On yet another evening of soul-crushing futility for the Mets, credit Brandon Nimmo for at least trying something different. After striking out three times, Nimmo came up in the eighth inning, saw Amed Rosario standing at first base, and did what nearly everyone else refuses to do, regardless of the score or situation.
The slow-roller not only put the tying run in scoring position, but Nimmo’s speed pressured Danny Valencia into making a poor throw to first, allowing him to be safe. Two men on for Asdrubal Cabrera, and in the Mets’ dismal world these days, it doesn’t get any better.
Or worse. Cabrera bounced into a threat-killing double play, and the Mets lost anyway, this time, 2-1, to the Orioles at Citi Field. They lost to Alex Cobb, who entered Tuesday with a 6.80 ERA, and were kneecapped by a Baltimore team that was 24 games under .500 and 23 games out in the AL East. For those still counting, the Mets have scored two runs over their last 32 innings and a whopping total of seven in 50 innings.
“Sometimes,” Nimmo said afterward, “we’re as dumbfounded and surprised as you guys are.”
There is no more upbeat person in the Mets’ clubhouse, but even Nimmo — the Energizer Bunny of this powerless lineup — struggled to maintain his normally unflinching optimism after the Mets suffered their fifth straight loss, and 10th in 12 games. He agreed with Mickey Callaway’s postgame push for the Mets to be more resourceful in this endless quest to cross the plate — “by any means necessary” Nimmo said — only with the understanding that it’s not just a switch can be flicked on.
“It’s tough to keep your head up, but we have to try to keep that positivity,” Nimmo said. “We’re due to break out of this at some point.”
That’s usually a boilerplate comment from the manager, but Callaway seemed particularly deflated after Tuesday’s defeat. It’s been a rough few days for him personally after the “pressures” of playing in New York comment got Callaway kicked around in media circles, and he tried to suggest alternate means of generating offense, like being more opportunistic in “dirtball” chances — pitches eluding the catcher.
But those are only marginal things. What the Mets desperately need is the return Yoenis Cespedes, but he’s still another day or two away, at best. They skipped outdoor batting practice Tuesday in order to set up a simulated game for Cespedes and Noah Syndergaard, with the two dueling for roughly a dozen pitches. Cespedes looked OK, but he passed on speaking with reporters afterward, so we didn’t get the chance for any firsthand verbal confirmation.
What we do know is that the Mets have been a sorry outfit during Cespedes’ extended time on the DL, and after more of the same nothing Tuesday night — mostly against the very hittable Cobb — it’s hard to think of a reason why it should ever turn around.
Coming off a four-game sweep by the Cubs, at Citi, it has to happen very soon, if the Mets are serious about saving this season. They did get two significant players back for Tuesday’s series opener in Todd Frazier and Anthony Swarzak — both were away on extended DL stints. But resuscitating these Mets is more than a two-person job, and it was pretty much the same no-show offense against Cobb for the first six innings.
To really appreciate how bad Cobb has been, it’s worth repeating the numbers. The Orioles gave him a four-year, $57-million deal during the final week of spring training, and he’s responded so far by pitching practice, with teams posting a robust slash line of .356/.392/.609 against him. Still, Cobb held the Mets hitless through four innings and didn’t crack until Jay Bruce opened the fifth with a sharp single inside the rightfield line.
Kevin Plawecki followed by pulling a double to left, and the Mets scored their lone run on Jose Bautista’s pinch-hit sacrifice fly. Later, in the ninth, Plawecki ended the game on a foul pop near the Mets’ on-deck circle, then slammed his bat to the ground when it landed in Chris Davis’ glove.
“This is no time to feel sorry for ourselves or care what other people think,” said Bruce, who had a pair of singles and also walked. “We just have to score more runs than the other team.”
So simple a solution, and yet so impossible for the Mets to execute.