NEW YORK - It was here, 166 days earlier, where Jeanmar Gomez's most unexpected spell as Phillies closer began. Pete Mackanin inserted Gomez because he had no other options. The Venezuelan righthander reached 20 saves before June ended. He did it without flair, without a heavy metal entrance song, and without an overpowering fastball.
His magic faded in Queens, with another blown save and a stadium full of nervous fans chanting, "Jose! Jose Jose Jose!" And, two innings later, his possible replacement blew it again. Mets shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera crushed an Edubray Ramos slider to deep right for the game-winning, three-run homer in a 9-8 Mets win that defied all logic.
The 11-inning game took 4 hours, 23 minutes. The two teams combined to use 49 players. Mackanin labeled it "probably the toughest loss of the season."
With nine games left in the season, Mackanin may have no choice but to use someone else as closer. The manager said he would think about it overnight, with a possible change to come Friday.
"We'll make some kind of decision either way," Mackanin said. "I can't say I'm pleased with his performance, but we'll talk about it tomorrow."
Gomez has an 11.20 ERA in his last 17 appearances. He survived on contact for much of the season. That contact now is harder and not at Phillies fielders.
"It's a big surprise," Gomez said. "The last two weeks have been really tough for me. I don't know why it's happened the last two weeks. Today was another bad day, probably one of the worst days I've had."
The Phillies handed Gomez a 6-4 lead in the ninth after Maikel Franco's dramatic three-run homer in the eighth stabbed the Mets. The young third baseman clobbered an Addison Reed fastball into the Phillies bullpen. The moment energized Franco, who had not homered since Aug. 18. Reed, a shutdown reliever, had not surrendered a homer since June 23, a span of 153 batters.
But Gomez squandered it. He allowed a single to pinch-hitter Brandon Nimmo, a rookie, to start the ninth. He struck out Jay Bruce for the first out. Then, Jose Reyes destroyed a hanging change-up over the 370-foot mark in right field.
Mackanin could turn to Ramos, whose poise had impressed the coaching staff until he imploded in his first save chance Thursday. He could try Hector Neris, who has been dominant all season as a setup man. The Phillies could look at rookie Joely Rodriguez or Michael Mariot, who allowed a run Thursday.
These games in a charged atmosphere serve as a test for the young Phillies. They will face the Mets six more times in the season's final nine games. New York entered the day in a three-way tie with San Francisco and St. Louis for the two NL wild-card slots.
"It keeps everyone more focused because the team you are playing is going to be focused," Mackanin said. "I can't say that my goal was to be a spoiler."
The goal, like it was before, is to learn about the roster's younger players. Adam Morgan struck out eight and was one pitch from surviving five innings with a lead. Luis Garcia, a hard-throwing reliever, crumpled on the mound when a liner struck his left foot. But he recovered to toss a 1-2-3 inning. Later, Rodriguez breezed through the eighth.
Cesar Hernandez reached base five times and scored three runs. Odubel Herrera scampered for a key infield hit ahead of Franco's home run. Cameron Rupp went back-to-back on homers with Ryan Howard to produce two runs in the fifth inning.
Howard appeared in a game for the first time since last Friday, and he provided Mets fans a reason to boo. He crushed a first-pitch Seth Lugo fastball to deep center for his 23rd home run of the season and 380th of his career.
Howard's time with the Phillies is reduced to days. The Phillies plan to savor what remains.
"Howie is going to play a lot," Mackanin said. "I'll play him as much as I can."