At a time of year when scoreboard watching becomes an art form, the updates findable with a quick glance to the very top of the leftfield corner at Citi Field, results from around the country Sunday offered minimal reason for optimism as the Mets suffered a 7-0 loss to Atlanta.
Sure, Miami split its doubleheader. Philadelphia lost. But the Reds and Brewers cruised to early wins, and the Giants did the same late. And none of it mattered, really, because the Mets couldn’t take care of themselves.
In a must-win game to end a must-win series, their season more or less on the line, the Mets mustered one hit in the first eight innings. It was close until Jeurys Familia (one inning, two runs) and Chasen Shreve (one out, four runs) let Atlanta blow it open late.
That pushed the Mets (24-29) to 2 1/2 games back of a National League wild-card spot with a week left in the regular season with three team between them.
"We needed this one," said Rick Porcello, who struck out 10 and allowed one run in seven innings, his best start with the Mets. "It’s not over yet. We’ll see where we end up."
As they prepare to host the Rays and visit the Nationals, the Mets need to win all of their remaining seven games in order to finish with a winning record. A 6-1 run would be good enough for .500. Two losses in that stretch would clinch a losing season.
Put more simply: The Mets need an awful lot to go right, or else their season — and the Wilpon Era along with it — ends next Sunday.
"If we’re not running the table, it’s gotta be close," Brandon Nimmo said. "I think we’ve got maybe more [losses] than we could maybe spare."
Porcello added: "We obviously know that we need to win games. Can’t really look at anybody else right now. We gotta take care of our own business and go out there and win these next seven games. See where it puts us."
That is a big ask of a team that hasn’t won three consecutive games in more than three weeks and hasn’t won four in a row all season. Despite being unable to sustain any momentum, they have lingered on the periphery of the playoff chase.
This time the momentum-stopper was Atlanta righthander Kyle Wright, who entered with a 7.20 ERA this year (7.46 ERA in his career) but found himself in an unlikely pitchers’ duel with Porcello, who lowered his ERA from 6.06 to 5.46.
Wright tossed a career-high 6 1/3 shutout innings, striking out a personal-best six and walking none. He retired 19 of 21 batters. The only exceptions: Wilson Ramos’ two-out double in the third — the Mets’ only hit against him — and J.D. Davis’ walk in the seventh, which ended Wright’s day.
With one out and lefthanded hitters Dominic Smith and Robinson Cano due up, Atlanta manager Brian Snitker called on lefthander Will Smith, who got the Mets’ Smith to ground into an inning-ending double play.
That ensured that Wright’s run column stayed clean. He threw 9 2/3 scoreless innings in two starts versus the Mets this season. Against everybody else, he allowed 20 earned runs in 21 2/3 innings — an 8.31 ERA.
"He had a lot better command than we’ve seen previously in his outings," manager Luis Rojas said. "[He was] just able to get some strikes down in the zone with his fastball, with his curveball early in counts and he was able to expand, so he got a lot of chases from the guys. The repertoire this kid has is pretty special."
And now the Mets, for all the talent on the roster, are just about out of it.
"It’s not talent that separates you," Porcello said. "It’s playing good baseball."