The Mets watched their 2019 season flash before their eyes Wednesday night at Citi Field, five months condensed into a busy, yet entertaining three hours and 24 minutes.
Optimism gave way to disaster, followed by a nearly miraculous rally in the middle, when anything seemed possible. Only to have it all come crashing down with a thud in a harsh, sobering 10-7 loss to the Cubs.
Does the script sound familiar?
The trick now is for the Mets to craft a different ending. But in falling four games behind the Cubs in the wild-card race, the likelihood of that happening is evaporating quickly.
“We’re never going to give up,” Mickey Callaway said afterward, “and that’s something we take pride in.”
At this rate, that’s going to be the epitaph for the ’19 season. And Noah Syndergaard was the guy with the pen Wednesday night, saving the worst start of his career for when the Mets needed exactly the opposite. Syndergaard allowed 10 runs in only three innings, and though he was victimized by some poor defense, he did zero to pick up his teammates in those situations.
“I had the opportunity to do something big tonight,” Syndergaard said, “and I let the team down.”
Syndergaard went on to say how he felt uncomfortable on the mound and has for a while, comparing it to being on “roller-skates.” That’s news to us, especially after Noah had no-hit stuff the last time out against the Indians before rain cut him short at six innings.
Even if the Mets do salvage Thursday’s series finale against the Cubs, and continue to recover in Philly over the weekend, what do Syndergaard’s words mean for his next start and beyond? Is he going to get comfortable again? Or should the Mets be worried about him possibly being noncompetitive?
After Amed Rosario’s costly error on a bad flip toward second opened the door for the Cubs’ six-run first inning, Syndergaard later teed up a trio of two-run homers to Ian Happ, Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos. The Mets also got burned when Kris Bryant’s pop-up in shallow leftfield dropped between Rosario and J.D. Davis, right before Schwarber’s blast.
“It was supposed to be a ball that was caught,” Davis said. “You can’t sugar-coat it.”
To the Mets’ credit, they didn’t roll over when Syndergaard failed them, and maybe that’s a reason for them to feel like they still have a chance, despite dropping five straight. Davis and Jeff McNeil sparked the resurgence with back-to-back homers in the fifth inning, and the Mets got the tying run to the plate in ninth against Craig Kimbrel before Juan Lagares struck out looking and Todd Frazier popped up.
Citi Field had been the Mets’ savior during the second half, but this five-game skid was almost a complete reversal of that. They’ve batted .156 (7-for-45) with RISP and stranded 37 runners overall. Does coming back against the Cubs mean that tailspin is over? We won’t know that for sure until Thursday’s meeting with Jon Lester.
“We’ve been in this situation before,” Callaway said. “We’ve risen to the challenge. I feel like we’ll do the same thing.”
After Syndergaard bowed out, the bullpen performed admirably, yet another reason that we’re not ready to write the Mets off. The relievers combined for six scoreless innings, allowing just three hits with a walk and eight strikeouts. The star was Edwin Diaz, who struck out the side in the ninth in his first appearance since leaving Saturday night’s game with a trapezius muscle issue.
Diaz mowed down the very top of the Cubs’ order, first whiffing Jason Heyward with a nasty slider, then Castellanos with a 98-heater. He went back to the slider again to strike out out Bryant. It’s ironic that Diaz has finally found himself on the verge of this season slipping away, but maybe he can still get some important outs.
“Diaz was the best I’ve ever seen him,” Callaway said.
Something the Mets could have used in a few months back, when the closer’s spectacular unraveling almost single-handedly destroyed any shot at contention. Ultimately, Diaz didn’t cost the Mets a second chance, and they’re still alive now. But they can’t survive on moral victories like Wednesday’s inspired comeback.
The Mets need the real thing, before this stirring season ultimately runs out of gas. And they have to start Thursday.