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Mets waste Wheeler gem as 'pen falters in 9th

Familia allows 4 to reach without recording an out following starter's 7 scoreless IP
MLB.com @JoeTrezz

NEW YORK -- A day into his new position as the Mets' interim point man and two hours prior to the start of New York's series finale against the Pirates, assistant general manager John Ricco relayed to reporters what his team's record states bluntly. The Mets plan to "be active at the Trade Deadline," Ricco said, strongly hinting that they plan to be sellers at the July 31 non-waiver benchmark.

It is not difficult to see why. The Mets dropped to 32-46 after a 5-3 decision fell through their fingers Wednesday night at Citi Field, the second-worst mark in the National League. They are fed by one of the sport's lowest-rated farm systems, and have assets to replenish it at the big league level. Outside of marquee names like Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, the Mets also have ancillary pieces that could garner impactful returns, should they choose to deal them. Zack Wheeler and Jeurys Familia qualify as members of that category.

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NEW YORK -- A day into his new position as the Mets' interim point man and two hours prior to the start of New York's series finale against the Pirates, assistant general manager John Ricco relayed to reporters what his team's record states bluntly. The Mets plan to "be active at the Trade Deadline," Ricco said, strongly hinting that they plan to be sellers at the July 31 non-waiver benchmark.

It is not difficult to see why. The Mets dropped to 32-46 after a 5-3 decision fell through their fingers Wednesday night at Citi Field, the second-worst mark in the National League. They are fed by one of the sport's lowest-rated farm systems, and have assets to replenish it at the big league level. Outside of marquee names like Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, the Mets also have ancillary pieces that could garner impactful returns, should they choose to deal them. Zack Wheeler and Jeurys Familia qualify as members of that category.

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Both pitchers played pivotal roles in New York's latest unraveling. His own ticket to Queens punched by a late-summer trade back in 2011, Wheeler tossed seven scoreless innings, which is why the Mets had a three-run lead to hand their bullpen. Familia then highlighted a parade of four relievers who, combined, needed to record six outs to secure it.

Video: PIT@NYM: Flores launches a solo homer to left

"Tonight, we used all of our high-leverage guys," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. "And we didn't get the job done."

Robert Gsellman started planting the seeds of the Mets' MLB-high 21st bullpen loss in the eighth, when he allowed a leadoff double to Starling Marte and a sac fly to Austin Meadows. Then Familia, tasked with holding a two-run lead a night after throwing 28 pitches, surrendered three consecutive singles before walking Jordy Mercer to load the bases in the ninth.That sent the Mets scrambling for Anthony Swarzak, who entered in what he called "the toughest spot in our business." David Freese smacked Swarzak's first pitch into right-center, scoring Corey Dickerson with the tying tally and Gregory Polanco with the winning run.

"With the game on the line, I didn't quite execute on that first pitch, and our team paid the price," Swarzak said.

Video: PIT@NYM: Freese lines a go-ahead 2-run single in 9th

Coupled with Felipe Vazquez's scoreless final two innings, Freese's hit was enough to nullify the steady trickle of runs the Mets scored in support of Wheeler. It also ensured none of Wheeler's six June starts would end in a win, though he pitched to a 3.25 ERA over that stretch. Now in his age-28 season and under club control through 2019, Wheeler produced his strongest outing of a month he spent outpitching his peripherals and putting himself back onto the trade market.

"I worked hard this offseason to prepare for this season," Wheeler said. "I knew if I was healthy I was going to do well. That was the goal coming in. I think it's really paying off."

On this night, he didn't need the near-triple-digit velocity he flirted with last time out to overshadow Ivan Nova. Instead he plucked resourcefully from a five-pitch mix, scattered five harmless singles while striking out seven against one walk.

"Look at what he did tonight," Callaway said. "Another outstanding outing. He put us in a situation where we had a very high probability to win."

Video: PIT@NYM: Wheeler K's Meadows to leave a pair stranded

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The nature of the Pirates' ninth-inning rally had Familia, the one-time NL saves leader, shaking his head. All three singles he allowed came with two strikes, and two of three on the ground: Elias Diaz topped an 0-2 sinker into center field, Dickerson ripped an 0-2 slider into right and the slider Polanco rolled through the infield came on a 2-2 count.

"Today I think my sinker was working the way I wanted it to work," he said. "I'm not perfect, you know."

Familia is now 14-of-19 in save chances with a 3.48 ERA in 33 appearances overall.

Video: PIT@NYM: Polanco singles home Diaz in the 9th

SOUND SMART
Familia's 18-pitch outing marked the first in his big league career -- a span of 306 appearances -- that he entered a game and did not record an out.

The Mets haven't recorded a series win since they swept the D-backs from May 18-20, a span of 11 series. They've lost nine series and split two others during that stretch.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The Mets managed just six hits on the evening, but they had one taken away in the second by a quick-reaction play by Nova. With two outs and nobody on, Devin Mesoraco lined a Nova slider back up the box -- a sure hit most of the time. But Nova flashed his reflexes to snatch it and end the inning.

Video: PIT@NYM: Nova uses quick reflexes to catch comebacker

HE SAID IT
"I'm feeling better as my outings are going on. I know it's tough to say that to a group of reporters because I am not getting results, but I truly feel that I am getting stronger and my stuff is getting better. I am heading in the right direction, but unfortunately they got me early tonight." -- Swarzak

"I haven't seen him in probably four or five years but he's exactly what I remember. He's electric, nasty cutter, obviously throws hard, good arm and he shut us out for seven innings. We just kept battling." -- Freese, on Wheeler

UP NEXT
Though Wheeler is pitching his way into becoming a trade candidate, the biggest questions about the Mets' Deadline strategy will apply to deGrom. Whether deGrom (5-3, 1.69 ERA) is on the block or not, his next showcase will come Friday, when the Mets begin a three-game set against the Marlins. There is also a chance injured slugger Yoenis Cespedes rejoins the club while it's in South Florida, though he will not be activated for the series. The Marlins promoted hard-throwing prospect Sandy Alcantara to start the opener, set for 7:10 p.m. ET from Marlins Park.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

New York Mets, Jeurys Familia, Zack Wheeler