PHILADELPHIA — Whatever happens the next four weeks, the Mets at least are doing this: participating in proverbial Meaningful September Baseball Games.
That hardly would be a satisfying consolation prize, of course, if they fall short of the postseason. But it also is more than a participation trophy.
The 2018 Mets were long out of it by the season’s final month. As were the 2017 Mets. So this at least is something rookie general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and his team can point to and say they improved this year. The Mets are in the race late. Their young players are getting valuable experience.
The Mets’ dabbling in that Meaningful September Baseball began Sunday with a 5-2 loss to the Phillies. Jeurys Familia allowed a tiebreaking three-run double by Scott Kingery with one out in the eighth inning. With a chance to make up a game on the Cubs, who lost earlier Sunday, the Mets failed to complete the series sweep.
“You always want to pick one up, right?” Mickey Callaway said. “You want to win every inning. You want to win every game. But the reality is we didn’t.”
Familia also used that word.
“The reality of it is I just haven’t been able to get the job done this year,” he said through an interpreter. “It’s not that I get nervous or I’m out of control, I’m trying to do too much. It’s just that I couldn’t get the job done there.”
The reality for the Mets (69-67) is increasingly dire. They trail the Cubs by four games for the last National League wild card spot, and the math is starting to get dicey.
If the Cubs (73-63) play, say, .500 baseball the rest of the way, the Mets would have to finish the season with a 17-9 stretch to earn a tie. And that doesn’t factor in the finishes by the Phillies, Brewers and Diamondbacks, who are tightly bunched with the Mets in the standings.
The Mets produced an eighth-inning rally that tied the score and could have accomplished more.
When they put two on with nobody out, Callaway pulled would-be pinch hitter J.D. Davis back from the on-deck circle in favor of Luis Guillorme, who sacrificed the runners over.
Callaway said he wanted to give up an out to give Pete Alonso a better chance of getting an at-bat in the inning.
“We really wanted to get those two runners in scoring position where [Jeff McNeil] or Alonso could get us the lead,” he said.
McNeil sent a bouncer to first, but Rajai Davis was thrown out trying to score from third, which brought comic relief to a tense situation. Davis slid into plate umpire Joe West, who fell on top of Davis. West, who is not particularly mobile, had to be lifted to his feet by Phillies pitcher Hector Neris; he eventually signaled out upon getting to his feet.
“Raj is going so fast, there’s no avoiding that collision,” Callaway said.
Alonso walked and Brandon Nimmo scored on a wild pitch to tie it, but Michael Conforto struck out swinging.
Callaway opted for September call-up Daniel Zamora to begin the bottom of the eighth, and Bryce Harper singled to start the winning rally.
“Zamora threw a really good first-pitch breaking ball, [Harper] swung through it, and [Zamora] was trying to waste a fastball to set that pitch up again,” Callaway said. “Kind of left it over the plate and [Harper] gets a hit.’’
Then Familia entered.
Marcus Stroman allowed two runs in six innings, settling in to retire 13 of his final 16 batters. He has a 4.54 ERA in six starts with the Mets but hasn’t recorded an out in the seventh.
“Probably the best we’ve seen him pitch,” Callaway said.
Phillies starter Zach Eflin held the Mets to one run in seven innings. Alonso crushed his 43rd homer — tied for most in the majors — in the first. “I thought we had a really good game plan; it’s just sometimes the guy on the mound is really good,” he said. “We had a good opportunity today. We didn’t do it.”