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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Is Mets' Miguel Castro the new Edwin Diaz?

Mets relief pitcher Miguel Castro reacts after the

Mets relief pitcher Miguel Castro reacts after the Phillies' Jean Segura hits a two-run home run during the 10th inning of an MLB game at Citi Field on Monday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Well, it wasn’t Edwin Diaz.

Small consolation, I know. But Diaz did his job Monday with a perfect ninth inning, a task that he hasn’t completed nearly enough since last year’s arrival in Flushing.

Unfortunately for the Mets, there was a 10th inning still to play. And it was during that time that the newly acquired Miguel Castro pitched like Diaz tends to at his worst. Castro got to within an out of delivering the Mets a chance to finish off an inspired comeback, down 6-0 to old pal Zack Wheeler, and instead teed up a two-run homer to Jean Segura that sealed a gut-punch of a 9-8 loss to the Phillies.

The Mets talked afterward about the positives, and rallying for seven unanswered runs, and rebounding over these next 18 games. But if they do fall short of the playoffs, we’ll think back to Monday’s brutal defeat, and how it was Castro — a deadline piece meant to prevent such calamities — that imploded at the most costly moment.

“Its a tough loss,” manager Luis Rojas said. “All the losses are tough in a season like this. They count a little more.”

By now, we’re familiar with the math. But it gets a lot harder to shrug these off once you reach Labor Day, especially against the teams you’re trying to chase down, as the Phillies are. These Ls leave a mark, and let’s face it: after the Mets stormed back to take a 7-6 lead on Jeff McNeil’s three-run, second-deck bomb in the seventh inning, they had to think they broke the Phillies.

How could they not? After David Peterson was non-competitive for two innings in his return to the rotation — throwing 70 pitches, precious few of them strikes, to stick the Mets in a 6-0 hole — Erasmo Ramirez retired 14 of 16 to allow for the Mets’ comeback. That’s the same Erasmo Ramirez who hadn’t pitched in a major-league game since April 2019 and he was the first Mets reliever to pitch five or more innings and allow one or fewer runs since Shaun Marcum in 2013.

That’s a sign maybe fate is lining up for you on this unofficial last day of summer. Another was Andres Gimenez looking like Rey Ordonez Jr. with at least four defensive gems by our count, and another sure grab of J.T. Realmuto’s high chopper with the infield in to cut down the go-ahead run off third in the 10th inning.

Thanks to Ramirez, and McNeil’s blast, all the Mets had to do was get six more outs, with the bullpen primed and ready. Of course it’s never that simple. Jeurys Familia surrendered the two-out tying single to Alec Bohm, and the Mets needed another Phillies baserunning blunder to get them off the hook.

But this entire, aggravating loss circled back to Castro. For once, the narrative wasn’t about Wheeler beating the team too cheap to sign him. The Mets made him a footnote in his first start back at Citi Field. His contribution was a quality start, soon erased by relievers JoJo Romero and David Phelps.

We also didn’t have Diaz to kick around, either. Just the opposite. The only gripe this time was not keeping him around for another inning after Diaz needed only 12 pitches for the ninth. Rojas said that was a no-no after Diaz went two innings in Thursday’s win over the Yankees — yes, Thursday, as in four days earlier.

Apparently that was too much physical stress for Diaz. And too much faith in Castro, who entered Monday with a 6.00 ERA for his three previous appearances with the Mets. Like we mentioned, Castro did get awfully close to escaping, and the 1-and-1 sinker to Segura registered 98 mph.

But location is everything. Castro said he wanted the pitch low and away. Instead it stayed up, and cut back across the plate for Segura, who belted a 423-foot laser beam off the back wall of the M&M patio in leftfield.

“Physically I feel good,” Castro said through an interpreter. “What happened today I’ll try to forget about and keep working.”

Castro added that his mechanics have been a little off since joining the Mets. If so, he’s going to need those fixed in a hurry. While the Mets’ offense is finally rolling, they can’t be kicking away games like this. Not anymore.

“There were a lot of good things,” McNeil said. “We just have to take care of business tomorrow and the rest of the season.”

But an A for effort doesn’t count in the standings. The Mets have got to finish these now that their margin for error is all but evaporated. Otherwise, they’re just another flawed team home watching October from the outside.

The Mets were having a blast Monday — right up until Segura’s rocket. Now that we’re beyond Labor Day, fun has an expiration date..

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