New York Mets manager Terry Collins said, “This is a tough one. You’ve got to win these games.” And for sure, the Mets had this game get away and in a bad way Saturday night against the lowly Atlanta Braves, losing their second straight to the worst team in the National League.
The final score said 4-3. The Mets could have scored more but once again stranded seven, and the offensive woes continued going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. The home run ball that tends to produce most of the Mets runs were hit again. Yoenis Cespedes hit his 17th in the third inning and Wilmer Flores with his third in the fourth inning.
Both were solo shots that gave the Mets a 3-0 lead. After that, the Braves, a team that is in a rebuilding stage and struggling chipped away, and the way they did it handed the Mets the game, Collins said they had.
Except the Mets are finding ways to lose games and this one will hopefully be an afterthought with a quick turn around and series finale Sunday afternoon. Or, is this a Mets team having a replica of last season and still finding themselves as the first place Washington Nationals widen their lead in the National League East?
The Mets don’t want to look ahead. However, if they get swept Sunday it makes matters worse with righthander Jacob deGrom on the mound. After that, there are two games to finish the homestand with the world champion Kansas City Royals, then a stretch of games to come with the Braves again and three at the Nationals.
Next homestand, it’s 11-straight games with the Cubs, who happen to be the best team in baseball, the Marlins who are right behind them in the division, and four more with the Nationals before the All-star break.
So to put this in perspective, a game the Mets should have won got away and made matters worse, and it all transpired in the ninth inning with a chance to tie a game and maybe win it.
Flores reached base on a gift error by Erick Aybar to start the inning. James Loney would follow with a double to left field. Nobody out with the tying and winning runs on base and third base coach Tim Teufel sent Flores home. Except, Flores ,not your fastest runner and Teufel did not expect the Braves relay to go their way.
That quickly ended the Mets chance of avoiding the sweep Sunday afternoon, because they still had the tying run in scoring position but Curtis Granderson ended the agony by taking a called third strike. It also took the sting away from many of the fans who decided to leave and opt to not see the post game Andy Grammer concert.
“We can’t get thrown out in that situation,” Collins said about Flores.
No explanation was given by Teufel, but the prevailing attitude was that Flores should have never been given the green light, and more so because the Mets are having issues getting runs to cross the plate.
Or these are the struggles that the Mets are encountering, though more often, as the Nationals widen the gap between them. Or is this just a case about the Mets not being good enough at this juncture for them to make a second straight run to playing baseball deep in October?
That may be too early to answer with half a season still not there. Except, tough losses like the one Saturday night will open the door to more questions and warrant GM Sandy Alderson to pull one or two more significant moves before the end of July trading deadline. It worked last year and perhaps it will again, but that is still a long way off.
To make matters worse, starter Steven Matz was pulled after six innings because of as Collins said the lefthander has an elbow that, “got a little tight.” It’s not serious and hopefully Matz will not have to miss his next start.
Of more concern is that lack of hitting, and not doing it against another mediocre pitcher that the Braves had on the mound, Aaron Blair (0-4) who neither won or lost. Former Mets reliever Dario Alvarez got his first win as one of five relievers who shut down the Mets after Blair left the game.
And all of this would not have happened because Granderson took his time throwing the ball to the infield when Ender Inciarte doubled and went to third in the eighth inning. Granderson took his time throwing the ball to the infield on a lineout. Inciarte would later dash home to the plate with the go ahead run, a ball thrown by pitcher Addison Reed that went beyond catcher Rene Rivera.
“I’ve been timing a lot of outfielders,” Inciarte said. “When I saw him taking that nice and easy throw I was going right away,” he said about taking advantage and getting to third that would cause more misery for the Mets. Granderson said he could have made a better throw. And if he did, perhaps there would have been a different situation.
But, that was one of many things that went wrong for the Mets. Must win Sunday, maybe not, however a sweep by the Braves would make things even worse for a team that does not resemble one right now that can make it to October.
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