NEW YORK- With the Mets trying to keep their extremely thin playoff hopes alive, they didn't help their cause by coming up short again to lose their fourth game in a row on Friday night.
It was the same old song and dance for the Mets this evening, who fell to the Phillies - a team they are chasing in the postseason race - in the series opener at Citi Field by a score of 4-3.
The Mets nearly overcame a three-run deficit in the eighth-inning, scoring two-runs off Archie Bradley, but Ian Kennedy came on to strike out James McCann to strand the tying run in scoring position.
Instead, the Mets have now lost 15 of their last 17 one-run contests.
Although the Mets got table setter Brandon Nimmo back from the IL tonight, and out-hit the Phillies 8-7, they only had three-runs to show for it.
Overall, they went 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position, and left eight men on base.
The Mets are now 72-76 on the season and six back of the second Wild card. While the Braves lost, which keeps the Amazins' at 5.5 back in the NL East, this deficit pretty much closes the book on their chances of playing in October with just 14 games remaining in the regular season.
Earlier this afternoon, the Mets claimed they hadn't discussed the possibility of shutting down starting pitcher Taijuan Walker for the season if they fall completely out of the race, but they are clearly limiting his innings, as he only threw 88-pitches through five frames tonight.
Walker allowed two-runs on three hits, including a solo home run, while striking out three batters. And he did not receive much run support, which handed him his 10th loss of the season.
Following the game, Walker was not pleased with the coaching staff's decision to lift him after five.
"I don't make the call, and it is what it is.....but I really feel like they should've gave me a chance to go back out there for the sixth," said Walker. "I know my second half hasn't been great. But in that moment I felt I should've gone back out there for the sixth."
According to Walker, there was no discussion with the coaching staff about going further in the game. This comes after manager Luis Rojas said on Tuesday night that he makes these pitching decisions based on the player's response.
As Rojas explained afterwards, with Walker nearing 90-pitches, they wanted to bring in lefty Aaron Loup in the sixth to face the top of the Phillies' order, which featured left-handed batters Odubel Herrera and Bryce Harper.
"A guy like Walker always wants to stay in there to compete, always," said Rojas. "He is super competitive and takes it personal."
The Mets did not have their first hit against old friend Zack Wheeler until the fourth inning, where they got a run off of him to tie the game.
The Phillies jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on Freddy Galvis' sac-fly in the top of the second.
But two innings later, the Mets answered back against Wheeler on Javier Báez's RBI single. However, with the bases loaded and one out, they were unable to do any additional damage.
And in the top of the fifth, Brad Miller took Walker deep to put the Phillies back in front at 2-1.
Following Walker's exit, Aaron Loup was the first reliever out of the Mets' pen and worked an 11-pitch scoreless sixth to lower his ERA on the season to 1.03.
The Mets have never had a pitcher throw at least 50 innings and produce an ERA below 1.10 before, but with Loup and Jacob deGrom (1.08), they have the chance to finish the season with two hurlers accomplishing this feat.
After Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso recorded back-to-back singles off Wheeler to start the bottom of the sixth, the right-hander's night was over.
Wheeler went five innings, allowing one-run on three hits, while striking out six and hitting two batters. He did not have his usual dominant outing against his former team, which we've become accustomed to seeing since he departed from Queens after 2019, but he still left with the lead.
This brought in Mets' nemesis Jose Alvarado, who induced a ground ball double play from Michael Conforto on the first pitch. He then struck out J.D. Davis, who pinch-hit for Jeff McNeil, as the Mets wasted another prime scoring chance.
In the top of the seventh, Seth Lugo found himself in a bases loaded one-out jam, and allowed a sac-fly, which let the Phillies extend their lead to 3-1.
Although Lugo appeared to have picked Didi Gregorius off first base earlier in the inning, the call was not overturned upon the replay review, and Gregorius eventually came home to score a big insurance run for his team.
In the middle of this scoring inning, Phillies manager Joe Girardi got ejected for arguing balls-and-strikes with the third base umpire.
Shortly thereafter, Brad Hand got the Mets into a first-and-third mess with nobody out in the top of the eighth. However, he was able to get a fly ball off the bat of Bryce Harper, which was too shallow to score a run.
Jeurys Familia then came on to try to finish the job, but after striking out J.T. Realmuto, Gregorius came through with a two-out RBI single to put the Phillies up 4-1.
And this proved to be the difference, as the Mets got two-runs back in the bottom of the eighth off of Archie Bradley on three doubles, but were unable to knock in the tying run.
After the Cardinals swept the Mets in a three-game set earlier in the week, New York still believed they had a chance. But tonight's latest performance showed us that they only remain alive mathematically.
On the field, their fate appears to have already been stamped.