My God, the Mets. Phew. The hell they entered Tuesday night is a special, Mets-only hell. There are excruciating losses, and then there’s watching in horror as a sure-fire victory leaps out of the bag and lays waste to the dwindling hopes of your fading season.
When Jeff McNeil socked a dinger off reliever Roenis Elías during the eighth inning of Tuesday night’s Mets-Nationals tilt, I turned the game right the hell off! The Mets were up 5–2 at that point, and the Nationals showed no indication of putting together a rally. When I learned that Nationals shortstop Trea Turner forgot how many outs there were in the top of the ninth and gave up on a potential inning-ending double-play, with the Mets seizing the opportunity to tack on several more late runs and go up six, I felt vindicated in my choice to change the damn station. The Nationals are one of those teams where they either have it or they don’t, and on nights when they don’t have it, there is generally no point in waiting around to see if they’ll find it.
The missing factor in my calculation, there, was the Mets, who should never be counted out when an opportunity to lose in excruciating fashion is anywhere within grasp. The Mets haven’t been particularly Mets-ish in that way for most of the past two months, but that doesn’t mean the curse isn’t in there, biding its time, waiting for the perfect moment to burst forth and turn a routine ending into a spectacular meltdown. Sparks flew Tuesday night, my friends.
The stands were mostly empty when Víctor Robles led off the bottom of the ninth with an infield single. With one down, Turner lashed a double to the wall in right center, and Robles tore ass around the bases to put a feel-good run on the board and close the Nats to within five. The Mets were still not in any trouble! A five-run lead with one out in the bottom of the ninth is an enormously safe position! But then Asdrúbal Cabrera slapped a single to center, and Anthony Rendon followed with a single to left, and suddenly the Mets were making a pitching change, having allowed four hits and two runs. Luis Avilán came on to face Juan Soto, who kept the train moving with a single to right to load the bases.
Here is where Mickey Callaway made the decision to bring on closer Edwin Díaz. Díaz has not had a great season, but not too long ago he was considered one of the best closers in baseball, and this is where a tough-as-nails closer is supposed to slam the door on a dipshit rally by a team with no business winning a baseball game. That is very much not what happened. Ryan Zimmerman, pinch-hitting for Matt Adams, crushed Díaz’s second pitch over a leaping Michael Conforto in right for a two-run double, bringing Kurt Suzuki to the plate as the potential winning run. Suzuki worked the count full, and then did this:
Just like that, the Mets went from a feel-good win to the hole beneath a festival outhouse. The final line for Mets relievers in the bottom of the ninth is, well, it’s less than ideal: three pitchers threw a combined 32 pitches, allowed seven hits and seven runs, and recorded just one out. The win probability chart from this game is quite impressive, as you’d expect:
ESPN shared a fun fact about this game: after tonight’s Mets loss, road teams are 1,321–5 in games in which they led by at least six runs entering the ninth inning, over the last five years. What the Mets accomplished tonight—I prefer to think of it as a Mets accomplishment, because clearly they’ve been working toward it for years, if not decades—is something baseball hasn’t seen in a long, long time:
The loss was New York’s eighth in their last 11 games, dropping them five games back of the second NL Wild Card and pretty definitively bringing an end to all the happy feelings and momentum accrued over their late summer run. In an absolutely astonishing coincidence, this bullpen meltdown wasn’t even the worst in the Mets organization of Tuesday night. The Syracuse Mets, New York’s Triple-A affiliate, scored six runs in the top of the eighth inning to go up by seven runs over the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, and then surrendered a nightmarish eight runs in the bottom of the inning, to eventually lose by one. When the universe wants to send a message to the Mets organization, it makes damn sure to get its point across.