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Mets end Wilpon era with big loss to Nationals in season finale

Mets starting pitcher Seth Lugo (67) leaves the

Mets starting pitcher Seth Lugo (67) leaves the mound after he was pulled during the second inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Washington. Mets third baseman Todd Frazier, left, looks on.  Credit: AP/Nick Wass

WASHINGTON — A paradigm-shifting offseason for the Mets began Sunday after one last debacle: a 15-5 loss to the Nationals.

They ended the year 26-34, tied with Washington for last in the NL East. It is their first time finishing in the basement since 2003, the first full season under complete Wilpon ownership.

In that context, it was a poetic last chapter to the season and the era. The Wilpon and Katz families agreed this month to sell the franchise to multibillionaire and Great Neck native Steve Cohen, whose official takeover is pending approval from Major League Baseball. A vote of team owners is expected sometime in the next month-plus.

And then who knows what will happen.

"I'm glad," Brandon Nimmo said, "that someone who's been a lifelong Mets fan ended up getting the team."

In the more than 18 seasons since Fred Wilpon bought Nelson Doubleday Jr.’s half of the Mets — on Aug. 14, 2002 — and installed his son, Jeff Wilpon, as chief operating officer, the Mets went to the playoffs three times and had seven winning seasons.

The Wilpon Mets had an all-time record of 1,400-1,456.

The finale was ugly.

"Some things that happened in the game are definitely not pleasant to witness," manager Luis Rojas said.

Seth Lugo gave up six runs in 1 1/3 innings, the prelude to another offseason debate about which role is best for him and the team. All of the usual small-sample-size caveats apply, but in nine relief appearances, he had a 2.61 ERA. In seven starts, including two clunkers, he had a 6.15 ERA.

Upon returning to the dugout, Lugo slammed his glove to the ground.

"It’s one of them things where, you know, I came out of the game very upset, still cared about this last game and wanted to end on a good note and beat these guys," Lugo said. "It just didn’t work out."

Steven Matz, in what might have been his last game with the Mets, allowed three runs in three innings. He struggled early but recovered to retire nine of his last 11 batters, lowering his ERA to 9.68.

This winter, Matz’s fate is among the Mets’ major-league personnel decisions. He is not scheduled to be a free agent until after the 2021 season, but he is due to receive a raise via arbitration on the $5 million he was set to make this year (until a pandemic shortened the season and prorated salaries). It is possible they cut the Stony Brook native who has been with the organization since 2009.

"There’s no question that he’s going to work really hard," Rojas said. "We know how successful he’s been in the past."

Pete Alonso hit two homers, giving him a team-high 16 on the season. He finished two shy of Marcell Ozuna’s NL-leading 18 and in a 162-game slate would be on pace for 43 long balls.

A season that began with grand playoff aspirations ended with immense disappointment. The NL wild-card race was such that the Mets would have made the playoffs had they won their three games in the season’s final two days.

Everything else they needed to happen happened. The Phillies and Giants lost twice and the Brewers lost once, scores that got the Mets’ attention after their last game.

"We needed to do it and we didn’t do it. It was definitely all on us," Rojas said. "They’re talking about the outcomes of the games that would’ve impacted what we would’ve done here. They’re emotional about saying goodbye to each other."

Now, the players go their separate ways, waiting to see what happens with — and under — Cohen.

"We know how much talent was on this team," Nimmo said. "You don’t always get the promise of the next year with the same guys."

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