This might be forever known in Mets history as the Lars Nootbaar game.
The desperate Mets were trailing the Cardinals by four runs in the seventh inning on Wednesday night at Citi Field when Pete Alonso, who had homered earlier, sent a drive to deep right with two runners on.
But Nootbaar, a 24-year-old rookie from El Segundo, California, who had entered the game three batters earlier on a double-switch, scaled the fence – as high as his 6-foot-3 body could go -- to rob Alonso of a sure three-run home run and end the inning.
The Cardinals went on to sweep the three-game series, 11-4, to leave the Mets (72-75) five games back in the NL wild-card race and 5 1/2 games behind Atlanta in the East (after a 3-2 loss to Colorado) with 15 to play.
"We’ve got to get hot," said Jeff McNeil, who went 3-for-4 and was a home run short of the cycle. "We’ve got to get real hot."
Tylor Megill, coming off a superb start against the Yankees, gave up five runs on five hits and two walks in a torturous 37-pitch first inning.
"Zero command and falling behind in a lot of counts," Megill said. "Long first inning. Takes a toll. Overall, just not good."
Tyler O’Neill had a two-run double, Dylan Carlson had a two-out RBI single, and Harrison Bader added a bloop two-run single to center, with Edmundo Sosa scoring all the way from first after taking off on the pitch.
The Mets tried to play catchup the rest of the way, but the rampaging Cardinals banged out 16 hits, including four solo home runs, to notch their fifth straight victory.
The Mets had 13 hits, including solo homers by Alonso and Kevin Pillar, but went 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
"To me, that was the biggest difference: Us not coming through," manager Luis Rojas said. "Our starters had a chance to drive in a run and didn’t."
Javier Baez, who came in hitting .467 in his last 12 starts and hit the game-tying home run in the ninth inning on Tuesday in the Mets’ 7-6, 11-inning loss, twice had a chance to bring the Mets to within a run.
In the fifth, with the Mets trailing 6-2 and runners on second and third with two outs against Jon Lester, Baez hit a ball 408 feet to the centerfield wall that was caught by Bader with a leap (this one would have stayed in the park).
Then, in the seventh, with the Mets still down by four (8-4) and runners on first and second and one out and the crowd chanting his name, Baez hit a ball just shy of the warning track in right-center.
That was right before Nootbaar robbed Alonso.
"Kid made a nice play," Rojas said. "Very nice play. He just came in the game and he was ready. Credit that."
The Cardinals got solo home runs from Bader (off Megill in the fourth) and Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado (off Seth Lugo in the seventh).
Megill (3-5, 4.57 ERA) allowed six runs in three-plus innings.
After the Nootbaar thievery, Sosa led off the eighth with a home run off Heath Hembree and the Cardinals scored twice more to go up 11-4.
Baez, Francisco Lindor and many players on both teams wore No. 21 on Wednesday in honor of MLB’s Roberto Clemente Day. Those two are Puerto Rican, as was the late Hall of Famer.
Other Mets to wear the number included Puerto Ricans Lugo, Edwin Diaz and Tomas Nido, plus Alonso and Carlos Carrasco.
Alonso is the Mets’ nominee for MLB’s Roberto Clemente award, which honors charitable endeavors. Carrasco won the award in 2019 while playing for Cleveland.
Baez’s late-season resurgence hasn’t led to the Mets claiming a playoff spot. But will it earn the free-agent-to-be a lucrative contract from owner Steve Cohen in the offseason so Baez can stay for, say, the next 10 years or so with his childhood pal Francisco Lindor?
"I don’t know," Baez said. "We’ll see. I don’t have that decision right now. I’m just trying to put my up numbers, so we’ll see what happens in the offseason."
After going 1-for-5, Baez in 34 games as a Met is batting .300 with nine home runs, 18 RBIs and a .956 OPS.
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