This kind of stretching happens in May or June, it can be disturbing but not terrifying. On the one hand, as Charles Barkley once said of early-season games against mediocre NBA teams: “So soon the [crap] teams don’t know they are [crap] more teams.
But forget the adversaries. Forget the fact that the Nationals and Pirates are likely to share the dubious distinction of losing 100 games this year. The opponents don’t matter. It’s about the Mets now. This is the Mets team that made it through the first 133 games of the season and the one that looked like a clunker that lost oil in the last three.
And yes, that’s just a three-game losing streak. Even though it may feel like a three-week slip-up.
Yet in September, in this September, against the relentless pursuit of the Braves — who finally, almost inevitably, caught the Mets on Tuesday by surviving a scare against their own last-place opponent, the A’s, 10-9 — each game counts. Every wasted opportunity counts. And so this 8-2 loss to the Pirates – after 7-1 losses to the Nats – stings a bit more. The Mets don’t hit a lick. The last three games, the pitching has been alarming.
And in addition to the anxiety closet, Starling Marte spent most of the game getting X-rayed and slipping through an MRI tube after being pierced in the right hand by a Mitch Keller fastball. Manager Buck Showalter wouldn’t agree with what the preliminary results said – ‘Maybe we can get lucky’ – but it sure looks like there’s at least a chance this could be a calamitous turn of events for a Mets offense that can’t afford it.
“It grabs your attention because it’s been so good for so long,” Showalter said of the Mets’ offensive slump, which has now given up just 38 points over the past 13 games. “Guys are frustrated right now because they know they are capable of better.”
You can believe, with absolute confidence, that Showalter took nothing for granted these past three games. He preached from day one that a team’s record means nothing once a game starts, that everyone is a stockbroker. And above all, his team simply and professionally manhandled lesser enemies.
Until those lesser enemies. Until the last three games. The Pirates and Nats combined are 98-171. They’ve been playing rope for weeks. But they managed to lasso the Mets with that string in three games in which the lie outscored the Mets 22-4. These are the kind of numbers that make little sense in a vacuum.
But baseball is not played in a vacuum. On Tuesday evening, it took place in front of a warm gathering of friends and family of 8,817 people at PNC Park. And if you didn’t know who was the first-place team and who was the last-place team… well, watching the game certainly wouldn’t have helped you with that one.
“We’re still in good spirits,” said Taijuan Walker, who was less than his best in five innings and 80 pitches and was called out before the first signs of a blister on his finger could get worse.
Those good spirits must come in handy for the Mets, as they could definitely use a few when they report to work Wednesday for what is sure to look like one of the longest days of the year, a double-day schedule- night before what promises to be a couple more sparse audiences.
Just six days ago, the Mets won a series against the superpower Dodgers, and the positive vibes were all over Queens. All the angst of baseball in New York was concentrated in the Bronx. Whether it was about “folding” or “free fall”, it was all about the other team in town. Dishes ? The Mets had outlived the Dodgers and could now attack the soft underbelly of the schedule.
Was it really only six days ago?
“You always tip your hat to your opponent,” Showalter said, and look: Even the 1962 Mets won 40 games, often leaving their victims wondering how the hell one of them got there. Bad teams sometimes beat good teams (though the Braves spent most of the summer disproving that theory).
Eventually, these good teams have to say, “Enough is enough.”
At some point today, the sooner the better, these Mets could use a twisted number or two to serve as fragrant salt. The losing streak is only three, it’s not 10, even if it looks like 10. The Mets need to get their mojo back, need to get their confidence back, because there are no days easy the rest of the way.
The same, it seems, because there are no easy opponents. It doesn’t matter what the ranking says.
New York Post