NEW YORK — With the New York Mets eyeing their first playoff berth in nine years, their two longest-tenured arms are struggling to pitch in down the stretch.
Jonathon Niese had another dreadful inning against the last-place Philadelphia Phillies, and Bobby Parnell was even worse in his return from the disabled list during a 14-8 defeat Tuesday night that ended New York's 10-game winning streak versus its division rival.
"I'm just leaving a few pitches up and making too many mistakes and not getting away with them," Niese said.
Darin Ruf homered off Niese again and had a career-high six RBIs. Leadoff batter Darnell Sweeney drove in three runs for the Phillies, who won for the second time in 15 meetings with the Mets this season.
New York set a season high for runs allowed during the highest-scoring game in the 7-year history of Citi Field. Fortunately for the Mets, they remained 6 1-2 games ahead in the NL East when second-place Washington lost 8-5 in St. Louis.
Ruf caught hold of an 0-2 curveball and launched it for a three-run shot, the second time in six days he capped a five-run third inning with a homer off Niese (8-10).
"It's not the right pitch selection. I shouldn't have thrown that," Niese said. "Anything coming in to him, he's been able to handle against me."
Last week in Philadelphia, the Mets bailed out Niese and rallied from a 5-0 deficit against Aaron Harang for a 9-5 victory in 13 innings. They made a run at doing it again Tuesday, scoring four times in the fifth to cut it to 6-4. Yoenis Cespedes cracked a two-run homer that snapped an 0-for-16 stretch and chased Harang.
But then Parnell quickly made a mess of his first outing since Aug. 16. He walked his first two batters on 10 pitches in the sixth and threw away a bunt for an error that allowed a run to score.
"I felt really good. I thought the ball was coming out well, was actually moving a lot more than it had. I just couldn't control it," Parnell said.
He crouched in the grass and hung his head before getting booed off the mound.
"Things aren't going my way right now. It's not where I want to be," said a downcast Parnell, who has struggled since his return in June from Tommy John surgery. "It's been a long two years.
"There's only a month left of the season, so I only have a month left to work and get this right. So yeah, I guess there is a little urgency. We're in a playoff race and I want to help the team as much as possible."
The former closer has a 6.52 ERA.
"I thought it would be a good lift for him at that part, early in the game like that, against that part of the order. Just didn't throw any strikes," manager Terry Collins said. "I'm really concerned about it, especially after the other day where he threw batting practice, he actually threw the ball great."
Scuffling lefty Eric O'Flaherty relieved and walked his only hitter before Sweeney followed with a two-run double off Carlos Torres. Two outs later, Ruf had a two-run single and Andres Blanco added a two-run double.
By the time they were done, the Phillies had scored eight runs — with only three hits — in their biggest inning of the year.
"It wasn't pretty, but I'd like to think that we broke the spell," interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "They've just had our number all year."
Ruf singled home a run in the fifth and has three homers in 17 at-bats against Niese, who lost to the Phillies for the first time since April 28, 2013. New York won Niese's previous eight outings against Philadelphia.
The left-hander has given up at least five earned runs in three straight starts for the first time in his career.
"He's just leaving balls on the plate," Collins said. "Stuff is still there. A couple of years ago when we saw fatigue, where the stuff really tailed off, but we don't see that."
Jeanmar Gomez (2-3) was credited with the win after allowing two runs in two innings.
Cespedes matched a career high with his 27th homer — nine since the Mets acquired him from Detroit on July 31. He tripled and scored in the seventh, but Collins pulled a slew of starters in the eighth.
New reliever Addison Reed, obtained Sunday from Arizona, worked a perfect inning in his Mets debut.
Mets closer Jeurys Familia was unavailable after appearing in four of the previous five games and throwing 45 pitches over the past two days. ... Parnell (shoulder tendinitis) was one of seven players the Mets added when rosters expanded Tuesday. RHP Vic Black was sent outright to Triple-A Las Vegas to open a 40-man roster spot.
Mets ace Matt Harvey (11-7) faces prized rookie Aaron Nola (5-1) in the series finale Wednesday night, the first matchup between two talented NL East pitchers who could be squaring off for years to come. Both right-handers were drafted No. 7 overall, Harvey out of North Carolina in 2010 and Nola from LSU last year.