It might or might not be true, what Terry Collins said before the game, about how every Mets loss is made to seem as if the sky has just fallen. What was indisputable by the end of the night, though, was that the Mets’ spirits sure crashed to the ground when the last fly ball didn’t.
Yoenis Cespedes hit what appeared to be one of those season-turning home runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. The blast he hit to right-centerfield had enough carry to clear the fence. It just could not get over the glove of centerfielder Ender Inciarte, who sprinted, leaped and made the catch that sealed an implausible three-game sweep for the last-place Braves Wednesday night.
In the Mets’ view, after they had blown a three-run lead and suffered a 4-3 loss, if the sky really was falling, Inciarte would have been there to grab any silver lining out of a cloud.
“I knew I hit the ball well, I knew there was a good chance it was going to make it out, but he made a better play,” said Cespedes, who had faced closer Jim Johnson with two runners on base.
Brandon Nimmo, who led off the inning with a pinch single, had already run from second and crossed home plate when the final out was made. Having heard the sound off Cespedes’ bat, Nimmo thought to himself, “Unless they’re playing real deep, I’m scoring.
“I just couldn’t believe it. When I turned around, I looked back at the video screen, you could see the glove go back over,” Nimmo said. “To make a play like that in such a pressure situation, you’ve just got to tip your cap.”
Cap tipping would have come more easily if this had been just another game. The Mets entered the night tied with the Giants for the top wild-card spot, a half-game ahead of the Cardinals. They were so desperate for one win in three against the Braves that Collins went to Jeurys Familia for a five-out save, which the closer was unable to get. Matt Kemp hit a sacrifice fly in the eighth, driving home Inciarte, who had reached on an error by James Loney.
The Mets had a chance in the bottom of the inning, when Cespdes hit a one-out double off Kemp’s glove in leftfield (it would have been a triple had Cespedes run hard from the start). But after a couple of intentional walks loaded the bases, pinch hitter Kevin Plawecki struck out against winning pitcher Ian Krol.
Inciarte drove home the go-ahead run with a groundout in the ninth, then overshadowed himself in the bottom of that inning.
“That is probably the best catch I ever made,” he said. “I thought that ball was gone right out of the bat. But it was the last play of the game. I was just giving everything I’ve got. When it looked that I had a chance, it was good timing to catch that ball.”
Timing could not have been worse for the Mets. Last weekend they appeared to have a clear path and a head start for the top wild-card berth. Instead, they are wondering how they could have lost six in a row at home to the Braves. Plus, they wasted a solid start by Bartolo Colon (6 2⁄3 innings, six hits, two runs, six strikeouts) and homers by Asdrubal Cabrera and Rene Rivera.
“When you are where we are right now, it’s always tough to lose,” Rivera said. “We have to turn the page. This series is over.”
It sure ended with a thud for the Mets, unlike Cespedes’ drive. Familia said, “Everybody knows baseball is a crazy game. It happened tonight, it’s going to happen more times, too. The only thing we have to do is come here tomorrow with a different (mindset) and try to win that game.”