For the Mets’ first weekend at home this season, the schedule- makers served up a piñata, a 25-pack of red velvet cupcakes for the defending National League champions to devour. The Phillies arrived winless, hapless and hopeless, a target as easy and familiar as a warm blanket on a chilly afternoon.
But after Matt Harvey struggled and the lineup showed little punch in the Mets’ 5-2 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday, it was hard to distinguish which team has been the darlings of the prognosticators and which has been universally expected to stink.
“Guys are upset when we lose,” David Wright said. “But when you look at the big picture of things, we’re still trying to get our feet under us at the beginning of the season.”
The captain offered perspective, noting that the team is only five games into the season, far from the point of any sweeping declarations. But he didn’t sugar coat what has been a poor beginning to a season colored by heightened expectations.
“When the other team outplays you for two straight days, this is going to be the outcome,” Wright said. “These last couple of days, they pitched better than us, they hit better than us, they did everything better than us.”
Harvey (0-2) delivered his second lackluster outing, allowing three runs and six hits in six innings with only three strikeouts. He kept the Mets close until the sixth, when Odubel Herrera jogged the bases after a two-run shot, his reward for turning on a hanging slider.
“Obviously, the outcome is not ideal,” said Harvey, who left trailing 3-0, the owner of a 4.63 ERA. “I made a bad pitch there and it cost us.”
Aside from Yoenis Cespedes’ two-run blast in the sixth, the Mets’ bats continued their slumber. Through five games, they are hitting a major league-low .180 as a team. And for the second straight game, they did nothing against a Phillies bullpen that began the season as an implosion by committee.
“I see us chasing a lot of pitches,” said manager Terry Collins, who wondered if the unusual breaks in the Mets’ schedule had wreaked havoc on his hitters’ timing. “But the ones we’re getting, we’re not hitting.”
Including Saturday night’s 1-0 loss, the Mets’ scoreless streak reached 15 innings. Cespedes ended that futility in the sixth, homering to left on a changeup from Jeremy Hellickson. It was the 11th pitch of the at-bat, perhaps a signal that the Mets had awakened. But the blast proved to be only a blip, a trace of a heartbeat.
“I realize there’s always panic and drama here. It’s part of what goes with the territory of being in this town,” Collins said of Cespedes, whose first homer of the season came a day after he heard a smattering of boos. “But he’s going to be fine.”
That idea, the Mets hope, also applies to the rest of the lineup. At least in their clubhouse, they projected that confidence. There were no team meetings in hushed tones, no overturned postgame spreads. Said Wright: “Nobody’s throwing the Boston Market around.”
But there weren’t many smiles, either.
The Phillies went 1-8 in Flushing a year ago, when the Mets stormed to the pennant by fattening up on the dregs of the NL East. To make another trip to the World Series, they must do so again, but they began by dropping two of three against the Phillies, who had been 0-4.
“I don’t think anybody in here should feel too worried at this moment,” Wright said. “But at the same time, let’s win some games so we don’t have to continuously keep talking about it.”