In a truly Metsian way — with a sequence of events that neatly encapsulated their year — the Mets’ season ended Sunday with a 7-6, 11-inning win over the Braves.
One last time, the bullpen blew it. Adeiny Hechavarria, cut by the Mets last month a day before he would have earned a $1 million bonus, hit a tying home run in the ninth and a go-ahead home run in the 11th for the first multi-homer game of his eight-year career. On the next pitch, Adam Duvall homered to give the Braves a 6-4 lead.
One last time, however, the Mets came through with a huge hit. With his team down to its last out, Dominic Smith — in his first at-bat in more than two months after coming back from a potentially season-ending stress fracture in his left foot — smashed a walk-off three-run homer. That got rookie Chris Mazza his first major league win.
One last time, this bunch showed that they really seem to like each other. They missed the playoffs but, boy, did they have fun anyway. “We obviously got eliminated a couple of days ago, but we fought to the last week, and that’s something — you can’t count this group out,” said Smith, who began the season competing with Pete Alonso for the first-base job and ended it just hoping to get into one more game. “It just shows the high character we have in here.
“I just wanted to come back and play and help my team. I couldn’t have dreamed of anything like this. If I went up there and got out, I would’ve been just as happy, just as satisfied just to make it back into a game.’’
The Mets finished 86-76, third in the NL East. That is progress after consecutive losing seasons, but they did not make the playoffs for the third year in a row and the 11th time in 13 years.
The list of stuff that went wrong is long. To cite a few, the bad bullpen probably was the difference between making and missing the postseason, marquee offseason addition Robinson Cano underwhelmed, fellow offseason addition Jed Lowrie barely played and Noah Syndergaard (seven innings, three runs) was inconsistent. The Mets went 10-18 in June, lost six straight at home in August during the wild card race and dropped plenty of games they should have won.
But the Mets choose to look back on the positives, and these are more than just silver linings. Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis (who hit his 22nd homer Sunday), Amed Rosario and Smith — all question marks to some degree at the start — became exclamation points. Jacob deGrom had another Cy Young-caliber season. A 15-1 run July into August revived their season.
And then there was Alonso, the runaway NL Rookie of the Year favorite who hit 53 home runs, shattering the Mets’ single-season record and also breaking the MLB rookie record. He was the first Mets player and first rookie to lead the majors outright in homers in a season.
This year is something to build on, the Mets say.
“They’ve been through a lot together,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “When you go through tough times and great times together, you form this bond. And they’ve definitely formed a bond.”
The Mets are the fourth team in MLB history to be 10 or more games under .500 before the All-Star break and 20 or more games above .500 after the All-Star break.
“For all of us, it’s a message that the season starts from the first game of the season,” Cano said. “At the end of the day, you don’t want to wait on somebody else to lose or win a game for you to be able to make the playoffs.”
And so begins the wait for chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and the front office to make a decision on Callaway, who is 163-161 in two seasons. In recent days, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen ardently declined to comment on Callaway or any other Mets topic, including Alonso’s historic rookie year, and a Mets spokesman said the team does not plan to announce anything before Wednesday.
Callaway said he will spend the next couple of days driving 19 hours home to Florida. “I don’t have any anxiety,” he said. “I’m proud of what we did this year. I’m proud of how hard I worked and I left everything on the field.”
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