ATLANTA — Somehow, someway, the Mets discovered an even more excruciating path to a loss Thursday night.
They got swept by Atlanta after dropping the series finale, 13-10 in 10 innings, despite leading from the top of the second inning until the bottom of the ninth.
Ozzie Albies finished it with a walk-off three-run home run off Tommy Hunter with two outs in the extra frame. Hunter, the Mets’ sixth reliever of the game after Justin Verlander lasted just three innings, was manager Buck Showalter’s last remaining option out of the bullpen.
Earlier, Showalter tasked David Robertson with recording the final five outs. He got three before allowing a tying homer to Orlando Arcia in the ninth.
The Mets had won 122 consecutive games — a streak that started in September 2021 — in which they led after eight innings.
Losers of six consecutive games, the Mets have fallen to 30-33 and 8 1/2 games behind first-place Atlanta in the NL East. Atlanta is 38-24.
“I’m proud of them,” Showalter said, trying to highlight the fight his team showed. “I look at it as a positive. We just couldn’t get outs. We used every arrow we had. Just couldn’t get that last out.”
The Mets were up by at least three runs in all three games against Atlanta.
“It was almost a great win for us,” Showalter said. “Just like the first two.”
Showalter’s players tried at times but didn’t quite muster the same public positivity. And the quiet, sullen mood of the clubhouse — everybody packing for Pittsburgh, whispering among themselves if they were talking at all — belied any attempt at a happy face.
The Mets, with the highest payroll in the history of baseball, are amid their longest winless stretch since August 2019. That was three managers, three GMs and one owner ago.
“It’s not how you envision things going,” Brandon Nimmo said. “Your only option is to just keep pushing and push through it and put a lot of hope in that tomorrow you’re going to turn things around. At any instant, you can turn things into a 10-game win streak. You have no other choice but to believe that. Unless you want to give up.”
Robertson said: “We’re frustrated. You can sense it. We’re not playing well. We know it. We’re a good team. We’re just not doing what we need to do.”
The teams combined to score in nine of the first 12 half-innings. They totaled 33 hits. For the Mets, every position player but Mark Vientos had at least one hit. For Atlanta, Albies was the lone exception — until the last swing.
Horrendous pitching wasted a huge night from a lineup that was missing Pete Alonso, who had flown to New York earlier in the day for further tests on his bruised left wrist.
Nimmo hit a grand slam — the first of his career — to put the Mets ahead in the second inning. Francisco Alvarez added two long balls, his second multi-homer game of the season. Francisco Lindor and Brett Baty each reached base three times.
The pitching matchup of Verlander (three innings, five runs) against Spencer Strider (four innings, eight runs) got ugly fast.
Atlanta scorched Verlander for three runs in the first inning, including two on Austin Riley’s home run. But the Mets rallied for five in the top of the second, mostly on Nimmo’s bases-loaded line drive into the rightfield seats.
“I felt like, well, this is going to be a high-scoring game,” Nimmo said. “So we better keep our feet on the pedal and we better just keep going. Because it just had that feel.”
And so the Mets did, continuing to tack on against Strider and the Atlanta bullpen. But it wasn’t enough.
Any of many moments could have changed the Mets’ fate. Drew Smith allowed a two-run homer to Travis d’Arnaud in the eighth, getting Atlanta back to within one. Omar Narvaez and Vientos wasted a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the ninth. Showalter bemoaned a late check-swing call that didn’t go the Mets’ way.
But their biggest problem — the one that created all the others — was Verlander. His short night set up a long one for the bullpen.
More than a month removed from his return from the injured list, Verlander has had three stinkers in seven starts. His ERA is 4.85.
“This isn’t easy. It’s not easy for the team. Not easy for me,” Verlander said. “The one thing that I’ve always been is accountable and this wasn’t good enough. This isn’t good enough. I will work as hard as anybody to find it . . . Definitely need to make it all click, somehow, someway.”