The Mets held a lead in each of their four games against the Cardinals. They received strong starting pitching in all four contests, except the finale when a left calf cramp limited Jason Vargas to four innings. They averaged 5.2 runs per game.
Yet Mickey Callaway’s team was able to secure just a single victory in the four-game set. It was apropos of this season that is trending in the wrong direction. There have been positives, but not nearly enough of them to overcome the obvious holes on the roster.
The bullpen absorbed the loss in all three defeats, and in the one game it performed well — Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Cardinals — the offense disappeared after scoring three times in the first four frames and the defense gift-wrapped a run for the opposition.
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“It’s frustrating. We did put ourselves in a position to win and we didn’t get as many wins as we liked,” Callaway said. “I thought we could’ve won three and we had a chance to win four. That’s not what happened.”
It added up to another dismal loss that precedes a killer 11-game road trip to Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia. By the time the Mets (34-37) return to Queens, their season may be all but over. Already 7 ¹/₂ games behind the Braves in the NL East, they will now face three playoff contenders on the road, where they have lost 18 of their past 23 games.
“We need to get to .500. We talked about it this morning as a group. We need to get to .500 and then we need to start adding on past that,” Callaway said. “We have a chance to do that on this road trip and I expect we’re going to play good baseball and get that accomplished.”
When asked why he was confident that will happen, the manager said: “We’re putting ourselves in position to win games and I expect our bullpen to turn things around. They’re not going to be like this all the time.”
With Seth Lugo, Edwin Diaz and Robert Gsellman all unavailable due to a heavy recent work load, Callaway called upon converted starter Chris Flexen to pitch the eighth inning of a 3-3 game.
But the right-hander served up a one-out solo homer to Mets killer Paul DeJong, who drove in the game-winning run of the opener and pulled the Cardinals even in the eighth inning of the second game of the series. This time, DeJong drilled a 3-1 slider over the middle part of the plate for his 13th homer of the year as Flexen’s ERA rose to 10.80.
“We brought him up for a reason,” Callaway said of Flexen, who was called up after the bullpen blew the first two games of the series. “He’s been throwing the ball well and we had three guys down and he was the next guy that we felt could give us a great inning.”
The Mets held a 3-2 lead following back-to-back run-scoring singles from Adeiny Hechavarria and Juan Lagares in the third inning, but the Cardinals immediately pulled even in the fourth, after Vargas walked the first two hitters of the frame.
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Dexter Fowler then hit a comebacker that could have been a double play, but Hechavarria couldn’t handle the throw from Vargas. The error, the first of two by Hechavarria on the day, loaded the bases. The Cardinals drew even on Yadier Molina’s double play and never trailed again.
The offense didn’t produce much a day after scoring eight runs, managing just two singles over the final four innings. It will have to be better over the next 11 days. Everyone will have to be better for the Mets not to be buried by the time they return from their trip.
“We know we’re better than this. We have to figure it out quickly, and hopefully it gets kick-started tomorrow,” Todd Frazier said. “We got to start winning games, and we have to start now.”