Mets pitcher Sean Manaea (59) throws a pitch against the...

Mets pitcher Sean Manaea (59) throws a pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies during the second inning of a London Series baseball game in London, Saturday, June 8, 2024. Credit: AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth

LONDON — In the Mets’ first game across the pond, the lads were rubbish.

They met a familiar fate in an unfamiliar country Saturday, a 7-2 loss to the Phillies in the opener of the two-game London Series. It featured all of the hallmarks of their season: mediocre offense, worse pitching and a game-changing non-play on defense.

Edmundo Sosa’s go-ahead single spurred the Phillies’ six-run top of the fourth. That created a large enough deficit that the Mets’ bottom-of-the-ninth comeback bid — getting the would-be tying run as far as the on-deck circle — fell well short. J.D. Martinez grounded into a game-ending double play.

It all started with Starling Marte’s misplay.

“You knew something wasn’t right,” manager Carlos Mendoza said.

With two outs and the score tied at 1, Sosa floated a lazy fly ball to rightfield, sort of near the foul line, such a seemingly uninteresting occurrence that he initially didn’t even run out of the batter’s box.

But Marte pulled up early on and short of the ball, which he fielded on a hop — a big hop, on London Stadium’s bouncy artificial turf usually used for soccer.

 

Had Marte caught it, the inning would have been over. Instead, Sosa had a single and the Phillies (45-19) had a lead. Whit Merrifield followed with a three-run home run and Kyle Schwarber added an RBI single.

“They were having a hard time seeing the ball off the bat, especially in that particular time when the sun is coming down and the roof there,” Mendoza said. “That’s the explanation I got from Marte and from [centerfielder Harrison] Bader.”

Bader said: “The sun is always going to play a factor. And then just the depth perception. Normally stadiums are much higher in baseball. So here obviously we’re in a soccer stadium. Just the depth of the ball in the stadium is, again, an adjustment that you have to make on the run.”

Marte blamed the sun/view, too, but said he picked up where the ball was going based on Sosa’s immediate reaction. That didn’t explain his decision to not go after the ball once he was near it.

“With the sun being directly behind home plate and the way that we were positioned in that outfield, it kind of felt like we were a little bit lost there,’’ Marte said through an interpreter. “The same way that I was, other players were as well.”

Marte mentioned the Mets’ outfield positioning three times, twice in the context of this play and once in response to a question about his overall bad defensive season.

Fielding — by the eye test and by the modern defensive metrics — has been an issue for him since last season, when he returned from groin surgery and was decidedly slower.

In Defensive Runs Saved, Marte entered the weekend at -9, last among outfielders and second-to-last among 142 qualified position players.

In Outs Above Average, Marte was at -8, last among outfielders and second-to-last among 131 qualified position players.

Mendoza highlighted Marte’s still-strong throwing arm. That’s accurate, but he sometimes appears to loaf in his pursuit of batted balls.

“I just think we need to continue working on the positioning,” Marte said. “A lot of the plays that I’ve struggled with this year have been the ones down the line, and I think those are conversations that me and the coaching staff need to have going forward.”

The Phillies’ big inning ended lefthander Sean Manaea’s outing after he made it look easy for three innings. He finished 3 2⁄3 frames with those six runs (and seven hits) allowed. Right before Sosa’s fly ball, he issued a two-out walk to Bryson Stott after getting ahead 0-and-2.

“It was all just such a blur,” Manaea said. “I definitely let it get away from me there.”

The Mets (27-36) went ahead in the first inning on Francisco Lindor’s leadoff double and Marte’s two-out double. But they managed little else against lefthander Ranger Suarez, who gave up two runs and eight hits in 5  2⁄3 innings.

Lindor stepped to the plate with a chance to make it close in the bottom of the sixth but struck out looking against freshly inserted reliever Orion Kerkering.

The Mets lost their rare three-game winning streak in front of a not-quite-sold-out but definitely enthusiastic crowd of 53,882. They’ll get another chance Sunday: win, or fly back across the Atlantic Ocean winless.

“It’s been a great experience so far,” Bader said. “Having one more tomorrow, I’m looking forward to it.”

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