Here lay the remains of the 2019 Mets season, marked first by frustration, and then by hope, and then ultimately by a fate that was not theirs to control.
The second National League wild-card spot was basically out of reach before Jacob deGrom had even thrown a pitch — the Brewers manhandled the Reds out of the gate in Cincinnati— and the mathematical improbability had turned into a mathematical impossibility. So instead, the Mets followed their ace’s lead: They soldiered on despite difficult circumstances. They trounced the Marlins Wednesday, 10-3 at Citi Field. DeGrom cemented his status as a frontrunner in the National League Cy Young race. And just as it was announced that Jeff McNeil had broken his wrist when he was hit by a pitch earlier in the game, the Brewers clinched the wild card.
"It's hard to say it doesn't" go through his mind, deGrom said of his Cy Young chances. "But every time I take the ball, I try to give us the best chance to win."
After the game, Mickey Callaway addressed his team, describing the mood as bittersweet. They were happy about how they’d clawed back from 11 games under .500 in July to be eliminated only in game No. 158. They were disappointed the end came so fast.
“There’s both” feelings, Callaway said. “After I addressed them, people were clapping because they were proud of never giving up and there’s something to be said about that. It’s the type of people that are in that room. Forget baseball and all that. That’s who these people are as a person, and they fought hard and you can’t ask for more.”
DeGrom went at the Marlins with the power of a prizefighter and the finesse of a flautist, pitching seven scoreless innings, allowing two hits with one walk and seven strikeouts. His ERA dropped to 2.43 in his last appearance of the season, just .02 higher than the Dodgers' Hyun-Jin Ryu, who had led the Cy Young race before a dropoff.
"I've looked at the numbers and I don't see how it could go any other way," Callaway said of deGrom's Cy Young chances. "It's unbelievable."
Pete Alonso hit his major-league leading 51st home run, one short of Aaron Judge’s rookie record. And for a change of pace, the Mets actually supported deGrom, scoring three runs in the first, four in the second and two in the third.
After, the mood was muted, though not quite somber.
“Just the way we’ve been playing over the last couple of months is a testament to the kind of guys we have in here, that never-quit attitude,” Michael Conforto said. “And I think that’s something that’s going to continue. As long as we have these guys in this room, we’ll continue to fight and understand that we have to put ourselves in a better position at this point next year.”
Alonso, too, already was looking to the future, marveling at their comeback, however thwarted. Guys like him, McNeil, deGrom and J.D. Davis are all coming back, if all things go as planned. Going into spring training, Alonso’s goal was to prove he was a major-league ballplayer. Going into this next one, the goal, he said, was to go all the way to the top.
The Mets, of course, have a number of gaping holes, the greatest of which is their bullpen, which leaked again Wednesday when Drew Gagnon gave up three runs in the ninth. Their payroll, too, has been on the lower end of a big-market team. Alonso was unfazed.
The goal: “We’re going to make the playoffs,” he said.
“I want to win the division and go from there. At the end of the day, we’re playing for a ring. That’s why we all play the game. Why play if you’re not playing for a championship? And I think we have such a solid, incredible core of guys, we have the right mentality and I think it’s just a matter of time. I think we’re going to do something really, really special.”
“When we finally put it together for 162, it’s going to be scary.”
Not this time, though. Not with the hole they dug, and the holes they have. And for that, may the 2019 Mets season rest in peace.