PHILADELPHIA — David Peterson got jumped on from the start, but that was only the most obvious reason the Mets departed Wednesday with a series loss to the Phillies.
A third straight uninspiring bullpen performance didn’t help, and then there was rally killer Michael Conforto to sink the lineup.
In their first true clunker of 2021, the Mets lost 8-2 at Citizens Bank Park, dampening the enthusiasm from a night earlier, when their starting pitching and lineup clicked to secure the team’s first win under Steve Cohen’s new ownership.
The Mets (1-2) will head into Thursday’s home opener against the Marlins at Citi Field in need of a strong rebound from starting pitching and clutch hits.
On Wednesday, they finished 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Conforto went hitless in five at-bats and left nine runners on base. Over the three games he left 16 runners on base. The Mets are 6-for-29 (.207) with runners in scoring position in the three-game series.
“It’s a huge part of this game,” Conforto said, referring to hitting with runners in scoring position. “It’s how you win games. It’s how you stay in games.”
The Mets were still hanging around in the fifth, when reliever Jacob Barnes entered and threw his first pitch. That pitch, to J.T. Realmuto, disappeared behind the right-field fence for a three-run homer, extending the Phillies’ lead to 7-1.
Over four-plus innings, Peterson surrendered six earned runs on seven hits with five strikeouts and two walks. The left-hander’s worst start last season as a rookie came against the Phillies. In that game, on Sept. 7, he allowed five earned runs over two innings.
Peterson barely survived the first inning Wednesday, in which he faced eight batters and threw 38 pitches. It was somewhat reminiscent of a game Steven Matz pitched in Philadelphia for the Mets in 2019. The lefty allowed eight runs in the first inning and was removed without recording an out.
Rhys Hoskins homered on a full-count fastball to get the Phillies’ big inning started against Peterson. Bryce Harper then smashed a double and Realmuto walked before Alec Bohm homered, pushing the Mets into a 4-0 hole.
“I have some work to do this week,” Peterson said, noting an early mechanical flaw.
With Joey Lucchesi warming in the bullpen, Peterson walked Jean Segura with two outs in the first before retiring Adam Haseley.
Peterson settled into a groove over the next three innings. Hoskins doubled in the second, but was left stranded. In the third, Didi Gregorius’ two-out single amounted to nothing. And in the fourth, Andrew McCutchen hit into an inning-ending double play after Matt Joyce was hit by a pitch.
“The first inning was not what I wanted, obviously,” Peterson said. “But it was good to fix some things and have a solid outing after that.”
But Peterson never recorded an out in the fifth, allowing another double to Hoskins before Harper bunted for a single, prompting manager Luis Rojas to summon Barnes.
“I thought we had plenty of chances with the job [Peterson] did on the mound to come back,” Rojas said.
Dellin Betances’ season debut came in the sixth, when the right-hander hit a batter with a pitch and walked another, before allowing a run on Harper’s RBI groundout. Betances, whose velocity was an issue all spring, topped out at 93 mph on the radar gun.
Jonathan Villar tripled in the seventh inning and scored on a wild pitch to slice the Mets’ deficit to 8-2.
The lefty Lucchesi entered in the seventh for his Mets debut and pitched two scoreless innings. As the fifth member of the Mets rotation, Lucchesi won’t start until sometime next week.
“I don’t think too many of us are worried here about what happened over this first series,” Conforto said. “But we are well aware that we didn’t play very well, top to bottom.”