NEW YORK — When the Mets’ and Braves’ final two games in April were postponed due to rain, adding a mid-August doubleheader to their schedule, the effects were evident. At that point, New York was three games behind Atlanta in the National League East. A series of four games over three days at Citi Field reeked of opportunity. Nothing short of division may be at stake.
By the time the Mets arrived on Saturday, circumstances had changed. dramatically. The matches at Queen’s were only an unnecessary reminder of the gulf between these teams. Long out of factual contention, the Mets lost both halves of a doubleheader, enduring a 21-3 onslaught in the hall before meekly falling into the nightcap, 6-0.
For the Mets, it was just as ugly as the results indicated. In the ninth inning of game one, the Braves scored eight goals from center fielder Danny Mendyk. In the eighth inning of Game 2, the Mets committed multiple errors on a single play to spark a three-run Atlanta home run. Finally, the Mets rivals were outscored in points, 34-3, in the first three games of the series, marking the largest three-game run difference in franchise history.
“Today was definitely a difficult day,” said Francisco Lindor. “When you lose, it’s hard. When you lose two in one day, it makes it even harder. Emotions, they’re kind of double, they quadruple.”
Expected to compete with each other for NL East supremacy, the Mets and Braves instead began moving in very different directions at the beginning of June. The downturn accelerated in New York when the Braves snatched three straight from them in Atlanta, much as they did late last season to knock the most competitive Mets out of first place. However, there was plenty of time to recover. The Mets used a few of them wisely, losing enough games in June and July to prompt them to sell out at the August 1 trade deadline.
Now, the Mets and Braves seem as mismatched on paper as the results of the games they’ve played. As one example: Five of the players in New York’s Game 1 starting lineup were in minors to open the season. Five of the players in Atlanta’s Game 1 starting lineup were on the NL All-Star Team.
The Mets deliberately chose this direction, believing that the sale would set them up for future success. But that doesn’t make the Saturday no-show any less painful for a team that has lost 10 of 12 this month.
“After the trade deadline, our season was similar to what it was before the trade deadline,” said Lindor. “The lows were longer than the highs.”
To make things worse for the Mets, they can’t even realistically play a spoiler against a team they so desperately want to screw up. The Braves are sailing to a sixth straight NL East title, with a double-digit lead over the Phillies and little cause for concern. The Mets are 1-8 against them this season, and with four head-to-head games left, once again secured a losing record against Atlanta.
Throughout Saturday’s proceedings, boos rained down at Citi Field – for Lindor, who finished 0 for 4 in the only game he played; For designated hitter Daniel Fogelbach, who only drove in Mets runs, but who nonetheless became a symbol of Mets dysfunction; for Mendick and a course of actual Mets painkillers; and more. Only José Quintana, who pitched six effective runs in the night’s cup, seemed immune to the day’s period.
“It’s tough, but I know all my teammates have tried to come back,” said Quintana. “We kept pushing.”
These impulses simply did not lead to any kind of positive momentum. Conversely, after a strikeout in the eighth inning of Game 2, first baseman Pete Alonso returned to the dugout and repeatedly slammed his helmet into the dugout seat.
“It’s hard to stay positive in moments like these,” Lindor said. “It’s very difficult. But you have to stay hopeful and understand that there is something you can get out of every day that you come out on the field.”
“Alcohol enthusiast. Twitter ninja. Tv lover. Falls down a lot. Hipster-friendly coffee geek.”