PHOENIX -- Twice in the seventh inning Thursday night at Chase Field, Mets manager Mickey Callaway marched to the mound hoping that this time, he would find the right reliever to halt his bullpen's season-long woes. Twice, Callaway walked back to the dugout, vexed, as his best-laid plans unwound around him.
At issue was the Mets' inventory, more than Callaway's decisions. With Jeurys Familia and AJ Ramos on the disabled list, and Seth Lugo in the rotation, the Mets have struggled to find consistency closing out games. They scuffled again Thursday, when Hansel Robles issued a leadoff walk, Jerry Blevins allowed both batters he faced to reach base, and Paul Sewald forced home a critical insurance run in the Mets' 6-3 loss to the D-backs -- their 11th in 12 games.
"We can't sit here and think, 'Oh, they're never going to come around,'" Callaway said of the Mets' bullpen, which ranks 24th in the Majors with a 4.56 ERA. "We go out there every day and try to do the best we can to prepare them, and they do the same thing. We'll keep on grinding away."
Although they trailed for most of the game, the Mets stayed in striking distance throughout it. They were losing by just a run when Robles walked leadoff man Ketel Marte before retiring the next two batters in the seventh, his second inning. After the D-backs announced a left-handed pinch-hitter, Callaway turned from Robles to Blevins, whose job is to retire left-handed hitters. But Blevins gave up a single to Daniel Descalso and hit Jonathan Jay with a pitch, loading the bases.
Next up was Sewald, who greeted Nick Ahmed with three consecutive balls, then fought back to make it a full count only to walk him with the bases loaded.
An inning later, Jacob Rhame served up homers to David Peralta and Jake Lamb to provide the final margin.
In dropping 11 of their last 12 games, the Mets effectively canceled out the 11-1 run that defined their start to the season. Between those two dozen-game stretches, they went 16-25.
Largely, the blame has fallen in two places: the offense, which has been baseball's worst by a wide margin over the last seven weeks, and the bullpen, which has hovered barely higher in the league rankings.
"Obviously in the beginning of the year you feel like you have a whole season to turn it around," Blevins said. "But we're trying to win every game no matter what time of year it is. I'm trying to get everyone out, no matter where it is. I don't think there's any less sense of urgency now than there was a month ago. We're just trying to get people out every day, trying to get everyone out. That doesn't change. That's never changed since Little League. It won't change when I'm retired. It will always be that."
The Mets took an early lead off D-backs starter Matt Koch on Brandon Nimmo's first-inning homer, but didn't score again until Michael Conforto added a solo shot off Koch in the sixth. Following Arizona's seventh-inning rally, Amed Rosario went deep to draw the Mets back within a run, but they would come no closer to the lead.
Mets starter Jason Vargas allowed three runs in five innings, including a Paul Goldschmidt solo shot and the first of Peralta's two homers.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Keeping his head up: One of the game's best lefty specialists for more than a decade, Blevins has allowed left-handed batters to hit him at a .351 clip this year, sapping Callaway's trust in him. The D-backs' seventh-inning rally caught fire when Blevins threw a first-pitch curveball that Descalso redirected into right field for a single. He shied away from the curve completely to Jay, plunking him with his fifth straight fastball.
This marked the seventh time in 29 outings Blevins has entered a game and been unable to retire a single batter.
"My frustration level is high right now because I didn't get an out," Blevins said. "But as far as my overall mindset, I feel really good, which is where I need to be. I feel strong. I feel confident. I feel like my arm's there."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Traveling a projected 445 feet, per Statcast™, Conforto's home run was the second-longest of his career -- five feet shy of the one he hit last July 21 off Oakland's Paul Blackburn. Conforto's blast also clocked in as the 11th-longest of any Met since Statcast™ began tracking in 2015. The Mets' longest was a 463-foot shot Yoenis Cespedes hit off St. Louis' Luke Weaver on April 24.
"I think things are in sequence better," said Conforto, who tinkered with his stance during a recent 0-for-22 funk at the plate. "And obviously, swinging at better pitches is a big part of hitting as well."
HE SAID IT
"We've definitely got to start winning ballgames. That's just the bottom line." -- Vargas
Subbing for injured teammate Noah Syndergaard, Lugo has yet to allow a run in two starts. Overall, Lugo has a 13-inning scoreless streak, which he'll put on the line when the Mets return to Chase Field for a 9:40 p.m. ET game Friday. Lugo will oppose right-hander Zack Godley.