CINCINNATI — Pinned to a corkboard in the visitor’s clubhouse at Great American Ball Park all weekend was a chart with the Mets’ itinerary — bus times and flight lengths and whatnot for their series in Denver and Cincinnati, their final week away from New York before the end of the season.
That piece of paper is always posted, or at least otherwise available to Mets players and staff, when they are on the road. But this version had an appropriately different last line: “NEXT TRIP: To be determined . . . BY YOU!!”
Even with a 6-3 victory over the Reds on Sunday and a pair of series wins, it increasingly appears there will be no “NEXT TRIP” for the Mets, whose long-shot playoff chances got longer during this road trip.
The Mets return home 4 1⁄2 games behind the Brewers and Nationals, who are in a virtual tie for the two National League wild card spots. With seven games to go — four against the Marlins, three against the Braves — the Mets’ elimination number is four.
“We’re playing for something,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “That’s what you want.”
The Mets reached Reds righthander Trevor Bauer, a former Indians pitcher who didn’t get along with Callaway when both were in Cleveland, for five runs in seven innings. Bauer struck out eight, walked none and allowed five hits.
Most of the Mets’ damage came in the first inning, when — with two outs — they matched their Saturday hit total (three) and doubled their Saturday run total (two). Pete Alonso and Robinson Cano smacked back-to-back doubles for a run, and after Wilson Ramos was hit by a pitch, Michael Conforto hit a three-run homer about 20 rows into the rightfield seats.
Conforto had been 1-for-25 before his 31st homer of the year.
“It reminds you that once he hits one like that, everybody better watch out, because his [homers] come in bunches,” Callaway said. “It was a good time to break out of it, and you love that sweet swing.”
Added Conforto: “I’ve been feeling OK. I’ve been feeling like I’ve been hitting the ball hard. A couple balls haven’t found holes . . . I’ve been working hard. I’ve been putting in work with [hitting coaches Chili Davis and Tom Slater]. And they always pump me full of confidence.”
Bauer settled in to retire 15 of 16 before J.D. Davis homered in the sixth.
Marcus Stroman, dealing with nausea and dizziness, allowed two runs in 4 2⁄3 innings and cruised — retiring 13 consecutive batters — between running into trouble at the beginning and end of his outing. He allowed three hits and three walks.
In the first, Joey Votto and Eugenio Suarez had back-to-back singles to put runners at the corners. Aristides Aquino’s sacrifice fly to center began Stroman’s streak of outs that took him into the fifth.
With two outs in the fifth, Kyle Farmer homered and Stroman suddenly lost the strike zone, walking Bauer, Phillip Ervin and Votto to load the bases. Callaway called on Brad Brach to face Suarez, who popped to second on the first pitch.
Callaway said Stroman “could’ve gone six” despite being ill if he had not walked Bauer. Stroman refused to blame his struggles on feeling unwell.
“It was hard to get my stomach and my head in order,” he said. “But I felt great with my arm and my stuff. It was unfortunate that I walked those three guys in that inning. It was very uncharacteristic of me and kind of frustrating.”
Now the Mets head back to Citi Field for the final countdown. Their mindset, given the standings? “Win,” Alonso said. “That’s it.”