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Mets' NLDS home-field chase stalls in Philly

PHILADELPHIA -- Hanging onto home-field advantage for the National League Division Series is proving difficult for the Mets, who dropped a 3-0 game to the Phillies on Thursday as many of their regulars looked on from the dugout. It was the Mets' third straight defeat in Philadelphia, which pulled them into a tie with the Dodgers, their NLDS opponent. The Mets do own the tiebreaker as a result of their 4-3 victory in the season series.

"Nice to sweep these guys," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "As much as they beat up on us the whole season, it feels good to sweep them."

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Starting in place of rookie Steven Matz, who has been nursing a bout of back stiffness, Sean Gilmartin pitched five strong innings for the Mets in his first career start. But he allowed a two-run homer to Darin Ruf that wound up being the difference. With David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes and plenty of others resting after Wednesday night's three-hour, 59-minute loss at Citizens Bank Park, the Mets were unable to muster a counterattack off Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff.

Video: [email protected]: Gilmartin goes five frames, allows two runs

"It's easy to say, 'Let's just gear up for the playoffs,'" Wright said. "But home-field advantage would be nice, so I think that's something that we really need to bear down these last three games and try to attain. And it would be nice to go into the playoffs with some sort of momentum."

"We brought that up here, the importance of coming in here and winning games," Mets manager Terry Collins added. "We didn't win any. But we're going to go back home and ... we'll see where we are."

Eickhoff struck out 10 Mets over seven innings to highlight the Phillies' sweep, allowing four hits and a walk. Originally scheduled for Thursday evening, the game became a matinee due to concern over poor weather moving into the area. Not that the daylight hours were pristine; many players wore long sleeves with temperatures topping out in the upper 50s and a consistent wind blowing out to left field.

Eickhoff looks legit: Eickhoff (3-3, 2.65 ERA) was considered the fourth-best prospect among the five the Phillies acquired from Texas for Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman in July. But he has been better than advertised. Eickhoff has allowed just three earned runs in his last 30 innings, and he has struck out 10 batters in each of his last two starts. More >

Video: [email protected]: Eickhoff pitches seven scoreless, fans 10

"I've got a man crush," Phillies right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. "If none of the other guys [in the Hamels trade] ever pan out, he's worth it alone."

Super subs: Forced to do some heavy lifting because of Matz's lingering back discomfort, Gilmartin and Tim Stauffer combined to throw seven innings of two-run ball. Gilmartin took a no-hitter into the fourth inning before serving up Ruf's homer. More >

Ruf earns his keep: Ruf has been pressed into everyday duty since Ryan Howard bruised his left knee on Sept. 14. He hit a two-run homer to left field in the fourth. It was Ruf's fifth homer since Sept. 15, helping him post an .896 OPS in his last 14 games. If Howard and Ruf both return next season, Ruf is expected to get more playing time, especially considering his success against left-handed pitching.

Video: [email protected]: Ruf dives to make stop and tosses to first

"I hope so," said Ruf, when asked if he has made a strong case for himself for next season. "I don't know how my play is evaluated. I just go out there and try to do the best I can every day. If that impresses people, that's great. If it doesn't, I can continue to just do my thing."

"Nobody wants to lose 100 games. These last three [victories] were really good for everybody's mental health."
-- Mackanin, whose team needs to win just one of the season's final three games to avoid its first 100-loss season since 1961.

"It's like the measles. We've got about three bad backs going here, spreading through the club."
-- Collins, on the back ailments that kept Matz, Wilmer Flores and Eric O'Flaherty sidelined on Thursday. The Mets do not consider any of those injuries serious.

The Mets' modern-day National League record streak of scoring at least three runs in road games was snapped at 33. They hadn't plated fewer than three runs away from home since a 7-2 loss in Washington on July 20.

Eickhoff and Hamels are the only two Phillies rookies since 1964 to have back-to-back double-digit strikeout games. Before that? Ray Culp in 1963.

The Mets are fighting for home-field advantage in the NLDS, but the Phillies could get the No. 1 pick in the 2016 Draft. Their sweep of the Mets has put that at risk. They are 62-97, while the Reds have lost 12 consecutive games to fall to 63-96 going into the final three games of the season.

But the Phillies hold the tiebreaker, which is their records the previous season. The Phillies finished with a worse record in 2014.

Mets: Rotation horses Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom will headline the Mets' final series of the regular season against the Nationals, beginning at 7:10 p.m. ET on Friday at Citi Field. Syndergaard is scheduled to start that game opposite Gio Gonzalez, though a nasty-looking weather forecast could alter the Mets' plans.

Phillies: The Phillies open their final series of the season Friday night at 7:05 p.m. ET against the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. Right-hander Aaron Harang (6-15, 4.86 ERA) makes his final start, weather permitting. A possible hurricane is headed up the East Coast, which could make play difficult.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. Todd Zolecki is a reporter for Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast.
Read More: Darin Ruf, Sean Gilmartin, Jerad Eickhoff