CHICAGO - The Mets were down to their final out Thursday night when Wilmer Flores sent a pop-up soaring into foul ground near first base. Cubs catcher Eli Whiteside and first baseman Anthony Rizzo gave chase before getting tangled up.
The ball hit Rizzo's mitt, then fell to the ground.
In the course of three days, the Cubs endured similar moments, showing why they have the worst record in the National League. But the Mets faced a horrifying reality when Flores made the final out in a bitter 7-4 loss Thursday night.
"It's pretty clear-cut," David Wright said. "They were just better than us in these three games."
Consider the gravity of that statement. When the Mets (28-32) arrived in the Windy City on Tuesday, they had just taken four of five from the Phillies. The rebuilding Cubs (23-34) looked to be easy marks.
It appeared to be a soft spot in the schedule before the start of a challenging three-game series that begins Friday night against the Giants (39-21) -- who have looked like Secretariat, drawing off with the game's best record.
Instead, the Mets ran into a brick wall, showcasing their worst characteristics while suffering a three-game sweep. It was the first time all season that the Cubs had won three straight.
"We didn't pitch all that well, didn't hit all that well, didn't field all that well," said Wright, who went 0-for-5 and left four on base. "It's just the recipe for getting swept. That's what happened. They played better than us in pretty much every area of the game."
Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud stranded five baserunners on his own, lofting a weak fly ball with the bases loaded in the fourth and flying out with two on in the sixth. He finished 0-for-3 and is hitting .184.
In the eighth inning of a one-run game, d'Arnaud was lifted for pinch hitter Bobby Abreu, who flied out.
"It was the right matchup," d'Arnaud said. "Bobby Abreu is a great hitter."
Thanks to an overturned call at home plate, a blown double play by the Mets' infield and a missed catch in centerfield by Chris Young, the Cubs took a 4-0 lead. Pitcher Travis Wood hit a two-run homer and knocked in a third run with his fourth-inning fielder's choice against Jacob deGrom.
But the Mets clawed back to tie it at 4. In the sixth, Ruben Tejada and Young collected run-scoring hits. In the seventh, Andrew Brown tied it with a two-run shot. But Rizzo's solo shot in the seventh made it 5-4.
The Mets had the tying run 90 feet away in the eighth. With two outs, Young walked and advanced to third on Curtis Granderson's single. That brought up Wright, who grounded out, then stayed in the dugout when he was double-switched out of the game.
"Again, I don't make the decisions, " Wright said. "I guess the way to answer that is if you don't make the last out of the inning, you don't get double-switched for."
But it hardly mattered. In the eighth, Junior Lake's two-run triple off Jenrry Mejia sealed the Mets' fate.
Said Mets manager Terry Collins, "We just couldn't get it done here."