NEW YORK -- As they have kept alive their slim playoff hopes, the Philadelphia Phillies have refused to quit. New York Mets manager Terry Collins refused to answer when asked if he thought his team had done just that after another thumping, telling reporters they had to "ask them."
The Mets' march of misery continued at Citi Field on Thursday night, quickly hitting a new low against the resurgent Phillies, who finished off a three-game sweep with a 16-1 rout.
The Phillies pounded Mets starter Jeremy Hefner with six consecutive hits during an eight-run, nine-hit first inning. They bookended that with a seven-run ninth inning, including a grand slam by Ryan Howard off Josh Edgin, the rookie reliever Howard tagged for the game-winning homer in the ninth Wednesday.
Juan Pierre tied a career high with five hits and he, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley each had two hits in the first, with each player driving in two runs in the inning. Utley produced four hits overall.
The rout gave the Phillies a three-game sweep and kept them four games back of the St. Louis Cardinals for the second National League wild-card spot.
"It's one of those things you just really can't explain," said Pierre, who legged out his last hit on an infield dribbler in the ninth. "These young guys will probably play the rest of their career and never see anything like that again."
The loss kept the Mets searching for answers, or at least an end to a season that has turned increasingly grim in the second half.
It was their ninth straight loss at Citi Field, where they are just 4-24 since the All-Star break.
Asked after the game if he were embarrassed, Collins said only, "I am."
Asked if he thought his team quit, he responded, "You have to ask them."
Pressed for his opinion, Collins again said to ask his players, before adding, "I have my own opinion. And I'm not going to express it publicly."
Collins later said he found some things from his team "unacceptable" after they fell behind 8-0 in the first.
"People paid money to see us tonight," he said of the sparse makeup-game crowd that appeared to be less than 1,000 for first pitch. "Not that we wouldn't have lost 16-1. But not the way we lost.
"Again, it's all about perception. The perception is, tonight after we're down 8-0, the game is over."
Collins pointed to Pierre's hustling play at the end of a "meaningless game" and said he wanted to see his players play like that.
Several Mets said they were embarrassed by the game, including Hefner (2-7), who said it was painful to watch his team for a full nine innings after getting taken out seven batters into the game.
While saying "everybody in here is embarrassed," third baseman David Wright said he didn't "feel like we quit. I just feel like we're playing poorly, and the record indicates that."
The Phillies, who pounded out 21 hits, were limited to one run by seven Mets relievers from the second through the eighth inning, but they finished the game with another barrage in the ninth. It was punctuated by Howard's slam to left off Edgin. The lefty was scheduled to end his season with this appearance, Collins said before the game, because he pitched in 25 more games this season than last.
Phillies starter Tyler Cloyd (2-1) allowed only one run in eight innings, on a fifth-inning homer by Mike Baxter.
The rookie gave up three hits and two walks while striking out six in the longest of his five career starts. The Mets scored three or fewer runs at home for the 16th straight game.
Philadelphia assaulted Hefner, and he left after walking the seventh batter during the brutal top of the first inning that lasted 33 minutes. The Phillies' first five batters scored, and their first eight batters reached base.
The horror reel only paused for the Mets when reliever Collin McHugh induced a home-to-first double play on a comebacker from Cloyd. But Rollins followed with his second hit of the inning, a two-run single that made it 7-0, and the Phillies added two more hits, with Utley's second RBI single of the inning making it 8-0.
"It seemed like everything we hit was starting to fall," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "Things were going our way."
Hefner became the first Met since John Maine in May 2010 to start a game and exit without recording an out. He was charged with seven runs.
Baxter's homer made it 8-1.
NOTES: Mets right-hander R.A. Dickey's scheduled start for Sunday was switched to Saturday, so he could get one more home start before the end of the season, manager Terry Collins said. The 18-game winner will now also start next Thursday's home finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates, giving him a shot to reach the 20-win milestone at Citi Field. Dickey will have one final road start before the end of the year. ... New York closer Frank Francisco was unavailable for the second straight game due to tendinitis in his right elbow, Collins said. ... Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz sat out as part of the continuing plan to let him heal from a left foot injury.