PHILADELPHIA — The Mets aren’t just losing lately. They’re lost.
Zack Wheeler pitched maybe the best game of his life in a 3-0 Phillies win on Sunday, a two-hit shutout against his former team. The Mets received a double from Brandon Nimmo, the first batter of the game, and had only one other hit, Nimmo’s single in the ninth, the rest of the afternoon.
In addition to dropping a season-high four consecutive games, the Mets went 1-6 on the road trip, are 9-15 in the second half and have gone 21-30 since June 17. They are clinging to a winning record overall at 56-55.
After beginning the weekend in first place in the NL East, the Mets now sit in third for the first time since April 5. They trail the Phillies — who have won eight straight to improve to 59-53 — by 2 1⁄2 games.
"The results are frustrating, yes, but I don’t think there’s any frustrating thing about it because we were never out of it, we never folded, we never gave up, we played hard," Pete Alonso said. "I have no doubt in my mind that this is going to be far behind us. In a week from now, two weeks from now, no one is going to talk about this. It’s going to be over and done with."
Manager Luis Rojas said: "This is a special group. We’re not going to stop saying that ever."
The latest loss and new low came after a pregame visit from owner Steve Cohen, who made the trip to Citizens Bank Park and met with players in the clubhouse.
Cohen long had planned to make an appearance, Rojas said, and nobody was caught off guard by the boss showing up before a day game, usually a quiet couple of hours, amid the team’s worst stretch of the year.
Alonso said Cohen "was extremely proud of us" and "said he was extremely proud of how we’ve played, the heart we show every day."
"I thought it was special for him to come here and connect with the group," Rojas said.
Cohen’s presence wasn’t public knowledge until he tweeted about it an hour before first pitch.
"They are ready," he wrote, "and in a good frame of mind for this game."
In the top of the first, the Mets wasted Nimmo’s leadoff double. In the bottom of the first, Taijuan Walker gave up solo homers by Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto.
The Mets played from there as if they had no shot.
Wheeler retired the next 22 batters and collected 11 strikeouts on the way to the third shutout and fourth complete game of his career, most of which he spent with the Mets until two offseasons ago. That’s when he joined the Phillies on a five-year, $118 million deal — a contract that the Wilpon Mets said was an overpay.
Wheeler, with a 2.42 ERA, is perhaps the leading contender for the NL Cy Young Award, a race made wide open by Jacob deGrom’s injuries.
"Zack’s a special pitcher," Rojas said. "We know him very well, and I think he’s even better now than he was when he was pitching for the Mets. It’s just part of how a pitcher grows in the game naturally."
Walker settled down to finish six innings with three runs allowed, all on homers, striking out one and walking one. Bryce Harper added an opposite-field blast in the sixth inning.
That was the first time a Mets starter lasted at least six innings since July 23, more than two weeks ago. It also was Walker’s best start since the All-Star break.
"Two of [the home runs] were opposite field in the first row, so I’m not mad about those," he said. "Obviously want to get a win, but I feel like I gave the team a chance to win today."