By CHARLES O’BRIEN Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) _ Mets manager Terry Collins thought about Jim Leyland when New York was trailing by 10 runs Saturday night.
Collins recalled the veteran manager telling him that, in a blowout, he should remove his starters in favor of bench players. After all, the backups are the ones with something to play for.
Collins heeded the advice, and it almost paid historic dividends.
After taking out Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Reyes in the top of the fifth inning, the Mets finished just short of what would have been the largest comeback victory in team history, losing 10-8 to the Philadelphia Phillies.
The failed rally left New York tied with San Francisco for the two NL wild cards. St. Louis is a half-game back.
Gavin Cecchini got his first two major league hits and drove in two as a replacement for the Mets, who brought the tying run to the plate in the eighth and the winning run in the ninth, but could not overcome the early onslaught. T.J. Rivera also had two RBIs.
“I absolutely tip my hat to the job those young kids did tonight,” Collins said. “They had energy.”
“I think I almost tripped going around first base,” Cecchini said of his first major league. “It’s something you always dream of as a kid.”
Philadelphia’s Maikel Franco and Darin Ruf each hit a long home run for the second consecutive night as Philadelphia built a 10-0 lead by the fourth.
Pressed into a spot start because Noah Syndergaard was battling strep throat, Sean Gilmartin (0-1) made more work for New York’s exhausted bullpen. Philadelphia sent 11 to the plate in the first, and the Mets had to use six relievers after calling on 16 pitchers during the first two games of the series.
After the game, Collins said Syndergaard would start Tuesday in Miami.
Gilmartin fell behind 3-0 after 12 pitches on Franco’s 25th homer, a 422-foot blast, and left having allowed five runs in two-thirds of an inning.
Jay Bruce hit his first career pinch-hit home run with one out in the ninth to pull the Mets to within two. Eric Campbell and Michael Conforto then drew walks before Michael Mariot got his second save by retiring Lucas Duda on a popup and Travis d’Arnaud on a comebacker.
The Mets got their biggest comeback victory when they overcame an eight-run deficit to win 11-8 at Houston on Sept. 2, 1972.
“That Mets team is relentless,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “They just keep coming at you.”
The Mets coaching staff thought New York was going to win with a game-ending home run for the second time in three nights.
“Dickie Scott said Lucas Duda’s going to hit a home run to win the game when we started the ninth inning,” Collins said. “Didn’t, but he was certainly in the situation to do that.”
The Mets started the comeback with four unearned runs in the fifth off Phillies starter Alec Asher (1-1) and added two more in the sixth. In the eighth, Hector Neris allowed Cecchini’s RBI double, but then got Rivera to fly out to center and Brandon Nimmo to pop up to end the threat.
Mets: INF Wilmer Flores (wrist) is still unable to hit. Collins said Flores wasn’t close to hitting.
Phillies: With the left-handed Gilmartin on the mound, Ryan Howard was held out of the lineup.
PINCH-HITTING AND PRODUCING
Bruce’s blast was New York’s 13th pinch-hit home run this year, the most in team history, breaking a tie with the 1983 Mets.
Mets: RHP Robert Gsellman (2-2, 3.13 ERA) makes his sixth major league start in the final home game for the Mets. The lanky rookie struggled against the Phillies in his first start, allowing four earned runs in six innings, but has only allowed seven earned runs over his next 22 innings (2.86 ERA).
Phillies: RHP Jake Thompson (3-5, 5.62 ERA) pitches Philadelphia’s final road game of the season. Although it was expected that he would be shut down along with Vince Velasquez, Thompson is instead looking for his third straight win.
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