Sports News

Mets falling out of first place starting to feel inevitable

The best way to describe these Mets, at this sleepy juncture of their exhausting season, is to reach over the RFK Bridge and steal a quote from Zack Scott’s Bronx counterpart, Brian Cashman:

“We suck right now.”

Cashman offered that appraisal of his Yankees on June 29, which means the words shouldn’t be too stale. Whereas the Mets, who opened their road trip on Monday night with a 6-3 loss to the Marlins at the ridiculously spelled loanDepot park in Miami, currently look more rotten and moldy than a can of tuna left out in the sun.

Thanks to the Phillies’ 6-5 edging of the Nationals in Washington, the Mets’ National League East lead dropped to 2 ½ games. They should thank their lucky stars that they own such a comfortable advantage after suffering their fourth loss in five tries and dropping to 8-11 in their past 19 contests, not to mention their overall 55-50 mark that would place them fourth, ahead of only the Orioles, in the Yankees’ American League East.

“Every team goes through their ups and downs during the year,” said Pete Alonso, who slammed a solo homer in the third inning, his seventh since the All-Star break. “For us right now it’s just a little rut. I don’t think this is any long-term concern.”

Eh. Alonso added: “We’ve faced a lot of opponents and haven’t come out on top as much as we’ve wanted to, but that’s baseball.” If he the Marlins, Pirates and Reds — none of them playoff clubs — constitute competition, just wait until the Mets embark upon their 13-game stretch playing only the Dodgers and Giants later this month.

Mets
Jeff McNeil and the Mets hold just a 2.5 game lead in the NL East.
AP

The Mets again didn’t hit much in this one, their effort compromised by the understandable decision to bench the slumping Michael Conforto (who delivered a leadoff double in the ninth after entering in the eighth as a defensive replacement) and the late pulling of Brandon Nimmo, who is fighting through a left hamstring situation, from the starting lineup (he pinch-hit in the seventh and grounded out). They managed seven hits and four walks, not awful, and J.D. Davis (in the sixth) and Jeff McNeil (in the eighth) sent flyballs to the warning track that might have left other fields. Neither of those occurred, however, when the Mets had a runner in position. The team went a paltry 1-for-10 in those situations.

“I think we’ve gotten away from our team and our organization approach. We haven’t been aggressive consistently,” manager Luis Rojas said. “I think we’re in between a lot.”

They didn’t pitch sufficiently, although to the rookie Tylor Megill’s credit, he found himself down 4-0 after facing just four batters, the underwhelming Lewis Brinson delivering a grand slam, and permitted just one more run over the next four innings. Veteran Trevor May allowed a critical insurance run in the eighth.

They committed a pair of errors, catcher James McCann interfering on Jesus Aguilar’s first-inning swing (which loaded the bases and set up Brinson’s granny) and new guy Javier Baez throwing away a Brinson grounder in the eighth.

Baez’s positioning on that play resulted from a questionable call by Rojas, who played only his corners in, with his middle guys farther back, after the Marlins put men on first and third with no outs in the eighth. Brinson sent a slow roller to Baez, who might have had a play had he been in, but instead went to first, unsuccessfully.

“We were playing ‘three’ up the middle [not all the way back] because … there is a ball that, if it’s hit a certain way, you’re going to have to turn a double play and it’s just tough to get the out at home plate,” Rojas explained. “It’s a pick-and-choose right there for us.”

The pick-and-choose didn’t work, as Baez didn’t have a play at home — a chance to keep the Mets’ deficit at 5-3 — because of where he stood.

Not much worked on this night, just as it hasn’t lately. The Mets suck right now. And if they don’t wake up shortly, they could suck all the way down to second or third place.