ATLANTA — If it is possible to exorcise the demons created here late last year — to make up for the season-altering sweep that punctuated an utter collapse in the division race — the Mets’ performance Tuesday did not do so.
Instead, they played out a miniature version of the 2022 NL East competition by leading for a while but eventually blowing it.
The Mets lost to Atlanta, 6-4, to begin a big three-game set, their first trip to Truist Park since the penultimate series of last year, a total mess that cost them a division title.
This was the Mets’ fourth consecutive loss, matching their longest such streak of the season and dropping them back below .500 at 30-31. They are 6 1/2 games behind first-place Atlanta, which is 36-24.
“The whole entire time, I felt like we were going to win the ballgame,” Francisco Lindor said. “There was not an inning or an out that I felt like we were out of it.”
The turning point came in the bottom of the sixth, which started with the Mets ahead by three. Carlos Carrasco had been cruising, his pitch count at an under-control 76, but was about to face the heart of a loaded lineup for a third time.
He unraveled quickly. Matt Olson worked a leadoff walk. Austin Riley dunked a double into left, a fly ball not hit all that hard but placed well, a couple of steps away from Jeff McNeil, whose throw toward third base allowed Riley to reach second. On the next pitch, a split-changeup over the plate, Sean Murphy yanked a double to left-center to cut the Mets’ lead to one.
“I started the inning with the walk and everything got out of hand right there,” said Carrasco, ultimately charged with four runs in five innings (plus three batters).
Manager Buck Showalter said: “He had two or three 0-and-2 situations where he didn’t put some guys away. He got away with it early. He didn’t in that inning . . . I can’t fault Carlos. In a tough environment, I thought he gave us a quality start to give us a chance to win.”
Showalter inserted Drew Smith, who nearly escaped the jam. But with two outs, Marcell Ozuna smacked a tying double to left, advanced to third base on a wild pitch and scored on Orlando Arcia’s single, which went off a diving Eduardo Escobar (who was playing second base) and into center.
Asked if Escobar should have fielded Arcia’s hit, Showalter asked, “What did they score it?”
A single, not an error.
“OK,” he said.
Smith has allowed at least one run in five of his past eight outings. His ERA has effectively doubled in that stretch, from 1.88 to 3.74.
“It’s definitely frustrating when you feel like every bad [pitch] you throw is getting hit and you’re not getting much breaks for them,” Smith said. “But that’s baseball. You just gotta make better ones.”
Against righthander Bryce Elder, a ground-ball specialist who entered with a majors-leading 1.92 ERA, the Mets didn’t hit many ground balls. Lindor and Pete Alonso connected for two-run homers in the third inning.
Elder recovered, though, to allow just those four runs across six innings. He struck out eight, including No. 5-hitting DH Daniel Vogelbach three times.
For Lindor, the home run was a continuation of his weird week-plus. He is 4-for-his-last-35 in his past nine games. But three of those hits have been long balls.
For Alonso, the home run was his second in as many games and 22nd of the year, most in the majors. He also leads the National League with 49 RBIs.
Brett Baty singled in the fourth but was erased on Escobar’s double play. That was the Mets’ last hit.
“It’s tough for me to sit here and try to disparage the pitching,” Showalter said, “when we just get four hits.”