MILWAUKEE — The end the Mets long had feared arrived Saturday.
Before they lost to the Brewers, 2-1, they were mathematically eliminated from playoff eligibility by the Phillies’ win over the Pirates, making official what had been a foregone conclusion for the past week-plus — or longer, depending on your level of pessimism.
The Mets have missed the playoffs for five consecutive years. They have not won a postseason game since Game 3 of the 2015 World Series.
"It is a disappointing feeling that I have," manager Luis Rojas said. "I don’t want to use the word shock, but the word disappointing is the one that fits well."
Or as Michael Conforto put it: "We’re not happy."
The eventual NL East winner, whether it’s first-place Atlanta or second-place Philadelphia, is guaranteed to reach 83 wins, as they have a three-game series against each other this week. The Mets, at 73 wins, have eight games remaining and thus can max out at 81.
Although this has become an annual occurrence, the formality might sting more this time because of the details. It was the first year under owner Steve Cohen. There was huge hype surrounding Francisco Lindor and the Mets’ 10-year, $341 million commitment to him. Jacob deGrom, with a 1.08 ERA, had one of the best first halves ever by a starting pitcher. And the Mets spent 114 days — more than half of the six-month schedule — in first place in the division, a position they held into August.
Underscoring the missed opportunity: The NL East is the weakest division in the majors this year. The Mets were 47-40 at the All-Star break. They are 26-41 since. If they had gone 33-34 in the second half, they would have 80 wins and the division title would be very much in play.
The Mets have lost four games in a row and 12 of 15.
"I wouldn’t say we went down without a fight," Conforto said. "I wouldn’t say that. I think we fought. We didn’t get the wins, but our guys, we fight every single day."
"In the second half, we didn’t play good enough baseball," Rojas said. "It led to this."
That fate rendered their latest loss largely irrelevant. Corbin Burnes, a Cy Young Award candidate, held them to one run in seven innings, lowering his ERA to 2.29. Rich Hill lasted five innings and allowed two runs, both on Eduardo Escobar’s single in the third. Lindor was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts.
Such an effort exemplified the Mets’ biggest problem: an underperforming offense. Their 3.91 runs per game rank third-worst in the majors.
Brandon Nimmo and Pete Alonso hit well, as did J.D. Davis when healthy. But Lindor, Conforto, Jeff McNeil, Dominic Smith and James McCann did not.
For the first months, the Mets got by despite barely scoring. But when the defense and especially the pitching regressed — in part because of deGrom’s injuries-induced absence and Taijuan Walker’s ineffectiveness — everything fell apart.
"Offense was the one thing that wasn’t or hasn’t been there consistently," Rojas said. "It’s shown up here and there. For the second half, we’ve hit a little better. But still not enough."
Added Conforto: "It’s pretty clear we didn’t swing the bats well enough."
Now the Mets will play the final week for personal statistics and pride. After finishing their series with the Brewers on Sunday, they will host the Marlins for four games Tuesday-Thursday and visit Atlanta on Friday-Sunday.
"I want to see the guys finishing strong, playing good baseball, giving a lot better at-bats than they’ve given for the majority of the season, throwing the ball well and all that," Rojas said. "I just want to see everybody performing at their best."
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