Manager Luis Rojas was aware of what was ahead on the schedule after the Mets took care of business two weeks ago with a doubleheader sweep over the Nationals. Waiting was the consecutive gauntlet of 13-games with the Dodgers and Giants
The Mets as a team were optimistic they could handle the awkward schedule and were holding first place as the Braves started their surge. We all were aware the elite Dodgers and Giants would be more than a test.
First place came and went. The Mets completed a stretch and exposed the obvious. They can’t compete with elite teams.
There are too many flaws and inconsistent aspects of their game. Despite many one run games, seven that could be had, going 2-11 during the span is enough to say the Mets were finally exposed.
And now the next 15 consecutive games is another gauntlet with the Nationals and Marlins, two teams at the bottom of their division. The Mets could be exposed more if they don’t take 11-games during what should be an easy stretch.
Basically, playing .500 ball at this juncture will not do it. And playoff chances are minimal, at the bottom of the charts for a team that appeared to be postseason bound prior to this completed gauntlet.
Then again, these past 13-games widened the gap more with the Braves. I don’t envision another 1969 Miracle, or for that matter any of the other September stretch runs of previous Mets comeback teams.
Thursday night at Citi Field, the Giants put an end to the gauntlet and got the 3-2 win.
So Friday night, the Met losers in 18 of their last 24 games, a season-high 7-½ games out of first place in the NL East, meet the 54-72 Nationals, a team with a different look that cleaned house at the trade deadline.
If there is any hope to get back in this race the next 15 games with the Nationals and Marlins will be the deciding factor. This conclusion, though, to Rojaswas a tough stretch but his team battled. His team was resilient and to Rojas they had better approaches with their at bats.
“ A lot more conviction swinging out there,” Rojas said prior to the final game of this stretch. “ Our guys have progressed. I have seen better swings. The homers, the rallies lead to runs.”
It wasn’t the situation again Thursday night. And it hasn’t been good at bats before and after the gauntlet. One thing for sure, the Mets struggle is finding to make adjustments not seen with the lineup even as the injured got back on the field.
One longtime scout said to me Thursday, “Look at it this way the schedule says this team is now in the right stretch of games but chasing pitches out of the strike zone too much and I mean this could be mental but their lineup is completely lost.”
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know how awful this stretch exposed those definicinies in the lineup and their lack to execute in situations and score runs. On the other hand, the Giants with the best record in baseball, 83-44, took their hacks and are 72-5 after eight-innings and that separates the elite from the rest of the league.
“They took hacks, something we been lacking,” Rojas said. “Been a tough stretch because of the result but we battled. Thought we would win more games than this. Could have gone the other way too. It is disappointing.”
In the end, as Rojas said, the Mets did not get the results. The Giants swept three games in New York as did the Dodgers. The Mets managed to get a win in San Francisco and had a dominant 7-2 win at Dodger Stadium that led to some optimism.
Thursday night, Carlos Carrasco had his best outing and kept the Giants in check allowing two runs over seven innings. He retired seven consecutive Giants after allowing a first inning two-run home run to Kris Bryant. Carrasco had allowed 13 runs in his previous three starts.
Pete Alonso, hit his team-leading 29th home run, a two-run shot off the Citi Field restaurant windows beyond the left field foul pole and extended his hitting streak to 10 games.
But Alonso, Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis Dominick Smith, they continue to chase pitches out of the strike zone. It’s not about swinging for the fences.
But the Mets are 25-24 in one-run games. After the stretch, Alonso remaied optimistic. He said the Mets will still be playing meaningful baseball in the final five weeks of the season. He said they were close to winning many of the games that did not go their way.
“I honestly think we were right there with them,” he said. “We played every ballgame tooth-and-nail and fought extremely hard and it’s just one hit, one pitch away.”
The reality, though, one pitch and one hit away are the difference to winning ball games. The Mets were exposed. It’s late in the game and all that adversity of the first half as they won ballgames is out the window,
The Braves won’t have to worry about the Mets. Neither will the Dodgers, Giants or any of the elite teams in baseball. Yes, the Mets were exposed and perhaps the return of Noah Syndergaard is more about next year and Jacob deGrom should be shut down.
Look, I could be wrong but the percentages say otherwise. I don’t expect a winning gauntlet with the Nationals and Marlins. Time to look at the roster and determine who and what for next year.
With or without Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez in the lineup, the Mets are not a good baseball team. This stretch that concluded showed how the Mets were exposed to the elite teams and they have a lot of work to be on their level.
Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso