Imploding Mets are hurtin' for certain

PHILADELPHIA -- There was no Ryan Howard in the lineup on Friday night for the Philadelphia Phillies. No Chase Utley. No Shane Victorino.

Yet New York Mets general manager Omar Minaya suggested there was no parallel between the injuries his decimated team suffered during a 92-loss season in 2009 and the injuries the Phillies are now enduring.

Perhaps he's correct.

One obvious difference: The Phillies are overcoming their injury woes.

Meanwhile, the Mets have their principal owner giving a vote of confidence to the GM of a free-falling team.

Philadelphia scored six eighth-inning runs Friday night to defeat the Mets 7-5 at Citizens Bank Park. The Mets slipped under .500 for the first time since May 23 and are 6-15 since the All-Star break. They are 1-3 on a self-anointed make-or-break trip to Atlanta and Philadelphia.

In their remaining games before returning home to face the Colorado Rockies, the Mets face the formidable duo of Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay in Philadelphia.

"It's a tough loss," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "But I thought we played better baseball. That means we got good pitching."

After seven solid innings from Jon Niese, the rookie left-hander departed with his pitch count at 111. Relievers Bobby Parnell and Pedro Feliciano then imploded.

"I felt good," Niese said. "Obviously, they're always looking out for my career. I think pitch count is important."

Said Manuel: "Jonathon Niese pitched extremely well. He had good stuff, good life on all of his pitches. There was a little struggle there early -- first inning. After that, he was a very good pitcher."

So why remove him?

"What's been happening to him lately, we felt it was good to get him out of there," said Manuel, alluding to the seven runs allowed by Niese against the Arizona Diamondbacks in his most recent start. "That was pretty much his limit."

For the second time in a week, Parnell inherited a 2-1 lead, allowed four straight batters to reach and was pulled without recording an out. Parnell combined with the left-hander Feliciano to allow the first seven runners in the eighth inning to reach.

Parnell also allowed four runners to reach -- on three hits and a walk -- last Saturday at Citi Field after opening the seventh inning with a one-run lead against the Diamondbacks.

"I had an off-day, and I've got to come out here tomorrow and get them again," Parnell said. "I hope the phone rings in the eighth inning and they ask for me in a one-run ballgame."

Said Manuel: "I thought Parnell threw the ball with good velocity. They put some good swings on him."

Mike Hessman's three-run homer with two out in the ninth off J.C. Romero pulled the Mets within two runs. If Art Howe were still managing, he'd note about his team: "They battled."

Yet that's not good enough. With Atlanta's 11-inning loss, the Mets remained eight games out of first place. The flip side? It was the San Francisco Giants who beat Atlanta, and the Mets fell 8½ games behind them in the wild-card race.

"We want to win these games," Parnell said. "We've got a really good bullpen. The next two games are going to be critical, and this isn't going to happen again. We're going to go out there and execute tomorrow and get them tomorrow.

"It's a big game to lose, but it's a series. And we'll get these next two."

Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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