Warning: This is not an old story. The following events really did happen, again, Saturday at Citi Field.
The Mets blew a late lead in a 5-4 loss to the Braves, extending their losing streak to a season-high seven games. They haven’t won since last Saturday in Chicago, are 10 games under .500 at 37-47 and are at risk of getting swept by first-place Atlanta (50-34) in the series finale Sunday night.
In the ninth, the Mets put the potential tying run on second and winning run on first with nobody out. Michael Conforto, Todd Frazier and Dominic Smith went down in order to end it.
Manager Mickey Callaway said it is not hard for him to stay positive as the losses pile up.
“It’s part of the game. It’s part of my reality right now,” he said. “This is what it is. You can’t ever give up. You can’t ever throw in the towel. That’s something we all know and will never do.
“I can’t speak for the rest of the team, but we’ll continue to talk to them. It’s part of our reality. You have to deal with reality. You can’t act like it didn’t happen. So you have to do the best you can to fix it.”
This time it was Seth Lugo with the blown save, the Mets’ most-in-the-majors 21st of the year. Nick Markakis and rookie Austin Riley hit back-to-back homers on consecutive pitches in the eighth inning.
After allowing just one run in two months — April 22 through June 21 — Lugo has had an awful week: three games, three blown saves, seven earned runs in 3 2⁄3 innings. His ERA has risen from 2.23 to 3.60.
“I made my mistakes different ways in each outing,” Lugo said. “I was out there confident today. I made a lot of good pitches. I made two bad pitches.”
Robinson Cano’s go-ahead single in the sixth put Callaway in a familiar position: trying to navigate the late innings with an untrustworthy bullpen. With Jeurys Familia and Justin Wilson out injured — and Robert Gsellman having pitched poorly Friday — Lugo was the de facto seventh- and eighth-inning man.
The seventh went fine, as Lugo worked around a two-out double by Dansby Swanson.
The eighth was not fine. After Josh Donaldson struck out swinging, Markakis sent a 3-and-0 fastball into the seats in left-center. On the next pitch, Riley — among Pete Alonso’s challengers in the NL Rookie of the Year race — one-upped Markakis by hitting one into the second deck in left.
“It’s kind of unexplainable,” Callaway said. “Tonight it was just two pitches that did [Lugo] in. He looked like his normal self tonight.”
Because Mets relievers tossed seven innings after Steven Matz’s rain-shortened two-inning start, their collective ERA actually went down to 5.64, third-worst in the majors. The bullpen has a 7.62 ERA in June, worst in the majors.
That ruined what had been a feel-good day for the Mets, starting with the feting of the 1969 World Series champion team. Fifteen members of that club were honored in an on-field pregame ceremony watched from the dugout by their 2019 counterparts.
Righthander Chris Mazza, a 29-year-old making his major-league debut, tossed four innings of one-run ball eight years after being drafted in the 27th round by the Twins. He scattered five hits, walked none and struck out two (including Freddie Freeman).
Sixth-inning hits by Jeff McNeil (tying RBI double) and Cano (RBI single) had Mazza in line for the win before the Braves’ rally. Dominic Smith homered off Julio Teheran, his fourth long ball of the week and eighth of the year.
The fourth-place Mets are 13 games back in the NL East, their finishing spot in 2018, but Callaway said he thinks the team still can contend for the playoffs.
“There’s a ton of games left,” he said. “You see it every year; someone comes out of nowhere.”