Mets land back in last place, with a thud

NEW YORK -- They thought they'd escaped this. They believed they were better than this.

But by the end of another long, unsatisfying night Saturday, there the New York Mets were, a last-place team.

The losing streak had reached five with a third consecutive one-run defeat, this one 5-4 to the Philadelphia Phillies on Ryan Howard's ninth-inning single off Kyle Farnsworth.

Even three hits from David Wright weren't enough. Even Wright's first home run since Opening Day wasn't enough. Even a tie-breaking sacrifice fly in Eric Campbell's first big-league plate appearance wasn't enough.

And at the end, it was almost as if the game was teasing the Mets, when Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon issued a two-out walk to Daniel Murphy and allowed Murphy to steal second base. Wright was at the plate, and perhaps the Mets' best and hottest hitter could tie the game for a third time.

Forget it. Not for the Mets -- not this week, not during this skid.

Wright swung at a 1-1 Papelbon slider and popped it up, and as it hung in the air he could only watch and wait. And when first baseman John Mayberry Jr. caught it, Wright could only lament another game that got away.

"Just frustrated," he said later. "Losing sucks. You just miss a pitch to tie a game up, that sucks."

Wright was hardly to blame for this one. The bullpen was more at fault, with two late-inning runs allowed (the other by Scott Rice) after Campbell had given the Mets a 4-3 lead in the sixth.

The slumping offense can take some blame, too, because when it was 4-4 in the eighth, the Mets had two runners on base with nobody out and didn't score.

Manager Terry Collins didn't have enough confidence to let Chris Young (hitless in his last 14 at-bats) swing away, so Young bunted the runners over. The Phillies were going to intentionally walk Campbell (and Mike Adams even threw an intentional ball one), but then Chase Utley saw Bobby Abreu step to the top step of the dugout as a possible pinch hitter and suggested Adams might want to go after Campbell instead.

Campbell struck out, and after Adams walked Wilmer Flores (unintentionally), Abreu appeared and bounced softly back to the mound.

Some were questioning Collins for removing starter Dillon Gee after six innings and just 81 pitches -- Gee himself said he wanted to continue -- but the reasoning behind Collins' decision was sound. This wasn't Gee at his best, the lefty-heavy top of the Phillies order had hit him hard, and they were about to come up for the fourth time.

It's all magnified by the lack of big innings. The Mets have little margin for error, and these close games are all going against them.

"You look at what's happened the last 10 days, we haven't been able to execute on the offensive side the way we want," Collins said. "We are where we are because we haven't hit.

"We'll start hitting."

But will they?

Wright has, with an eight-game hitting streak in which he has hit .429. Other than Wright, there's just not a lot else going right.

"We're just not getting it done," Wright said.

They began the season 0-3, and spent the first week in last place. Then the Mets went through that stretch where they played better, when it seemed that their solid starting pitching could carry them to respectability, if not to the perhaps unrealistic goal of a 90-win season.

They weren't a last-place team, anyway.

Now they are, a game behind a Phillies team that has the look of being a $178 million non-contender.

The Mets aren't spending nearly that much, but it doesn't make last place feel any better.