Mets probably don’t have another run in them
The ball exploded off Victor Caratini’s bat in the seventh inning, the same way it had about 90 minutes earlier, and there went the ballgame — and quite possibly the Mets’ season — sailing into Citi Field’s right-field porch.
Jacob deGrom, following in the footsteps of Marcus Stroman and Noah Syndergaard, couldn’t apply a tourniquet to the gash that had opened Sunday when the Braves completed a three-game sweep here. The Cubs came into town, swept another three games, and left the Mets for dead Thursday night, five behind in the race for the NL’s second wild card.
The only thing that prevents me from saying it’s over for the Mets is the funeral I gave them in July, after they had been swept four games in Philadelphia with the bullpen turning to rubbish. By the first game after the All-Star break, they were 11 games below .500 and surely dead.
Somehow the Mets emerged from that grave, and turned late-July and August into a wild ride reminiscent of their last two sprints to the postseason, in 2015 and ’16. But now they are severely wounded and needing a second miracle in the same season, which is probably too much to ask.
“The hardest part about it is we’re six games closer to the end,” manager Mickey Callaway said after the 4-1 loss. “That’s the hard part.”
For the record, 29 games remain. Seventeen of those are home games, which a week ago would have sounded like a significant factor. But after a 3-6 homestand, who is to say that playing the bulk of the remaining schedule at Citi Field is any kind of advantage?
They desperately needed Thursday’s game, and deGrom seemed like the right man to rescue them, at least bringing a shred of intrigue to this weekend in Philadelphia. But Caratini, a backup catcher playing first base with Anthony Rizzo sidelined, morphed into Freddie Freeman for the night and tormented the Mets.
First there was the deGrom slider he crushed into the porch in the second inning that produced his team’s first run. He was the only base runner the Cubs had until the seventh, when Kris Bryant and Javier Baez hit a couple of seemingly harmless grounders that went for singles. Here came Caratini again, blasting another slider into the porch.
“I just wasn’t able to go out there and put up a zero in the seventh, and it kind of cost us the game,” deGrom said after snapping a string of 17 straight starts in which he had allowed three runs or fewer.
Unlike the previous night, when Syndergaard buried the Mets in a 10-1 hole and watched the lineup rally to create tense moments for the Cubs late in the game, there wasn’t much Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso and friends could do about it. The Mets’ only base runner in those final three innings was Alonso, who had reached on a Bryant throwing error.
“Guys are on a roll until they are not on a roll,” Callaway said. “That’s how this game goes.”
When the Mets were dead last time, they won 15 of 16 games — spearheaded by deGrom, Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler all resembling aces. It certainly didn’t hurt that they had plenty of games against the Pirates, White Sox and Marlins during that stretch.
Now they are about to turn the corner into September with the Phillies and Nationals waiting. The Dodgers still have a trip to Citi Field. A team that has lost six straight games and fallen five behind for the second wild card appears dead.
Until the Mets are officially done, Callaway isn’t going to sound the alarms, whether he actually believes his words or not.
“It’s no more deflating than a normal loss,” he said. “And we’ll continue to battle, that is what we do.”
I’m not going to give the Mets two funerals in one season, but let’s just say it doesn’t look good for them. The last few weeks brought a buzz to Citi Field that probably won’t return until Opening Day 2020.
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