PITTSBURGH — Buck Showalter did Friday night what no manager wants to have to do: Convey his anger and disappointment by conducting a closed-door meeting with the entirety of his badly underperforming roster after another loss.
His message during that rare postgame session, several players said in interviews with Newsday, was one of accountability, higher standards and the obvious need for the Mets to do better — way better.
They showed hints of a start Saturday by topping the Pirates, 5-1, with an occasionally ugly but ultimately successful performance, snapping a seven-game losing streak.
Kodai Senga allowed only an unearned run in seven innings. Mark Canha went 2-for-4 with three RBIs, including two on a tiebreaking two-out double in the seventh. That was enough to overcome three errors — including a pair on consecutive plays, creating the tying run for Pittsburgh — and earlier offensive futility.
Publicly, Showalter has refrained from ripping his players or showing much emotion at all. Privately, he has made his expectations clear.
“He said what needed to be said,” Canha said. “We all know it’s not acceptable. There needs to be a higher standard. It needs to come from within. It’s not anything that you can point to and say this is the reason or that’s the reason. You have to dig deep within yourself. Every one of us has to look inside of ourselves and demand more out of us, more focus, more attention to detail.”
Francisco Lindor said: “It’s time to go. It’s time to stop [messing around] and be accountable. He said many good quotes that resonate with me and with all my teammates. It’s time to evaluate ourselves and look ourselves in the mirrors and just put it together. Put it together and get going.”
Showalter declined to discuss his team meeting but was glad the Mets won. “Trying to build on it now is the challenge,” he said.
Canha echoed: “We still have a lot of work to do and I think that’s important to remember.”
Showalter called the group together after a series-opening 14-7 loss that wasn’t that close. The Mets trailed by a dozen runs — largely because of defensive miscues that allowed the Pirates to blow it open — entering the ninth.
As Canha put it, “sometimes you just gotta say something” after the Mets “played a game like that.” Lindor said Showalter used “every different tone.”
“Are we in trouble? We’re not kids. He’s talking to grown men,” Lindor said. “But it was a good message with a great tone and a great tone-setter. I’m all on board. Whenever Buck speaks, I’m there.”
Brandon Nimmo said: “There needs to be more focus. If we’re going to lose, that other team is going to have to beat us, not us beating ourselves. That’s what I got out of the meeting. Because there were a few plays yesterday that he felt like we beat ourselves rather than they beat us. I would agree with that.”
The Mets (31-34) almost ended up with a repeat Saturday, with Luis Guillorme and Jeff McNeil committing errors on back-to-back plays on potential double-play grounders in the fourth. In centerfield, Nimmo began to think: Uh-oh, not again. Not right after Showalter’s talk.
But Senga retired Tucupita Marcano on a bunt lineout to third baseman Brett Baty and Jason Delay grounded out.
Two of Senga’s first four batters had singles; none after that had any hits.
“One of the things that we’ve been missing during this stretch, it’s no mystery, is pitching,” Nimmo said. “So for him to come out and do what he did really allowed us some breathing room on those mistakes.”
Senga returned the favor after Nimmo bailed him out of a jam in the third. With two outs, he walked three batters to load the bases. Connor Joe walloped a fly ball to the centerfield wall and Nimmo made a leaping catch.
“When you’re able to catch the ones that they think they got in those big situations, it’s kind of fun,” Nimmo said.
Senga said through an interpreter: “At this point, sometimes I get hit and I’m like, oh no. But some part of my brain is thinking, wait, maybe he’s going to catch it.”
The Mets will have a chance to create momentum Sunday. Or maybe they’ll perform poorly again and this will prove to be another false start. Or maybe some third option will play out.
Whatever happens, they know what Showalter expects.
“He was trying to get a point across and he did,” Lindor said. “I appreciate what he did. I know the message was well received. We just gotta play better.”