Citi Field was alive and roaring as Edwin Diaz struck out his second straight hitter on Sunday to escape a goal jam in the eighth.
A round later, the morgue became open for business.
Asked to strike out five batters, Diaz got four before sagging in the ninth, sending the Mets into the all-star break with a heart-wrenching 6-5 loss to the Pirates.
If that wasn’t the Mets’ worst loss of the year, it’s certainly in the conversation.
Diaz ceded an RBI single to Wilmer Difo, after John Nogowski’s two singles moments earlier equalized the game. The Mets, who had lost a five-point lead, then went obediently late in the ninth to finish with a split in the four-game series against a disappointing cellar dweller.
The fight to secure 27 strikeouts – with Aaron Loup playing two innings as a substitute holder – was real for manager Luis Rojas, who tried to secure a scoreless second inning from Miguel Castro. But after the right-hander allowed back-to-back singles in the eighth, Diaz was the option – for a five-out save.
Diaz accompanied Rodolfo Castro, who had already scored twice, to load the bases. The right-hander then got a gift call from plate umpire Jeremie Rehak, who hit Michael Perez on a 2-2 slider that was several inches from the plate. Then Ke’Bryan Hayes, who struck to end the threat.
The Mets erupted early, using home runs from Francisco Lindor and Michael Conforto in the first inning to take a 5-0 lead over Chase De Jong. Lindor smashed a two-run homerun after Brandon Nimmo’s brace, and Conforto, after walks to Dominic Smith and Jeff McNeil, unloaded with a three-run explosion. But the Mets went quiet for the rest, totaling just four hits after the first inning.
Castro’s second home run of the game, a two-run explosion against Jeurys Familia in the sixth, brought the Pirates down to 5-4. Familia escaped the inning with the lead, but the Mets still had nine more strikeouts.
Wolf was propelled 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 southpaw had appeared in 437 games as a reliever in 10 seasons without a start.
Jerad Eickhoff, who the Mets selected in the Triple-A Syracuse ahead of the game to provide the team with a length of the relieving box, held on to the 5-0 lead in the fifth before relinquishing back-to-back homers to Castro and Michael Perez.
After Adam Frazier hit a single and Kevin Newman scored for a hit, Familia came in with two strikeouts and bounced off a wild pitch that moved runners to second and third before taking out Bryan Reynolds to end to the threat.