Mets continue playoff push versus Phillies

NEW YORK -- Rare is it for a team battling for a playoff berth to feel it gained momentum from a late-season loss. But most teams don't lose like the New York Mets did Saturday night.

The Mets look to retain at least a share of the lead in the National League wild-card race Sunday afternoon when they host the Philadelphia Phillies in the regular-season home finale at Citi Field.

The Mets (82-73) and San Francisco Giants enter Sunday tied for the top NL wild card. They are a half-game ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals (81-73).

New York won the first two contests of the four-game series against the Phillies on Thursday and Friday before falling 10-8 on Saturday. But the Mets felt pretty good about themselves after nearly coming back from a 10-0 deficit to win. Lucas Duda and Travis d'Arnaud stepped to the plate as the potential winning run in the ninth inning before popping out and grounding out, respectively.

A comeback would have been the biggest in Mets history, exceeding an eight-run comeback in an 11-8 victory over the Houston Astros on Sept. 2, 1972.

"Tremendous comeback," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I'm real proud of them."

Collins was also feeling pretty good knowing the Mets should no longer have to rely on fill-in starters for their ravaged rotation. Ace right-hander Noah Syndergaard, who was scratched Friday from his scheduled start Saturday because of strep throat, had a successful bullpen session Saturday and starts Tuesday. Syndergaard and the Mets' other non-rookie starter, 43-year-old Bartolo Colon, could both pitch twice next week if necessary.

"We've got seven left," Collins said. "You kind of like the pitching going forward right now."

One of those pitchers the Mets will rely on is rookie right-hander Robert Gsellman, who is scheduled to make his sixth career start Sunday. Gsellman, who moved into the rotation in place of injured left-hander Jonathon Niese in August, is 1-2 with a 3.54 ERA as a starter and 2-2 with a 3.13 ERA overall. He made his first major league start against the Phillies on Aug. 28 and took the loss after allowing four runs over six innings in a 5-1 setback.

The Phillies also send a rookie to the mound as right-hander Jake Thompson tries to provide the steady pitching Philadelphia has lacked during an eventful series in which it has been outscored 27-23.

"Offense is coming alive," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "They've been swinging the bats well all week."

The first three starters for the Phillies -- left-hander Adam Morgan and right-handers Jeremy Hellickson and Alec Asher -- have combined to give up 13 runs (nine earned) in 14 1/3 innings while failing to pitch beyond the fifth inning. Philadelphia relievers have not been much better (10 runs, nine earned, in 14 innings).

"Bullpen's been sputtering," Mackanin said.

Thompson won his last two starts, a stretch in which he's allowed five runs over 11 innings. He earned the win Tuesday after giving up three runs over five innings in the Phillies' 7-6 victory over the Chicago Cubs. Thompson has never faced the Mets.