PHILADELPHIA — The Mets are now a losing ballclub. After Jon Niese pitched another fine game against the Phillies, the Mets bullpen imploded in the eighth inning, and a Mets rally fell short.

The Mets were entering what could be their last important series of the season, and for a while, it looked good.

Jon Niese got off to a rocky start in the first inning, allowing a run and walking two. He was all over the plate and was not helped out by a Josh Thole passed ball.

He settled down after that to throw six scoreless innings. For the second time this season, Niese allowed one run in seven innings in Philadelphia.

The Mets tied the game at 1-1 in the third inning. Jeff Francoeur led off with an opposite field hit to right. Jose Reyes drove him in later on with a single.

In the fourth, they took the lead. Three consecutive hits produced the go-ahead run, giving the Mets a 2-1 lead.

The Mets didn’t score another run against Joe Blanton, who entered the game having allowed three earned runs or less only once this season.

The game would remain 2-1 until the eighth when it all blew up. Niese was taken out in place of Bobby Parnell, who has had a great run as the eighth-inning man.

He hasn’t been as dominant of late, and didn’t retire a batter tonight. He faced four batters, allowed four singles, and four runs.

Newest Phillie Mike Sweeney led off with a single, his first of two in the inning. Pedro Feliciano came in and allowed an immediate bunt single with two on in a 3-2 game. He then walked in a run to let the Phillies extend their lead to 4-2.

The Phillies ended up scoring six runs in the eighth, taking a 7-2 lead to the ninth. The Mets made an attempt to get the runs back.

With two on and two outs, pinch-hitter Mike Hessman hit a three-run home run off J.C. Romero, cutting the deficit to 7-5. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel brought in closer Brad Lidge, who retired Jesus Feliciano to end the game and the Mets’ comeback hopes.

Bobby Parnell got the loss and Chad Durbin earned the win for the Phillies; Lidge got the save.

With the loss, the Mets are now under .500 at 54-55, for the first time since May 23. They are officially a losing ballclub, and this may be the final blow for them. If they don’t win the next two games against the Phillies, they will be done for 2010.

They’ll try to get back on track tomorrow night with Johan Santana on the mound, facing Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels.

*NL East standings (top three teams)
Atlanta 62-46
Philadelphia 61-48 (1 1/2)
NY Mets 54-55 (8 1/2)
*-Does not include ATL result

NL Wild Card (Leader and Mets)
San Francisco 62-47
NY Mets 54-55 (8)

Series probable pitchers:
August 7
New York: Johan Santana (2010: 8-6, 3.20 ERA) vs. Philadelphia: Cole Hamels (2010: 7-7, 3.56 ERA)
August 8
New York: R.A. Dickey (2010: 7-4, 2.36 ERA) vs. Philadelphia: Roy Halladay (2010: 13-8, 2.17 ERA)

Upcoming schedule:
New York Mets:
August 7-8 @ Philadelphia Phillies
August 10-12 vs. Colorado Rockies

Philadelphia Phillies:
August 7-8 vs. New York Mets
August 10-12 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

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