LOS ANGELES — Among Steve Cohen’s first public comments as owner of the Mets, during an introductory news conference last November, was an obvious answer to a question about which professional sports team he considers a model franchise.
"I like what the Dodgers are doing," said Cohen, who tried to buy them in 2012. "That’s one team that easily seems to make the mark in the type of places that I want to do the same."
Playing the standard against which everyone else is measured, the Mets simply have not measured up. Los Angeles beat them again, 4-3, on Saturday for the sixth time in six games (in nine days). Pete Alonso struck out swinging against closer Kenley Jansen to strand the potential tying run on second base.
The Mets (60-63) have lost 17 of 23 (and have fallen seven games behind NL East-leading Atlanta, which has gone 17-4 in that span to erase a five-game deficit). They have lost eight of their last nine, all to the Dodgers and Giants. The series this weekend and last have revealed just how far they have to go to match Cohen’s model.
"We just can’t finish what we start," manager Luis Rojas said. "It’s happened a lot of times."
Brandon Nimmo, who was 3-for-5 and a triple shy of the cycle, said: "This has definitely not been easy. Very, very difficult to stay even-keeled, even though that’s exactly what we have to do."
The Dodgers are the defending World Series champions and have won eight straight division titles. They have by far the highest payroll in the majors, a player-development machine and a roster littered with studs deemed scrubs by their previous clubs. They are a bona fide powerhouse.
Take their contributors Saturday as examples. The Dodgers last month used some of their considerable prospect inventory to acquire the Nationals’ Trea Turner, who went 3-for-4 with a first-inning homer, and Max Scherzer, who grinded through five innings and held the Mets to one run. Chris Taylor, who homered in the fourth, is a multi-position All-Star obtained in a minor 2016 trade with the Mariners. And they didn’t get much from their homegrown standouts — Cody Bellinger (0-for-3), Corey Seager (0-for-3), Will Smith (1-for-4) — not to mention injured stars such as Clayton Kershaw and Mookie Betts.
Rich Hill, a member of the Dodgers from 2016-19, gave up three runs in five innings. Each run came on a solo homer, from Turner, Taylor and Albert Pujols, who hit the 677th of his career.
That was the first time the 41-year-old Pujols, the oldest hitter in the majors, had gone deep against the 41-year-old Hill, the oldest pitcher in the majors, since Aug. 17, 2007.
"They have a hell of a lineup," Hill said. "They’re playing unbelievable baseball right now."
The Mets, meanwhile, again struggled — with amazing consistency — to score. They finished 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
It began in the first, when Nimmo led off with a double but was stranded on second. The Mets left at least one runner in scoring position in each of the first five innings. In the fifth, J.D. Davis struck out with the bases loaded, swinging and missing at Scherzer’s 96-mph fastball over the heart of the plate.
Rojas said Davis’ swing was late, which has been a frequent problem for him lately.
In seven plate appearances with the bases loaded, Davis has six strikeouts and one RBI. The Mets are hitting .208 with 67 RBIs in 124 such situations.
"There’s an adrenaline rush," Rojas said, "and sometimes you drift away from your approach."
The eventual difference-making run scored in the sixth, when Miguel Castro faced four batters and retired none of them: bloop single, walk, walk, walk. The last, which forced in a run, was to Taylor, who had fallen behind 0-and-2.
Alonso hit a two-run home run off Blake Treinen in the seventh, getting the Mets within a run, but they couldn’t complete the comeback. Again.
What happens if the Mets can’t save their season? Go back to Cohen for a hint.
"I don’t suffer people who give me responses that are mediocre. I see through that fairly quickly," he said, adding later: "I’m not in this to be mediocre. That’s just not my thing. I want something great. And I know the fans want something great. So that’s my goal and that’s what I’m going to do.''
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