PHILADELPHIA — The baseball gods laughed at the Mets’ misery on Sunday.
As they lost to the Phillies, 6-2, to complete the series sweep, the Mets struggled with hitting, pitching, defense and baserunning and became the sole occupants of last place in the NL East. But the most obvious difference rested in their biggest decision last offseason.
Zack Wheeler held his former team to two runs and six hits in seven innings. The Mets (9-14) effectively made no attempt to retain him when he was a free agent, and general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has said the club did not believe he was worth the $118 million over five years he got from the Phillies (8-9). Wheeler (3-0) has a 2.81 ERA in four starts.
Rick Porcello (1-3) allowed four runs and 10 hits in six innings. The Mets signed him for one year and $10 million to help replace Wheeler. He has a 5.76 ERA in five starts.
“I’m not trying to prove anybody wrong,” Wheeler said. “I would like to do a little bit better — personally. But yeah, you’re facing your old team, you want to go out there and do well. There’s no way around it. It’s nothing personal against those guys.”
J.D. Davis, Wheeler’s teammate last season, added: “It was a fun game, but we lost. It was bitter.”
That bitterness stemmed not from the Wheeler dynamic specifically but the way it played out overall. This was about as well-rounded a loss as the Mets have endured this season.
For most of the afternoon, the righthanders were about even. But Wheeler settled down late, retiring nine of his final 10 batters and needing only 29 pitches to get through his final three innings.
Porcello struggled late, allowing three runs in a game-changing sixth inning.
Alec Bohm tied the score at 2 with an RBI double, drawing a mound visit from pitching coach Jeremy Hefner. On Porcello’s next pitch, Andrew McCutchen launched a go-ahead, no-doubt two-run homer to leftfield to cap the three-run frame.
“That was the worst pitch I threw,” Porcello said of the slider over the middle of the plate. “He did what you’re supposed to do with those. Everything else was fine.”
The Mets broke through against Wheeler in the fourth as Luis Guillorme snuck a two-run single down the leftfield line. But Wilson Ramos, trying to go from first to third, was thrown out by leftfielder Jay Bruce to end the inning.
He was the second Mets retired on the basepaths, following Andres Gimenez, who tried to score from first base when Bohm threw wildly from third into rightfield in the first inning. He was out by several feet.
“Those will haunt us,” manager Luis Rojas said.
Poor Mets defense helped the Phillies to two insurance runs in the seventh inning. Davis’ throwing error allowed Jean Segura to reach, and Ramos’ passed ball allowed pinch runner Neil Walker to advance to second. Walker scored when Dominic Smith, who was charged with an error, couldn’t handle another Davis throw.
Baserunning has been fine in general, Rojas said. Defense, less so. But both were a problem Sunday.
“Those are things we need to correct immediately,” he said.
The Mets are a week away from the halfway mark of their season. They have four games against the Marlins — who are tied for first in the division — and three against the Yankees between now and then.
Davis said the Mets won’t get frantic about it.
“Is it bitter that we just got swept? Absolutely. It’s unacceptable,” he said. “I hate losing and everybody in that locker room hates losing, and especially getting swept by the Phillies is unacceptable. I know it’s 60 games and everybody likes to have this sense of urgency, but we’re facing our division a lot. Our destiny is in our hands. We can change it real quick.”