Any Mets fan with reasonable expectations for 2013 knew there would be some tough stretches of baseball this year. That doesn't make a weekend sweep at home at the hands of the Phillies—on the nicest weekend of the the year thus far—any more palatable.
Neither Jon Niese nor Cole Hamels was particularly efficient, but both pitchers made it through the first six innings of the games while allowing just one run. For Hamels, the sixth was his final inning, and he struck out eight and walked six. Unfortunately, the Mets were only able to score once against him despite his Perezian lack of command.
That run came in the first inning after Ruben Tejada doubled and moved over to third on a ground out by Daniel Murphy. David Wright roped a single to left field to bring Tejada home, and it seemed like the Mets might continue to hit Hamels a lot better than the rest of baseball has in his career. But the first inning ended shortly thereafter, and the closest thing the Mets had to a scoring threat after that came in the fourth inning with the bases loaded, two outs, and Niese at the plate. While Niese isn't a poor hitter relative to other pitchers, Hamels struck him out with ease to escape the jam.
The Phillies knotted the game at one in the fifth on a leadoff home run by Freddy Galvis because of course they did. Niese cruised through the rest of the inning and allowed just a two-out, ground-rule double to recently-activated-from-a-suspension catcher Carlos Ruiz in a scoreless sixth.
The Mets didn't do anything against Hamels in the fifth or sixth, but Niese started the seventh despite a relatively high pitch count. He set down the first two batters he faced, and Laynce Nix came up to pinch hit for Hamels. He hit a foul pop up that bounced off John Buck's glove near the Phillies' on-deck circle, a play that extended the inning and allowed the Phillies to rally. It was a tough play for Buck, but the ball should have been caught, perhaps by Wright instead of Buck given the awkward angle.
Given new life in the seventh, the Phillies took full advantage. Niese allowed a single to Nix and another to Jimmy Rollins. At 117 pitches, that was it for Niese. He finished the day with just one walk, which is very good, but he only struck out three. He's sporting a 4.68 K/9 through six starts, which isn't terribly concerning just yet but is much lower than his career norm of 7.42.
In came Scott Atchison from the Mets' magnificent bullpen, and a few pitches later, Ryan Howard had doubled in two runs to give the Phillies the lead. Chase Utley singled to drive in Howard, and the Phillies were ahead, 4-1.
The Phillies tacked on an insurance run against Brandon Lyon in the eighth on a John Mayberry double. Lyon recorded just two outs in the inning, and Scott Rice made yet another appearance to face the mighty Laynce Nix to end the frame. If Rice was available all along, it's puzzling that he came in to face a lefty in a low leverage situation while Ryan Howard and Chase Utley had already delivered the knockout punch against the right-handed Atchison.
Bobby Parnell got some work in with a one-two-three ninth inning, but it didn't much matter at that point.
The Mets have now lost four games in a row. Jordany Valdespin's walkoff grand slam feels like it happened a month ago. They'll look to turn things around tomorrow night in Miami with Matt Harvey toeing the rubber opposite Jose Fernandez at 7:10 pm.
SB Nation Coverage
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Jon Niese, +19.9% WPA
Big losers: Scott Atchison, -40.3% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Ruben Tejada's leadoff double in the first, +6.2% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Ryan Howard's go-ahead two-run double in the seventh, -33.8% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -22.6% WPA
Total batter WPA: -27.4% WPA
GWRBI!: Ryan Howard