Mets starting pitcher Marcus Stroman waits for a new ball...

Mets starting pitcher Marcus Stroman waits for a new ball after giving up a solo home run to the Phillies' Didi Gregorius during the second inning on Friday in Philadelphia. Credit: AP/Derik Hamilton

PHILADELPHIA — Ninety-one days later, the Mets no longer are in first place.

That stretch began May 8, when they moved into a tie atop the NL East with an unremarkable win over Arizona. It ended Friday night, when they lost to the Phillies, 4-2, to drop to second, a half-game behind the victors (and just a half-game ahead of Atlanta).

With more than eight weeks remaining in the regular season, the standings are but a snapshot. They carry no weight of finality. But falling from first was nonetheless a watershed moment for a club that had its chance — for months — to run away with the division and responded with mediocrity.

The Mets, losers of seven of their past nine games, are 56-53. The Phillies have won six in a row to improve to 57-53. (And Atlanta is 56-54.)

"We’re not going out there trying to lose," Brandon Nimmo said. "It sucks. It’s not fun at all."

Or as Marcus Stroman put it: "Nothing is different. We’re just in a little bit of a rut. Hoping to continue to keep the same confidence and come out of it. But as far as work from the group, as far as confidence, as far as mentality, to be honest, nothing has changed."

The game changed in two at-bats by the starting pitchers, facing each other.


Stroman batted against Kyle Gibson with the bases loaded and nobody out in the fourth with the score tied. He struck out looking at three consecutive pitches after being "advised," he said, not to swing. Manager Luis Rojas explained that the preference was to take a strikeout for the sake of avoiding a double play.

"Stroman didn’t look good against him the first time he faced him," Rojas said.

The inning ended one pitch later when Nimmo grounded into a double play. Gibson surprised him with a cutter, his fifth-most-frequent pitch (out of six), new to his arsenal this year.

"That was the last thing I was expecting there," Nimmo said.

The other crucial pitcher at-bat came in the bottom of the fifth when Gibson stepped to the plate with a runner on third and one out. He grounded a single through the left side of the infield to put the Phillies ahead, the first RBI of his career (nine seasons and 27 at-bats).

Bryce Harper added a two-run home run against Edwin Diaz, freshly returned from a two-day paternity leave, in the eighth. Jean Segura was on first base after third baseman Jonathan Villar bobbled his grounder. Javier Baez also made an error in the inning.

Gibson, a righthander acquired by the Phillies before the trade deadline, held the Mets to one run in six innings. They went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven men on base against him. The run came on Dominic Smith’s two-out single in the third.

In four other innings, the Mets put the leadoff batter on base but failed to bring him home. That included the fourth, when Gibson needed just four pitches to escape the bases-loaded, no-out jam.

Villar hit a solo homer in the ninth to make it 4-2.

"How about a little positive energy for this weekend?" owner Steve Cohen tweeted just before first pitch. "I’m feeling the offense is going to get it going."

Stroman finished five innings having allowed two runs and five hits. He struck out five and walked one.

The first run came on Didi Gregorius’ second-inning homer, a blast into the second deck in rightfield. The Phillies added another when Brad Miller led off with an unusual triple — a skyscraping fly ball that deflected hard off the wall in rightfield, just out of the reach of a leaping Michael Conforto, and rolled most of the way back toward the infield, where second baseman Jeff McNeil picked it up. Miller scored on Gibson’s single.

"[Stroman] gave us a chance to come in and score some runs," Rojas said. "And we just didn’t do it again."


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