BOSTON — The Mets played meaningful September baseball on Tuesday, and not just in a technically-still-mathematically-alive sort of way.
Their 6-3 loss to the Red Sox came with great significance in the wild-card race — in the American League, that is. That outcome made things more difficult for the Yankees, who are chasing Boston and Toronto for the final postseason berths.
Marcus Stroman had maybe his worst start since the All-Star break, allowing four runs and seven hits in five innings. He walked two and struck out three.
Mets hitters, meanwhile, managed little against lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez (4.97 ERA) and a parade of relievers that included former Met Hansel Robles, who struck out two in a perfect seventh inning. They totaled eight hits.
That pushed the Mets (73-78) further toward formal elimination. They are 8 1/2 games behind St. Louis in the race for the last NL wild-card spot and seven games behind first-place Atlanta in the NL East.
"Yes, it’s unlikely. That’s just a fact. We haven’t played up to our potential," said Pete Alonso, who hit his 34th home run. "We have to finish the season strong regardless of where we’re at in the standings. That’s just what we have to do."
The AL picture is far more interesting: With their win, the Red Sox (87-65) held serve atop the wild-card bunch. They are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Blue Jays, who hold the last spot and are a half-game ahead of the Yankees, the first team on the outside looking in.
Stroman did well early, including escaping a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the third, but the Red Sox started to hit him hard with two outs in the fourth. He said his mechanics were out of whack after not pitching for a week, two days longer than normal.
"That’s been tough my whole career," he said. "Any time you get the extra day of rest, it’s hard to have your mechanics exactly where they need to be."
Bobby Dalbec’s double off the top of the centerfield wall began a run of seven consecutive — and eight of nine — batted balls hit at 100 mph or faster against Stroman.
"It happened really quick," manager Luis Rojas said.
Christian Vazquez’s double, a line drive that leftfielder Kevin Pillar misplayed and let go over his head, drove in Dalbec and cut the Mets’ two-run lead in half.
The laser show continued in the fifth: Enrique Hernandez hit a tying homer to left-center, Kyle Schwarber doubled to left-center and Xander Bogaerts hit a go-ahead two-run homer to center. Rafael Devers and Alex Verdugo also had hard contact in making outs.
"Oh, man, they’re good," Stroman said. "One through nine, there’s no easy outs. You gotta be locked in."
After not pitching at all in 2020, Stroman has been strong overall in 2021 with a 3.00 ERA, but he seems to have regressed late in the season. Through June, he had a 2.45 ERA in 16 starts. Since July, he has a 3.57 ERA in 16 starts.
"I feel great. I feel really good," said Stroman, who leads the majors with 32 starts. "I do so much to keep my mind and my body in the proper space."
Bogaerts (2-for-3, four RBIs) added a two-run single in the sixth against Brad Hand.
The Mets scored two runs in 4 1/3 innings against Rodriguez, both during a fourth-inning rally. They might have had more, but an aggressive send by third-base coach Gary DiSarcina resulted in Alonso being thrown out at the plate — by a lot — for the first out of the inning. Alonso had to hold up to avoid being hit by Michael Conforto's RBI single, and Hernandez picked up the ball in shallow center before Alonso reached third. If DiSarcina had held Alonso at third, the Mets would have had the bases loaded with none out.
"I saw him waving, and I gave my best effort," Alonso said. "Just a baseball play. Tough baseball play."
Rojas added: "I knew two runs weren’t going to do it."
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