PHILADELPHIA — Michael Conforto had no words in the moment, but his drooped shoulders and look to the sky spoke for him.
The game was within reach when he stepped to the plate in the fourth inning of the Mets’ 8-2 loss to the Phillies on Wednesday. With the bases loaded and two outs, he was the potential go-ahead run against righthander Aaron Nola, the Phillies’ top starter.
With his final and maybe biggest pitch, Nola spotted a curveball on the outer edge of the plate. It was close enough to get a called third strike from plate umpire Ryan Blakney. Conforto’s body language suggested disbelief as he walked back to the dugout, the inning over.
"I thought it was outside," Conforto said. "But looking back at the video, it was just a perfect pitch."
It was that kind of day for Conforto, who went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts and nine runners left on base as the Mets (1-2) dropped their season-opening series.
His struggles were emblematic of the team’s. The Mets finished 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position, stranding 14 men.
"It’s an anxiety level sometimes that a team can get to when they have runners in scoring position. They just want to do a little more," manager Luis Rojas said. "We just have to make sure we use our approach and stay consistent with it. The same approach that created the scoring scenarios is the same approach that is going to help us drive the runs in. Get a pitch to drive."
In the first inning, with one out and Brandon Nimmo on second, Conforto grounded out to first. In the third — with one out, Nimmo on third and Francisco Lindor on first — he flied out to short right. In the fourth, the bases-loaded strikeout. In the sixth, with two outs and two on, he struck out swinging at Archie Bradley’s curveball in the dirt. And in the eighth, the game all but out of reach, he flied out to left, leaving Nimmo on base again.
A bright spot for the Mets: Nimmo was on base a lot. He went 2-for-4 with a walk and has a .571 OBP through three games.
"Michael is the guy that we want in that situation," Rojas said. "That’s why he’s consistently hitting in the first three of the lineup regardless of who the pitcher is."
Added Conforto, who is hitting .200 (3-for-15) with a .467 OPS: "It’s much easier to feel good about a game when you’re 0-for-4 but you put a ball in play to bring in a run, or you (have a) sacrifice fly, or you did something to help the team win. It’s a huge part of this game. It’s how you win games. It’s how you stay in games."
Conforto shared culpability with David Peterson, whose season debut was rough: four-plus innings, six earned runs.
Much of that damage came in the first inning, when the Phillies (5-1) scored four times in their first five at-bats. Rhys Hoskins (solo homer) and Alec Bohm (three-run shot) went deep.
"When you make mistakes, they’re going to make you pay for it," Peterson said, bemoaning a mechanical issue. "Something to fix this week."
Although he did well to pitch into the fifth, Peterson had more problems once he got there. Hoskins doubled. Harper bunted for a single. Rojas went to righthander Jacob Barnes, who with his first pitch in his first game with the Mets gave up a three-run homer to Realmuto, allowing both of Peterson’s runners to score.
"He pitched really well for us in camp," Rojas said of Barnes. "First pitch, right down the middle. … He pitched well after that, but that first batter is key for relievers, to come in and shut it down."
Heading into their first homestand, the Mets welcome the opportunity to straighten this out.
"We haven’t done a good enough job," Conforto said. "Three games in, I think just let us go out there and play."