NEW YORK -- The New York Mets' march of misery continued at Citi Field on Thursday night, quickly hitting a new low against the resurgent Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phillies pounded Mets starter Jeremy Hefner with six consecutive hits to start their 16-1 win 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.
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 spot. 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.
The game, a makeup of Tuesday's postponement, was played before a crowd so sparse the public-address announcements sounded as if they were echoing off the empty seats to start the game.
Things quickly got worse for New York, thanks largely to Juan Pierre, who tied a career high with five hits, including two in the first inning. Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley also had two hits in the first, with each of them driving in two runs apiece in the inning. Utley produced four hits overall.
The Phillies, who pounded out 21 hits, were limited to one run by seven Mets relievers in the next seven innings, 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, manager Terry 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.
The Phillies 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.
Hefner (2-7) 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.