PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Howard spoke enthusiastically and optimistically about the Phillies late Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
He said he believes they are a championship-caliber team.
"It's just about doing it," he said.
But one night after the Phillies rallied to score four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat Colorado, they could scrape only one run across home plate in Thursday's 4-1 loss to the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. The loss dropped the Phillies (23-28) into sole possession of last place in the National League East and 3-4 on an 11-game homestand. The Phillies have lost six consecutive home games to the Mets for the first time since 1971.
"So far, we haven't put it together," Carlos Ruiz said. "We have to fix that. We have to stay strong, come out tomorrow with a different mentality."
Since the Phillies beat the Nationals on May 4 to improve to 15-14, they are 8-14 and have been shut out six times.
They barely avoided a seventh.
Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler (2-5) allowed four hits, one run and struck out nine in 6 1/3 innings. He retired 14 consecutive batters at one point until Phillies right fielder Marlon Byrd hit a home run to right field in the seventh.
Wheeler allowed just five balls to reach the outfield.
Mets relievers Scott Rice, Vic Black and Jenrry Mejia struck out six batters over 2 2/3 scoreless innings for 15 strikeouts overall. Howard went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. Chase Utley struck out three times and Jimmy Rollins, who is 3-for-27 on the homestand, struck out twice.
"I would say his record doesn't indicate the kind of stuff he had tonight," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said about Wheeler. "We were just behind in the count the whole game. We couldn't pull the trigger on his fastball. He got better as the game went on with his breaking stuff. Even the relievers had pretty good stuff."
"That's a tough lineup for right-handed pitching with all those lefties they run up there, all those dangerous guys," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "To be able to go through them like he did tonight, he's got to have confidence now that he's just got to make pitches."
Phillies right-hander David Buchanan allowed three earned runs in 6 2/3 innings to pick up a quality start, but he found things a little more challenging in his second big league start.
The Mets loaded the bases with no outs in the second with help from a couple of infield hits. Lucas Duda scored from third on a double-play ball to make it 1-0. The Mets took a 3-0 lead in the fourth when Curtis Granderson worked a leadoff walk and Chris Young hit a two-run home run to left field.
"I was trying to get a double play there, trying to get him to roll over [a cutter] and it backed up on me," Buchanan said. "I made a mistake and he capitalized on it."
The Mets scored another run in the fifth, thanks to some poor defense from third baseman Cesar Hernandez.
Wheeler started the inning with a single to center, but Hernandez could not handle a ball hit to him from Juan Lagares to put runners on first and second with no outs. Daniel Murphy flied out to left for the first out before David Wright hit another ground ball to Hernandez.
Hernandez fielded the ball cleanly and had an easy decision to make. He simply needed to move a few feet to his right and tag third base for the force out or tag Wheeler directly. Instead, he inexplicably threw late to second base. Lagares was safe to load the bases.
"Either step on the bag for the out or know the runner ... come and get it," Sandberg said.
Hernandez is new to the position, playing third base for the first time this season. He played 13 innings there in Spring Training and 18 games there with Double-A Reading, where he committed eight errors.
The Phillies still consider him the best option while Cody Asche is on the disabled list. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Triple-A prospect Maikel Franco, whom Sandberg recently gave the edge to defensively over Asche, has been a possibility, although he remains with the IronPigs.
"He's getting an opportunity to gain experience," Sandberg said about Hernandez. "That's the bottom line, due to circumstances."
Buchanan then walked Granderson a second time to force home a run.
Buchanan left the ballpark disappointed, but looking good. He wore a three-piece suit to the game. He wore a suit for his big league debut Saturday against the Dodgers and earned a win, so he figured he would try for more suit magic.
It didn't work. Maybe A.J. Burnett will have better luck Friday.
"I ain't wearing a suit tomorrow," he said to Buchanan.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.