PHILADELPHIA — A Mets season that began with hype and bravado reached its disappointing halfway point Wednesday night.
The Mets lost to the Phillies, 5-4, in game No. 81 of 162. Former Met Jay Bruce won it in the 10th inning with a walk-off double to deep center, over the head of Juan Lagares and off Stephen Nogosek. That came after the usually dependable Seth Lugo lost a three-run lead in the seventh, the team’s most-in-the-majors 19th blown save.
Consider it another winnable game that got away from the Mets (37-44), who dropped their fourth straight. The Phillies (42-38) seem to have been revived by facing their division rival, winning three in a row after entering the series on a seven-game losing streak.
“We have put ourselves in a position at times to win a lot more games than we have,” manager Mickey Callaway said before the game, presciently citing one of his most frequent refrains. “We say it all the time, we've got to sync up all of our parts. I'm not sure that we've done that to this point. That’s why we are where we are in the standings.”
And Callaway after the game: “They all sting. It’s another one, we have a lead with not many outs to go. And we just can’t hold it. If we would’ve done that consistently all season, we’d be right there with everybody at the top. It hasn’t happened. But we’re competing. It just — it stings every night.”
About those standings: The fourth-place Mets are a long shot to make the playoffs. They were 11 games back of the first-place Braves in the NL East and 5 1/2 games out of a wild-card spot — with eight teams ahead of them. FanGraphs pegs their postseason chances at 9.9 percent. Baseball Prospects, 16.6 percent.
“Not where we want to be,” Callaway said. “We're better than this.”
There is minimal evidence that the Mets are better than this. They appear to be a team without a strength.
The offense is almost exactly league-average, with big years from winter uncertainties Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and Dominic Smith balanced out by rough seasons from Robinson Cano, Amed Rosario and others.
The pitching is worse — bad enough that the Mets fired pitching coach Dave Eiland and bullpen coach Chuck Hernandez last week. Jason Vargas, who allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings Wednesday, has been the Mets’ second-best starter behind Jacob deGrom. The bullpen’s 5.53 ERA ranks 28th in the majors.
“No big of a hole is going to affect the way we work on a daily basis,” Callaway said.
On Wednesday, the Mets built a four-run lead in the middle innings, with home runs from Smith (his third consecutive game with a long ball) and McNeil. That meant the Mets had multiple homers for a franchise-record seventh game in a row.
It unraveled in the seventh. Callaway pulled Vargas at 77 pitches for Lugo, who allowed one inherited runner and two of his own to score for the blown save. With two outs, Scott Kingery struck out, but the curveball got away from Tomas Nido for a wild pitch to extend the inning. Jean Segura poked a two-run single to right-center to tie it.
“I feel terrible,” Nido said of the wild pitch. “It was a big momentum change in the game. I talked to Lugo, it was kind of a weird hop. But I really did try to get around it. It just didn’t go my way.”
Callaway said: “He usually blocks that one.”
Thursday afternoon is the finale of this 11-game trip on which the Mets are 3-7.
“All we can all do is the best we can possibly do, so if we fail, we can walk away with our heads held high knowing we did everything we possibly can,” Callaway said. “And I think everybody in that room does that on a daily basis.”