Mets manage to lose another in the most brutal way possible

It was as Sandy Alderson always imagined. And then, it was exactly as he left it.

With Zack Wheeler set to pick up his first win since April 29 — extending his recent string of strong performances with seven shutout innings — the Mets bullpen blew up in classic fashion, coughing up four ninth-inning runs in a 5-3 loss to the Pirates on Wednesday night at Citi Field.

Just three outs from winning back-to-back games for the second time since May 21, the Mets head to Miami this weekend for an NL East basement brawl with the Marlins having lost 15 of their past 17 games at home and eight of nine overall.

After Wheeler matched his season-high of seven innings for the second straight outing, the right-hander — one of Alderson’s biggest, and earliest, acquisitions upon being acquired in a trade for Carlos Beltran in July 2011 — was on track to end a streak of 10 straight starts without a win.

Reliever Robert Gsellman then allowed a run in the eighth, but Jeurys Familia still had a two-run cushion upon entering in the ninth, looking for his 15th save.

The Mets’ closer faced four batters, retiring none. He gave up three singles and one walk before exiting to boos with the bases loaded and the Mets clinging to a 3-2 lead. Anthony Swarzak then gagged on his latest opportunity at redemption, immediately allowing a two-run single to David Freese.

Though Wheeler had gone 0-5 with a 5.14 ERA at Citi Field this season, the 28-year-old was brilliant all evening, alternating dominance with craftiness.

Entering with a 3.98 ERA in five June starts — after posting a 6.43 ERA in May — Wheeler allowed two runners to reach base in the first, but kept the scoreboard clean and then retired 10 straight hitters. When he faced trouble in the fifth inning — allowing a leadoff a single to Corey Dickerson and then walking Gregory Polanco — Wheeler kept the shutout intact with three straight putouts. He finished with a strikeout of leadoff hitter Austin Meadows to strand two runners in scoring position.

Wheeler allowed just five hits and one walk while striking out seven. He threw 105 pitches (75 strikes) and dropped his ERA (4.47) to its lowest point since April.

“It’s confidence. He has confidence and he has conviction,” manager Mickey Callaway said before the game, noting the difference in Wheeler recently. “He’s attacking hitters. He’s not worrying about placing the ball somewhere because they might hit it. He’s done a great job of really adjusting his mentality.”

The majors’ worst home offense did enough to support Wheeler, but not enough to keep the 26th-ranked bullpen from being relied upon.

With two outs in the third inning, Jose Bautista gave the Mets an early lead by lacing a a 2-2 fastball off Ivan Nova to right field for an RBI double. Hot-hitting Asdrubal Cabrera then followed by reaching far across the plate and punching a 3-2 fastball to left to give the Mets a 2-0 lead.

Wilmer Flores added his sixth home run of the season on a solo shot to left in the sixth inning. It was Flores’ fifth straight game with an RBI and his second homer in the past three games. He also has reached base in 13 straight games in which he has had a plate appearance.

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