The Mets’ disappointing first half came to a merciful end Sunday as they slid back to their low-water mark for the season.
The Phillies got two home runs from former Met Jay Bruce and led throughout an 8-3 win at Citi Field. The only meaningful highlight for the Mets was rookie Pete Alonso’s 30th home run.
The Mets reached the All-Star break at 40-50, the second-worst record in the National League, ahead of only the Marlins. They are 13 1⁄2 games out in the NL East and seven games back for the second wild card. The Mets are 10 games under .500 for the third time.
And so a team that thought of itself as a contender at the start of the season soon could be facing decisions about selling before the July 31 trade deadline. The Mets would have to go 13-3 to reach .500 by the deadline.
“We’ve put ourselves in a position where winning is the only thing we can think about right now,” Michael Conforto said. “I don’t think our minds are on the trade deadline, but we have some control over that by the way we play. If we were in first place, we wouldn’t be talking about it.”
Mickey Callaway expressed concern but also hope.
“We need to have an urgency, and it’s not just because of [the deadline],” he said. “I feel like we can make a run at this thing. We can sneak into that wild card, sneak back in this division . . . We need to have a sense of urgency because of the possibilities.”
The Mets have the NL batting leader in Jeff McNeil (.349), and Alonso ranks in the top five in homers and RBIs. But the team has been middling offensively and the pitching staff has the third-worst ERA. The relievers have pitched only 294 innings, but their 5.57 ERA ranks 14th of 15 in the league.
“We’ve leaned on our bullpen probably less than anybody in the major leagues, and that’s the part that has probably hurt us the most,” Callaway said. “That’s the frustrating part: The part you don’t lean on a ton hurts you. I feel these guys will turn it around. I believe in each one of them . . . If they do that, I think we’ll get to where we want to go.”
Zack Wheeler, who could be a big subject of trade talk if the Mets are sellers, turned in a clunker after three consecutive strong starts. He allowed four first-inning runs, couldn’t get an out in the sixth, gave up six runs and is 6-6 with a 4.69 ERA.
Wheeler said the Phillies “knew what pitch was coming” in that first inning, and that he recognized it and made a change.
His final pitch of the day went for Bruce’s first homer, a two-run shot in the sixth that gave the Phillies a 6-0 lead. Bruce also had a solo shot off Wilmer Font in the eighth to make it 8-2, giving him four homers and 10 RBIs in seven games against the Mets.
The Mets didn’t manage a hit against Aaron Nola through the first five innings. After McNeil reached on an error with one out in the sixth, Alonso ended the no-hit bid and the shutout with a two-run homer to right-centerfield. That made the score 6-2, and Adeiny Hechavarria hit a solo homer in the ninth.
Robinson Cano was asked about the urgency to win with the trade deadline looming.
“I would never doubt this team,” he said. “We need to come back and be the team we’re supposed to be.”