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Mets fall to Phillies, 6-2

Steven Matz was doing his part Saturday night, going toe-to-toe with Phillies ace Aaron Nola in an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel through the first four innings.

By the end of the fifth, the game had become a lopsided affair. The Phillies broke it open with a five-run frame and never looked back, handing the Mets a 6-2 loss at Citizens Bank Park.

“It’s really, really frustrating for me,” said Matz, who allowed six runs on five hits and three walks over 4 1/3 innings. “I’m trying to stay positive, trying to take the positives out of it. I just have to execute better, give the team a better chance to win. It’s unacceptable.”

Nola struck out eight over seven scoreless innings, though the Mets avoided being shut out for the second time this season thanks to Dominic Smith’s two-run homer in the ninth against Ramón Rosso.

It marked the second straight setback for the Mets, who will try to avoid a three-game sweep on Sunday when they face Zack Wheeler for the first time since he signed with the Phillies last winter.

Matz had struggled badly during his first two starts in August, allowing 13 earned runs over just 7 1/3 innings. Those performances prompted talk of pitch-tipping from Matz himself, something manager Luis Rojas and pitching coach Jeremy Hefner discussed in recent days.

Whatever adjustments Matz made, they seemed to be working in the early innings. Focusing on slowing down his tempo, Matz was pleased with his fastball command, throwing it in, throwing it down and away, working his changeup in to keep the Phillies off balance.

Jean Segura gave the Phillies a lead with a solo homer in the second, the only hit Matz allowed through four innings.

“I felt really good,” Matz said. “I felt like I was commanding the ball really well.”

Nola flirted with danger in the first and third, getting a big strikeout each time as he stranded three runners in scoring position. His inning-ending punchout of Smith in the third sparked a dominant run for Nola, who retired 13 Mets in a row from that point forward.