Brandon Nimmo of the Mets strikes out in the ninth inning...

Brandon Nimmo of the Mets strikes out in the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second game of a doubleheader at Citi Field on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. Credit: Jim McIsaac

There was a moment Tuesday when the Mets came — without exaggeration — within an inch or two of victory.

Bottom of the ninth, tie score, bases loaded, one out. Tyrone Taylor was ahead in the count, 3-and-0, against the Dodgers’ Daniel Hudson. The fourth pitch barely nipped the high, inside corner of the zone for a called strike. If plate umpire Jeremy Riggs had called it a ball for a walk-off walk, it would not have been his worst call of the day.

But it was indeed a strike. And so was the next pitch, a fastball down but over the middle of the plate. Then Taylor popped out. Then Jeff McNeil did the same. Then the Dodgers scored three runs in the top of the 10th against Jorge Lopez, two on Freddie Freeman’s home run. Then the Mets lost that game, 5-2, and dropped the nightcap of the doubleheader, 3-0.

With one-third of the season complete, the Mets are 22-32, on pace for 66 wins. The Dodgers are 35-22, their five-game losing streak entering the day suddenly a distant memory.

At what might be a new low point for the Mets, consider the highly unusual reaction at Citi Field to Freeman’s blast: loud cheers from the opposing team’s fans, followed by chants of “Freddie! Freddie!”

"It’s no new feeling here. It’s more of the same,” Adam Ottavino, who blew a save in the first game, said. “It’s a kick every time, because you get a mini-heartbreak after a tough loss when you were close to winning a game.”

In the opener, both the bullpen and the bats were to blame. Francisco Lindor’s two-run home run accounted for all of the scoring against righthander Tyler Glasnow (seven innings). The Mets had two hits in the third inning and none until the ninth. Tasked with protecting a two-run lead for two innings, relievers couldn’t do that.

 

Los Angeles scratched across a run in the eighth against Reed Garrett, largely because the Mets turned none of three potential double-play ground balls. In the ninth, Ottavino — chosen by Carlos Mendoza over closer Edwin Diaz — allowed the tying run on a pair of singles and his own fielding flub of a bunt.

“I had a choice whether to dive or try to pick it,” Ottavino said. “I tried to pick it and the ball didn’t bounce. Just plopped into the ground and didn’t come up, so it went under my glove. You got to make a split-second decision there. I felt like it was the safer call to not dive in the moment.”

Mendoza said: “We gave them extra outs in the eighth on makable plays. When you’re playing good teams, they’re going to make you pay for it.”

Taylor had a chance to be the hero, but on maybe the most hittable pitch of the at-bat, the 3-and-1 fastball, he was in “auto-take” mode, he said. No matter what, he wasn’t going to swing. He liked his chances in a full count.

"I was feeling good,” Taylor said. “I was feeling good and didn’t want to give myself up on being in between 3-and-1. I wanted to make him throw a strike.”

The Mets controlled the game most of the way because of Tylor Megill, who pitched perhaps the best game of his life: seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts, one walk and three hits.

At minimum, it was the longest scoreless outing of Megill’s career. “One of the best starts of my career,” Megill said, stopping short of the superlative. “That felt good.”

The closest L.A. came to scoring against Megill: Teoscar Hernandez’s double — over the centerfield wall — in the second and Will Smith’s homer-length foul ball in the sixth.

On the former, Taylor made a leaping catch attempt at the wall for a kind of, sort of robbery of a home run. But the ball bounced out of his glove and back onto the field, with Hernandez settling in at second.

“He was really good,” Mendoza said of Megill. “Complete control of the game. Fastball had life. Splitter, changeup, breaking ball, secondary pitches — overall, got swing and misses, attacked the hitters. Really good outing for him.”

The Mets lost anyway, then again three hours later. The first inning set the tone: Will Smith homered off Jose Quintana (six innings, three runs), and Lindor, Pete Alonso and Brandon Nimmo struck out against righthander Gavin Stone (seven scoreless innings).

“I’ve been saying it: It’s been hard right now for us,” Mendoza said. “It’s not pretty.”

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