One of the constants of this Mets season has been their unreliable bullpen, and night after night, it keeps costing them possible victories.
Scott Rice blew a one-run lead in the seventh and Kyle Farnsworth allowed the go-ahead run to score in the ninth -- after the first two batters in the inning had been retired -- en route to a 5-4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies Saturday night.
It was the Mets' fifth straight loss and eighth in nine games, marking another frustrating defeat in which they had opportunities to win.
"We need to go out there and find a way," said David Wright, who went 3-for-5 with a home run. "It's not like we're struggling overall. An inning here or an inning there is costing us multiple games over the last couple of weeks."
Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley went a combined 9-for-12 with four runs scored and four RBIs, turning back the clock for an old-fashioned Phillies win over the Mets.
Howard's fourth hit proved to be the winner, as he singled to centerfield on a 2-and-2 pitch from Farnsworth clocked at 95 mph to drive in Rollins.
Farnsworth was brought into a tie game in the ninth and quickly got the first two outs before walking Rollins and giving up a single to Utley. That put runners at the corners for Howard, and he came through as if it were 2006 all over again.
What made the momentum swing so typical for the Mets as of late is that they had a prime opportunity to score in the eighth but failed to do so.
Wright and Curtis Granderson began the inning with singles and Chris Young sacrificed them into scoring position.
But Mike Adams struck out rookie Eric Campbell -- after beginning the at-bat with an intentional ball -- and after Wilmer Flores walked, Bobby Abreu grounded back to the mound to end the inning. "We are where we are because we haven't hit," Terry Collins said, "and we're going to start hitting."
But this loss was more the result of their bullpen's failure, and that began with Rice's inability to protect a lead in the seventh.
The Mets had just turned a one-run deficit into a 4-3 lead in the sixth, thanks to a bloop RBI double to rightfield by Wright and a sacrifice fly by Campbell in his first major-league plate appearance. But Rice needed only three batters to give the lead back. After Rollins reached on a one-out infield single, Utley doubled off the centerfield wall to tie the score at 4.
"Eventually, we're going to start winning these games," Rice said. "As long as we stay in them, we're giving ourselves a chance." But that's no consolation at the moment, especially considering the bullpen collectively is 0-5 with a 4.39 ERA in 28 2/3 innings this month.
"It seems like we play six or seven good innings, and one or two innings come back and bite us and cost us a victory," Wright said.
Even though Dillon Gee had thrown only 81 pitches, Collins brought in Rice to replace him in the seventh because Gee wasn't as sharp as usual. Gee said he wanted to continue "but I don't make those decisions."
Pitching with a diminished fastball and struggling with his control, he was fortunate to allow only three runs and six hits in six innings, especially after giving up two in the first.
Gee brought a 16-inning scoreless streak to the mound but quickly fell behind 2-0 on a sacrifice fly by Utley and an RBI single by Domonic Brown.
The Mets tied the score at 2 on Wright's homer, which snapped a career-high home run drought at 136 at-bats. But Rollins' two-out homer in the second gave the Phillies a 3-2 lead.