WASHINGTON — For the 15th time in 18 seasons under the Wilpons, the Mets failed to qualify for the playoffs.
That became official Saturday when they lost to the Nationals, 4-3, in the opener of their doubleheader, closing their path to a National League wild-card spot. When they dropped the second game, 5-3, it meant that if they lose their season finale Sunday, they will finish tied with Washington for last in the division.
In the opener, Miguel Castro, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s marquee trade-deadline acquisition, was charged with the deciding run in the sixth after he allowed two of his three batters to reach base.
Edwin Diaz, perhaps the biggest addition in Van Wagenen’s nearly two years with the club, inherited a first-and-third, one-out jam and allowed a run on his first pitch when Josh Harrison shot a line drive to rightfield. Yan Gomes was thrown out at second on the play, taking a hit away from Harrison, but Brock Holt scored the go-ahead run.
"It’s the toughest loss of the year, because it takes us out from what we were trying to achieve," manager Luis Rojas said. "Not the season that we anticipated. At the start, we felt that we were a team that was going to be a part of that playoff group. We didn’t achieve our goal."
At the end of the night, Rojas addressed the team. "Basically telling them we’re a lot better than what the result was this year," he said.
When he left the room, the players held their own meeting.
"It’s something I don’t want to discuss, but we did have a little conversation," Dominic Smith said. "The guys are obviously a little bit upset, but we know what we need to do this offseason to come back stronger in 2021."
This is the fourth year in a row and the 12th time in 14 seasons that the Mets (26-33) are not going to the postseason.
This time, though, it is particularly embarrassing because of Van Wagenen’s win-now agenda. Sacrificing future prospects for the present and fielding a team that featured ace Jacob deGrom and a lineup among the best in baseball did not work for Van Wagenen.
Even worse, MLB expanded the playoff field to 16 out of 30, eight from each league. That the Mets technically stayed in the race this long has more to do with the dramatically lowered bar than anything they have done on the field.
They have not had a winning record since July 29 (3-2). They will finish the season without a winning streak longer than three games.
"I wish we had 100 more [games]," Pete Alonso said. "I feel like this team is built to win."
"When eight teams go and we didn’t make it, that’s pretty frustrating," deGrom said. "The level of disappointment is very high."
"I thought there was a good shot of getting in there," Rojas said. "Not getting in there can be a little frustrating."
DeGrom allowed three runs in five innings, raising his ERA to 2.38 — sixth in the National League — all but ending his chance of winning a third consecutive NL Cy Young Award.
In the fifth, when Andrew Stevenson lofted a long fly down the leftfield line, Smith tried to make a sliding, over-the-shoulder catch, but the ball deflected off his glove as he crashed into the wall. Smith was slow to get up as Stevenson circled the bases for a tying inside-the-park home run, his second homer of the game.
Smith stayed in the game. Andres Gimenez wasn’t as fortunate. He tweaked his right oblique on a swing in the second and went on the injured list between games.
Mets homers in the doubleheader came from Wilson Ramos, Amed Rosario and Alonso, his team-high 14th. Dellin Betances tossed a scoreless inning, his first appearance since returning from the injured list. He showed his best fastball velocity of the year.
On other days, maybe there are a few positives, some of the "resiliency" that Rojas mentioned again. But on Saturday, none of that really mattered.
"We let some games get away," deGrom said, "including today."