NEW YORK -- The New York Mets got another fine effort from a starting pitcher.
All it got them Thursday was a chance to play 13 innings -- and then lose.
The Milwaukee Brewers scored four times in the 13th, and the result was a 5-1 Mets loss, their eighth in the last nine games. The Mets have fallen to a season-high eight games under .500, and have fallen into a virtual tie with the Philadelphia Phillies for last place in the NL East.
More often than not, the Mets' starting pitchers have given the team a chance to win. Night after night, the Mets have found a way to lose.
They lost Thursday even though Jonathon Niese pitched into the eighth inning and allowed just one run on six hits. They lost because reliever Carlos Torres allowed seven hits in just one inning-plus, but also because their own hitters had a typically quiet night.
It's a familiar story, and especially familiar for Niese, who has developed into one of baseball's more consistent starting pitchers. Niese has yet to allow more than three runs in a game this season, but after 13 starts he's just 3-3 despite a 2.54 ERA.
No wonder he looked so angry when manager Terry Collins came to take him out of the game in the eighth inning.
Collins used 21 of the 25 players on his roster Thursday night.
All he got for it was one more loss.
Consistent Niese: The Mets starter allowed just one run in 7 2/3 innings, making this the 17th consecutive start in which Niese has allowed three runs or fewer. It's the longest such active streak in the majors, but because of the Mets' other problems, it's not reflected in Niese's win total. He has received credit for a win in just five of the 17 games (with four losses and eight no-decisions).
Niese didn't seem happy at being removed after Carlos Gomez's two-out single in the eighth (he had thrown 97 pitches), but it wasn't hard to read Collins' reasoning. Aramis Ramirez, the one Brewers hitter who had given Niese trouble (home run, hit batter, single in three plate appearances) was coming up, the game was tied 1-1, and the way the Mets are going, it was hard to see them coming back if they fell behind.
Niese has now allowed three runs or fewer in 24 of his last 25 home starts, dating back to August 2012.
Leadoff Murph: Collins put Daniel Murphy in the leadoff spot for the first time this season, and Murphy had the first Mets hit and scored the first Mets run. It wasn't exactly as good as it sounds, though, because the hit came in the fourth inning and he scored only after reaching third base on a two-base error by Brewers center-fielder Carlos Gomez.
Still, it was a run, and it tied the game at 1-1.
Getting it Wright: As Collins watched the final four innings on television Wednesday (after an ejection), he paid special attention to David Wright's swings. Collins came out of it with some suggestions for Wright, who entered play Thursday in a 1-for-26 slump.
Perhaps the suggestions helped, because Wright took a few better swings Thursday. He actually hit his fourth-inning blast too hard off the left-center field wall, getting thrown out at second base on a fine throw from Gomez. Wright also hit a fairly deep fly ball in the sixth, but he finished the night 1-for-5 with a walk to leave him 2 for his last 30.
Mejia departs: Mets closer Jenrry Mejia was forced from the game in the 11th inning with an injury, but the Mets quickly announced that he was suffering only from back stiffness.
A mini-delay: Because Niese and Lohse were so good -- and so efficient -- the Mets and Brewers played the first nine innings Thursday in just two hours, 23 minutes. Because they were equally good -- and the offenses equally weak -- the game was still tied.
That meant extra innings, and also one of the stranger (and one of the shortest) rain delays ever. The umpires called the teams off the field when it started pouring in the top of the 11th, but the grounds crew never put the tarp on the field, and the umpires never left the field.
When the rain quickly lightened, the umpires called for play to resume, after what was officially a three-minute delay.
What's next: The Mets open a three-game weekend series with the struggling San Diego Padres, who have lost five of their last six and have been shut out a major-league high 11 times, including in three of their last six games. Bartolo Colon (5-5, 4.31) gets the start for the Mets in Friday night's 7:10 p.m. opener at Citi Field, with right-hander Andrew Cashner (2-5, 2.13) starting for the Padres.