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Mets again can't capitalize vs. Phillies for fourth straight loss

Jeff McNeil returns to the Mets' dugout after

Jeff McNeil returns to the Mets' dugout after he lined out against the Phillies in the fourth inning at Citi Field on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

If opportunity knocks, then these Mets have left his knuckles bloodied.

They dropped another winnable game, 4-3, to the Phillies on Friday night, their fourth consecutive loss and seventh in nine games.

The Mets got within a run by scoring twice in the eighth inning against Archie Bradley on doubles by Francisco Lindor, Michael Conforto and Kevin Pillar, the last of which came with two outs and ended a 10-pitch at-bat. But Ian Kennedy entered to strike out James McCann, ending the inning and starting a four-out save for the Phillies’ closer.

The final out was made by Brandon Nimmo, who flied out to the warning track in left-center.

 

With 14 games to go, the Mets (72-76) fell to six games behind the Cardinals, who hold the last National League wild-card spot. They are 5 1⁄2 games behind NL East-leading Atlanta. The Phillies (75-72) are two games behind Atlanta and 2 1⁄2 games behind the Cardinals.

"We’re not mathematically out," said Nimmo, who was 1-for-5 in his return from the injured list. "Crazy things have happened in the past. They’ve made movies about it. It can happen."

The Mets are 28-32 in games decided by one run — a qualifier that accounts for 40% of their games.

Ten of the Mets’ past 12 losses have been one-run games.

"Yet again, we came up short," Nimmo said. "But it’s another one-run ballgame. Those come down to one or two plays of execution or whatever. It comes down to the smallest things."

Taijuan Walker said: "You want to win every game, but it’s always tough when you lose those one-run games. We’re still fighting, we’re still battling. We’ve been saying that a lot of the year, but it’s tough. We’re frustrated. We’re mad. I know the fans are mad. We want to win these games."

By making Zack Wheeler (five innings-plus, one run) work hard, the Mets earned 12 outs against a Philly bullpen that entered the night with a 4.74 ERA, 25th of 30 major-league teams. But Philadelphia scored insurance runs against Seth Lugo in the seventh and Brad Hand and Jeurys Familia in the eighth to foil the would-be comeback.

Walker (7-10) contributed one of his better starts amid a rough couple of months: five innings, two runs, three hits. Manager Luis Rojas lifted him after 88 pitches, preferring lefthander Aaron Loup as the top of the Phillies’ order came to bat for the third time.

That made Walker unhappy.

"I really felt like they should’ve gave me a chance to go back out for the sixth," he said. "I don’t know. It’s frustrating. I want to go out there and pitch and go as deep as possible. I know my second half hasn’t been the greatest, but in that moment, I feel like I should’ve gone back out for the sixth."

Rojas was fine with Walker feeling that way.

"He takes it really personal when you take him out, because he wants to compete and he feels he is going to beat the other team," Rojas said. "He told us this in spring training, that he’s tough to take out. When you take him out of the game, he is going to react. In that moment, he’ll let you know. I always respect that out of guys."

The Phillies scored in the second and fifth innings.

J.T. Realmuto created the first of those runs, leading off the second by dunking a single into rightfield. He stole second, moved to third on Didi Gregorius’ flyout to left and scored on Freddy Galvis’ sacrifice fly to center.

Brad Miller homered in the fifth, putting Philadelphia back on top a few minutes after the Mets tied it up.

"I thought it was a good outing," Walker said. "I felt like I could’ve gone longer, but it is what it is."

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