 20 games and have not won a series in close to a month.
Publicly, they keep saying all the right things about staying positive and sticking together and hoping the next day will bring a change of fortune.
But that is getting harder to do, Brandon Nimmo said.
“There were times we felt like this was one we’ve got. That hurts,” he said. “It’s either keep going or give up. There’s a lot of these guys in this locker room who are here because they didn’t give up. They kept going, even when people doubted them. I don’t think we have any quitters in this locker room.”
In the aftermath of maybe the messiest inning of the year, Showalter said he would not have made any different decisions if he could replay the eighth. A bullpen constructed by the front office and lessened by other circumstances featured limited options.
Adam Ottavino, who threw 26 pitches across parts of two innings on Saturday, was unavailable, according to Showalter. So was Brooks Raley, who had pitched on consecutive days.
With Drew Smith serving the last game of his 10-game foreign-substance suspension — and, of course, Edwin Diaz absent because of his March knee surgery — David Robertson was the only high-leverage reliever able to pitch. And he would have entered only in a save situation, Showalter said.
“How? What else can we do?” Showalter said of his choices. “That’s where we were.”
Showalter called on Walker, who faced three batters and retired none of them.
Brigham inherited a bases-loaded, none-out jam and got a grounder toward third base from the first batter he faced, Alec Bohm. Baty had trouble getting it out of his glove, then threw low to Jeff McNeil at second. McNeil dropped it. A potential double play resulted in no outs, the bases still loaded and the Phillies a run closer.
“There’s really no excuse. That play needs to be made 10 times out of 10,” Baty said. “It cost us the game, it cost us the series, it cost us a lot of momentum coming in from yesterday. It was bad.
“That one is completely on me. That’s not on anyone else in here. Everybody battled the entire game, the entire day. If we could’ve gotten one out there, it would’ve changed the game completely. That was completely on me.”
That was a nice sentiment, but Brigham’s performance made it debatable.
He walked Brandon Marsh to cut the Mets’ lead to 6-5. Kody Clemens struck out, but then Brigham hit Kyle Schwarber and Trea Turner to plate two more runs and put the Phillies ahead.
“It’s definitely a tough situation. Three-run game, bases loaded, you don’t want to give up the big one, so you’re not pitching to the big parts of the plate,” Brigham said. “At the end of the day, you still have to go after them and attack them and not end up walking and hitting guys as I did.”
Carlos Carrasco (four innings, two runs) outpitched Zack Wheeler (5 1⁄3 innings, five runs) to position the Mets well. But iffy defense plagued the Mets throughout.
Starling Marte said he should have caught Edmundo Sosa’s fly ball to right in the third that resulted in a triple and later a run. Omar Narvaez’s low throw to third base in the fifth skipped past Baty to allow Turner to score after he stole second and was attempting to swipe third.
The Mets bused back to New York City afterward in advance of a homestand, beginning Monday, against the Brewers and Giants — two of the seven teams ahead of them in a fraught-looking wild-card race.
Any given game, they say, might mark the start of a turnaround. But it also might bring another wreck.
“It’s not going to change us trying to win a game [Monday],” Nimmo said. “But it’s tough.”