PHILADELPHIA -- Up the steepest mountain, the Mets pushed the boulder to the very top until, in one slip, it rolled back on them to a crushing loss. Down six runs going to the seventh, still trailing by two at the beginning of the ninth, they came all the way back to tie -- and then in a blink of an eye, the game was gone.
Pinch hitter Kevin Frandsen's lead-off, walk off, ninth-inning homer on a 1-0 pitch by Carlos Torres won it for the Phillies, 8-7, on Saturday at Citizens Bank Park, and sent the Mets to the locker room trying to rationalize all they had done to wind up with nothing.
"We did a nice job of battling back and in one pitch it was over," said David Wright, who scored the tying run in the ninth. "That's the way the game goes."
Behind by only one run, thanks to Jordany Valdespin's one-out homer off Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth, Wright followed with a smash that overpowered Michael Young behind third. John Mayberry Jr. ran down Marlon Byrd's looping fly ball at the right-field foul line for the second out, leaving it up to not just Daniel Murphy, but manager Terry Collins, too.
With Murphy down to his final strike, the manager started Wright from first.
"If the pitch was missed, I thought he would steal second," said Collins.
Murphy, who had taken a disputed strike three from Jake Diekman to end the four-run seventh, hit the ball through the spot vacated by shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Wright's eyes were as big as saucers as he saw the ball slowing in the grass in left-center.
"It was all happening right in front of me," said Wright. "I knew the ball wasn't hit overly hard, so with the defense playing no-doubles, I knew I would have a chance.
"As soon as I saw the expression on [third base coach Tim Teufel's] face, I knew we were going to take a chance."
Wright was already at third as the charging Ben Revere tried to pick up the ball cleanly and failed. Wright scored without a throw and the Mets had their fourth -- and the most unlikely -- rally from a deficit since Collins had expressed concern eight days ago about the quiet on the bench whenever his team fell behind.
This was one more hit away from being the biggest rally of them all. Papelbon had blown his third save of the week, the crowd was disquieted and the Mets had the Phillies where they wanted them, until suddenly they didn't.
"Worked out pretty good," said Wright. "For about five minutes."
Torres, the fifth Mets reliever -- following scoreless work by Josh Edgin, Scott Rice and David Aardsma -- said he tried to be just off the outer half with his 1-0 fastball to Frandsen and left the ball on the inside corner instead.
Off the bat, there was little doubt about the outcome, and after the ball landed near the back of the lower deck, no doubts in the Mets clubhouse that they had done themselves too proud in surviving a deadly day by Ryan Howard to lose in such heartbreaking fashion.
Starter Dillon Gee fell on his sword for Howard's two-homer, four-RBI day that had left the Mets in a seemingly hopeless position.
"It definitely stinks to know that if I had just been a little better, we would have won this game," said Gee, who was also touched for a homer by Young and left after five innings trailing 6-1. "This loss was totally on me.
"Even other than Howard, I had nothing today that I could command. It's a team that has had my number of late and that's just not a good combo."
Said Collins, "He knows Ryan Howard kills him [10-for-15 career with six home runs]. You almost have to pitch around him and make somebody else beat you. He hit two homers off fastballs and you shouldn't give him good fastballs for strikes."
The Phillies added their seventh run when catcher John Buck threw the ball into left field trying to catch Revere stealing third. That run seemed like only an afterthought to Howard's barrage, until Phillies starter Jonathan Pettibone's back stiffened up and he had to leave the mound before throwing a pitch in the seventh.
Buck, the first batter against reliever Michael Stutes, reached on a throwing error by Young, Stutes walked Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Omar Quintanilla gave the rally impetus with a single that scored Buck. After Stutes walked pinch hitter Josh Satin, Eric Young Jr. greeted Justin De Fratus with a double to left that scored Nieuwenhuis and Quintanilla to make it 7-4. Suddenly things were getting interesting.
Murphy, called out on strikes by home plate Bill Welke to end that threat with the bases loaded and the score 7-5, managed to curb his anger and keep himself in the game, which two innings later, meant everything. At least for five good minutes, until suddenly it meant nothing at all.
Collins was too proud of his team to bring himself to believe that it was all a waste, though.
"That was an absolutely unbelievable comeback," Collins said. "We had not been hitting, not been scoring and to come back like that? I'm proud of the way they played today. We hung in there and got big hits, just couldn't hold on. We have to take something positive out of this.
What Wright took out of it was that the mountain the Mets fearlessly climbed proved too steep in the end, regardless.
"Hopefully we play better tomorrow," Wright said. "We can't get down that much and expect to continue to come back and make these games close. We're not built to come back from 6-1."
Jay Greenberg is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.