Give the Mets this: They don’t make anything easy.
They lost a heartbreaker, 7-6, to the Cardinals in 11 innings on Tuesday after Jake Reed — an August waiver-wire pickup who returned from the injured list hours before the game — yielded three runs and three hits in the final frame.
With two runs already home and the potential winning run on base in the bottom of the 11th, pinch hitter Albert Almora Jr. grounded out against Kwang Hyun Kim to end it.
The Mets had a chance to win it in the 10th, but with runners at the corners and one out, Francisco Lindor grounded into a 3-1-5 double play turned smoothly by Gold Glovers Paul Goldschmidt, Yadier Molina and Nolan Arenado. Goldschmidt snagged Lindor's grounder, stepped on first and immediately fired home, with Molina and Arenado erasing Kevin Pillar in a quick rundown.
The Mets (72-74) have dropped five of their past seven games, clinching a series loss at a time when they need to win all of them to have a realistic shot at a playoff berth. That is especially true against the Cardinals (75-69), who became the leaders in the race for the last National League wild-card spot. The Mets are four games behind St. Louis and also trail the Reds, Padres and Phillies.
With 16 games to go, the Mets are 5 1/2 games behind NL East-leading Atlanta.
"The time is not going to stop. The time is going to keep running," said Javier Baez, who homered on Giovanny Gallegos' first pitch in the ninth to tie it at 4-4. "And we just gotta come and play the game and make our adjustments and, you know, see what’s going to happen the last weeks."
With their season slipping away, the Mets ended up with Reed — and then Trevor Williams, a starter/long reliever appearing on consecutive days for the first time in his big-league career — on the mound with the game on the line after a series of conservative decisions involving other pitchers.
Manager Luis Rojas and pitching coach Jeremy Hefner removed Marcus Stroman (six innings, two runs) after 89 pitches because they felt he was tired.
Then they went to Aaron Loup, their most effective reliever, who needed only seven pitches to get through the seventh.
Instead of pushing him for more, the Mets chose Jeurys Familia, who allowed Tyler O’Neill’s go-ahead two-run homer, and then Trevor May, who had to finish the eighth.
Edwin Diaz threw 13 pitches in an easy ninth, but for the top of the 10th, Rojas went to Heath Hembree.
Seth Lugo was unavailable, Rojas said, after pitching Saturday and Sunday.
"At this point in the season, we’d love for everyone to leave their arm out there," he said. "That would be, for me, ideal. But sometimes it’s just not realistic.
"I can’t ask any more of the guys. Right now, it would be unfair. I can’t put them in a situation where it would compromise anything else — their stuff, their health. You might run a guy out there and he might not be the same pitcher you’re asking him to be."
Rojas decided Stroman’s day was done based on his vibes.
"Immediately, you notice the pitcher just being a little down," he said. "Say, ‘How do you feel?’ They’ll give you that look. You know. Last time we were in Miami, he didn’t give us that. He’s like, ‘No, I’m good. I can go.’ Then he came back out."
Stroman (2.88 ERA) added: "I didn’t throw at all last year. I had zero innings pitched. And now I’ve made the most starts in the big leagues . So I don’t know. Maybe that had something to do with it. Maybe it’s Luis and maybe it’s the coaches looking out for my best interests."
The Mets’ hitters, meanwhile, struggled. After four of the Mets’ first five batters picked up singles, they didn’t have another hit until Baez’s homer in the ninth.
Cardinals righthander Jake Woodford allowed two runs in four innings but won the game within the game against Pete Alonso, his former teammate at Plant High in Tampa. Alonso grounded into two double plays against him, although he did have an RBI double in the 11th before scoring on a throwing error.
"There were a couple of opportunities," Rojas said, "that were wasted."
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