WASHINGTON — After the Mets fell in a four-run hole in the first inning, lost two of their best players to injuries, got a below-average start from Zack Wheeler and emptied their bench, they rallied enough against the Nationals to put the game on the line with two outs and the bases loaded in the ninth.
But instead of Michael Conforto batting cleanup, it was Keon Broxton, the fifth outfielder who plays sparingly and has a .371 OPS.
Broxton struck out swinging against Washington closer Sean Doolittle to end the Mets’ 7-6 loss. And that wasn’t even their worst news of the day Thursday.
Conforto, who suffered a concussion in the fifth inning, took a train back to New York to be examined by team doctors. The Mets, headed to Miami at 20-22, don’t know how long he’ll be out, but he’ll go on the seven-day concussion list.
Jeff McNeil left in the third inning with what the Mets called “abdominal tightness.” Blaming it on irritated scar tissue from multiple sports hernia surgeries, McNeil said he has experienced this in the past, including this season. He expects to be fine to play in “a day or so.”
“We’ll see how long these are, but somebody else is just going to have to step up,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “That’s how this game goes. When you lose somebody, somebody else has got to step up and get the job done. That’s how it is. That’s how it always will be.”
Conforto exited after colliding with second baseman Robinson Cano. As they both pursued Howie Kendrick’s bloop to right, Conforto’s head smashed against Cano’s shoulder.
“I called it right away,” Cano said. “He called it really late.”
Conforto seemingly briefly lost consciousness, dropping like dead weight and lying motionless on the grass for a moment. “He hit the ground hard,” Callaway said. By the time Callaway and head athletic trainer Brian Chicklo jogged out to left, Conforto was “kind of dazed,” Callaway said.
“Right then and there, we knew we were going to have to get him out,” Callaway said.
Cano seemed not to understand the seriousness of concussions.
“I’m glad he’s good, hopefully he’s back on the field tomorrow,” Cano said.
Cano said he was not surprised Conforto had a concussion based on the severity of their impact.
“I hit him really hard,” Cano said, later adding: “Like I said, thank God nothing major happened. It could’ve ended up something worse. Hopefully he’s good tomorrow.”
With the loss — of the game, not two of their best players — the Mets dropped another series. They have four series wins all season: two against the Marlins, who have been losing at a historic rate, and two against everybody else.
Most of the Mets’ runs came off reliever Erick Fedde in the third, when Cano had an RBI double and Conforto smacked a three-run homer to right.
Wheeler alternated good innings with bad ones, which turned out to be a bad formula. He allowed six runs and 11 hits but managed to finish six innings.
The Nationals jumped out to a four-run lead in that opening inning. The first pair scored on three soft singles, a walk and a double play. The second pair scored on consecutive hard-hit doubles by Gerardo Parra and Kurt Suzuki, bottom-of-the-order hitters who combined to go 6-for-7 with five RBIs and three runs.
Parra added a two-run homer in the fifth to put the Nationals back ahead. He finished a triple short of a cycle.
“I felt good about today, but the results weren’t there really,” Wheeler said. “I let us down today.”