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Jeff McNeil leaves early as Mets fall to Blue Jays in series finale

Mets shortstop Amed Rosario, right, watches as Toronto

Mets shortstop Amed Rosario, right, watches as Toronto Blue Jays' Lourdes Gurriel Jr., left, rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run during the second inning in Buffalo, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020.  Credit: AP/Adrian Kraus

BUFFALO — Jeff McNeil left Sunday’s game with what a team official called "some gastrointestinal discomfort," but the bigger problem for the Mets was the kind of runs crossing the plate.

The Mets lost to the Blue Jays, 7-3, after McNeil’s exit and an old-fashioned bullpen blowup highlighted the rubber match of this Marcus Stroman Bowl.

That leaves the Mets at 21-26 and two games behind the Giants for the last National League wild-card spot heading into the final two weeks of the season.

Manager Luis Rojas said McNeil was "feeling better" by the end of the game. The Mets’ on-field performance, not so much. They need to go 9-4 just to finish with a .500 record.

"We gotta win a lot of games," Todd Frazier said.

For the Mets, the weekend was a failed test. They had what might be their ideal postseason rotation — Jacob deGrom, Seth Lugo, David Peterson — and were facing a playoff-caliber team. But they came away with just one win, plus ugly losses Saturday and Sunday.

"We gotta clean it up," Rojas said. "We gotta play our best game. We gotta play our ‘A’ game. Some of these things can’t happen."

Among the things that can’t happen: Brad Brach threw four strikes out of 16 pitches and walked all three batters he faced. That sparked Toronto’s game-sealing five-run rally in the sixth.

"Quite frankly, it’s embarrassing," Brach said. "I just couldn’t keep the ball on the plate. I couldn’t get them to swing. They’re a real aggressive team, so I thought I’d get some swings there . . . I pretty much stunk. There’s no other way to explain it."

Jared Hughes entered, walked his first batter (Jonathan Villar) to force in a run and allowed hits to three of the next four Blue Jays. The back-breaker: a three-run double looped down the leftfield line by Santiago Espinal, a light-hitting rookie infielder.

Before that mess, Peterson was solid, allowing two runs and three hits in five frames. Both of Toronto’s runs came on a bang-bang sequence in the second inning. Randal Grichuk singled off the rightfield wall, and on the next pitch, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. walloped a no-doubt two-run homer over everything in leftfield.

Peterson settled in to retire 12 of his next (and final) 15 batters. Had Peterson remained in, the Mets might have been able to avoid the Brach/Hughes disaster. Rojas said Peterson (81 pitches) was near his 90-pitch limit and the Mets weren’t crazy about him facing the middle of the Toronto order for a third time.

"I don’t ever want to have the ball taken from me," Peterson said. "But that was the decision and my work was done at that point."

The Mets managed little against Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Blue Jays’ top starter. He struck out seven and walked none in six innings of one-run ball.

That lone tally came in the first, when back-to-back two-out singles from Frazier and Dominic Smith brought home McNeil. But after Smith’s line drive, Frazier was caught in a rundown between third and home, ending the inning.

That was another one of those things that can’t happen.

"I honestly thought [Smith] was getting in a rundown because, usually, the second baseman goes to first," Frazier said. "Probably should’ve thought about it a little more."

The Mets began the day having made 17 outs on the bases, tied for second most in the league.

"Those can definitely stop momentums. We can’t give outs," Rojas said. "I want these guys to be aggressive, but I want these guys to be aware."

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