When the Mets and Braves began play Friday night, the Amazins had a one-game lead in the NL East, and even one win out of three games would’ve left them tied in the standings but given the Amazins the season series and thus the tiebreaker.
Instead, the worst possible outcome happened: the Braves swept the Mets, who had their top three starters on the mound in what amounted to a virtual playoff series, and now find themselves entering the final season of the series in dormie position: down two and without the tiebreaker, meaning the Braves have a magic number of one to clinch the NL East and relegate the Mets to the fourth seed and a date with either Philly, San Diego, or Milwaukee in the Wild Card Series.
“This doesn’t feel the best, but we still have three games left, and we’re still going to the postseason,” a somber Pete Alonso said after Sunday’s loss, trying to find a bright side. “There are a lot of learning points we can take from this series moving forward. I thought we played well, but the Braves played better – they played excellent baseball this entire weekend.”
The fact that Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Chris Bassitt all lost – and none of them even pitched well enough to take a ‘hard-luck’ loss – was the worst part to Boomer & Gio on Monday morning, and that seemed to be the consensus in the Mets’ clubhouse, too.
“It feels terrible. Those are our guys. Those are our best shots, and they stuffed them in our face,” Brandon Nimmo had said Saturday after deGrom and Scherzer’s losses. “It doesn't feel good at all. But, we have to find a way to bounce back and give it everything we’ve got.”
Sadly, they didn’t, and now it’s all but a formality that a team that spent all but two days from April 7-September 30 in or tied for first place, and was never more than a half-game down on those other two days, enters the final week of the season staring down a second straight collapse - and a second straight year for setting a record for most days in first place without winning the division, this one a mark that will be tough to break.
Not as epic as last year, though, as the Mets will indeed play on past Wednesday, and as Buck Showalter has said, he’s proud of what the team has accomplished, division title or not, and won’t apologize for winning nearly 100 games and still coming up short.
“Of course it’s disappointing, because we’re human beings, but it’s not like they’re not going to get a chance. They’ve earned something, regardless,” Showalter said after the sweep. “What I say to them and the way we go about it, we don’t broadcast it, but I’m proud of everything they’ve done, unconditionally. If I know these guys, they’ll rebound and look to make somebody feel their pain.”
In the short-term, that could be the Nationals, who are at Citi Field for the final three games of the season this week, and in the longer-term, it’s likely someone (perhaps the Phillies?) in the Wild Card Round at Citi Field, then hopefully the Dodgers in the NLDS…and then, perhaps, a rematch with the Braves in the NLCS?
If there is one silver lining, it’s that the Mets do once again have deGrom, Scherzer, and Bassitt set up for next weekend’s Wild Card Series, assuming they don’t enter Wednesday needing to win and thus needing to use deGrom in a do-or-die game – and even if so, their rotation is possibly set up to still run in the 1-2-3 order as time goes on.
And, they did just come out of a virtual playoff series on the road, so when those Mets who have never experienced the actual postseason finally get there this weekend,
“I feel like for a lot of us, this is the closest thing to a playoff atmosphere,” Alonso said. “We did a lot of good things and played good defense, but could have gotten more timely hits, or had better at bats with guys in scoring position.”
The one thing they want to avoid, though, is what happened in Atlanta.
“They just flat out beat us this weekend,” Alonso said bluntly. “They played well. Good for them, tip your cap and move on.”
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroWFAN