Citi Field was alive and roaring as Edwin Diaz struck out his second consecutive batter Sunday to escape a bases-loaded jam in the eighth.
An inning later, the morgue became open for business.
Asked to retire five batters, Diaz got to four before wilting in the ninth, sending the Mets into the All-Star break with a gut-wrenching 6-5 loss to the Pirates.
If it wasn’t the Mets’ worst loss of the year, it’s certainly in the conversation.
Diaz surrendered a go-ahead RBI single to Wilmer Difo, after John Nogowski’s two-out single moments earlier had tied the game. The Mets, who had squandered a five-run lead, then went meekly in the bottom of the ninth to finish with a split in the four-game series against an underwhelming cellar dweller
The struggle to get 27 outs — with Aaron Loup going two innings as a fill-in starter — was real for manager Luis Rojas, who tried to get a second scoreless inning from Miguel Castro. But after the right-hander allowed consecutive singles in the eighth, Diaz was the option — for a five-out save.
Diaz walked Rodolfo Castro, who had already homered twice, to load the bases. The right-hander then got a gift call from plate umpire Jeremie Rehak, who punched out Michael Perez on a 2-2 slider that was several inches off the plate. Next was Ke’Bryan Hayes, who struck out to end the threat.
The Mets broke out early, using homers from Francisco Lindor and Michael Conforto in the first inning to take a 5-0 lead against Chase De Jong. Lindor smashed a two-run homer after Brandon Nimmo’s leadoff double, and Conforto, following walks to Dominic Smith and Jeff McNeil, unloaded with a three-run blast. But the Mets went quietly for the remainder, totaling only four hits after the first inning.
Castro’s second homer of the game, a two-run blast against Jeurys Familia in the sixth, pulled the Pirates within 5-4. Familia escaped the inning with the lead, but the Mets still had to get another nine outs.
Loup was thrust into a starting role for the first time in his major league career and gave the Mets two scoreless innings in which he allowed two hits. The left-hander had appeared in 437 games a reliever over 10 seasons without a start.
Jerad Eickhoff, whom the Mets selected from Triple-A Syracuse before the game to provide the team with length from the bullpen, kept the lead at 5-0 into the fifth before surrendering consecutive homers to Castro and Michael Perez.
After Adam Frazier singled and Kevin Newman bunted for a hit, Familia entered with two outs and bounced a wild pitch that moved runners to second and third before retiring Bryan Reynolds to end the threat.