ATLANTA — They say that every game counts the same, that a loss in April is the same as a loss in June or September. And in a lot of ways, the Mets and Mickey Callaway have held on to the belief that it’s not already too late — that there are still ways to turn around this season and play to what they think is their ability.
But even though all losses count the same, on Monday it felt like this one counted a little more.
It wasn’t just that they lost. 12-3, to the Braves, who are 8 1/2 games ahead of them in the National League East. Or that the defense bit them again. Or even that Jeurys Familia was brought into a low-leverage situation and somehow managed to make it worse.
It’s all of that combined— the repeated pattern that has defined this season On Monday, it manifested during a four-run seventh inning against Familia and Drew Gagnon. They dimmed the lights at SunTrust Park and the crowd turned on the lights on their cellphones for a menacing, relentless tomahawk chop as the pitching continued to implode. The Mets looked overmatched, and the Braves seemed unstoppable.
“We just stunk. Again,” Callaway said of the bullpen — among the strongest comments he’s made this season. “We’ve got to recalibrate what we’re doing and we have to do the job better… We keep on talking about how we have to battle back and get to .500 and we’re going the opposite way.”
In all, it was as bad a start for an 11-game road trip as could have happened to the Mets. The trip against the NL East-leading Braves, the second-place Cubs and the second-place Phillies could easily make it extremely difficult making it to the playoff promise land that the Mets insist is still on the horizon. First, though, they’ll have to get over .500 (they’re four games under) and solve those nagging problems: the bullpen, the defense, and sometimes the starting pitching.
They got a less-than sterling performance from Zack Wheeler who allowed five runs, four earned and 10 hits, with four strikeouts and two walks. They also got stung by their defense — a misplay by Jeff McNeil and an error by Pete Alonso in the first helped lead to two runs. A wild pitch that Wilson Ramos backhanded and missed led to at least one more run in a three-run fifth.
The Mets never led, and only got as close as 5-3 before Familia came on and allowed a single and two walks to load the bases with one out in the seventh. Gagnon allowed all three runs to score and then one of his own. Ozzie Albies had a two-run single, Ronald Acuna drove in a run with a single and Gagnon walked in a run. He also allowed a two-run homer to Brian McCann and a solo homer to Albies in the eighth. Familia’s ERA ballooned to 7.81, and he’ walked 21 batters this year.
Familia left without speaking to the media, though it’s easy to see why — there’s just not much left to say.
“There’s always going to be confidence issues at this point,” Callaway said of Familia. I think there’s confidence issues in our whole bullpen. Not just individually but as a group … I’m a little concerned about the bullpen. We need some success. We need something to get us over the hump. It’s something that is glaring at a daily basis ….Just battling isn’t enough. We have to figure out how to win games.”
Callaway said that they might need to “shake things up” because the same old things just aren’t working. He spoke of “thinking outside the box” and “going back to the drawing board” and any number of phrases that say the same thing: Something needs to change, and fast, because the Mets are sinking.
But can this bullpen personnel figure it out? About a week after saying that they have the pieces to succeed, Callaway seemed less sure.
“We’re going to keep on running them out there until they do,” Callaway said, “or we’re going to have to get some new ones.”