On Tuesday, Mets co-ace Noah Syndergaard underwent an MRI exam that revealed a strained ligament in his pitching index finger. A few hours later, Steven Matz left in the fourth inning of his start with finger discomfort. After taking a 6-2 lead into the seventh inning, the Mets’ bullpen completed its now-nightly implosion, culminating in the Braves’ second walk-off dinger of the series and a 7-6 loss.
This is just what happens to the Mets, of course—a pile-up of trauma and injury and misfires and misplays in startling bursts throughout the season. Sometimes they pull off a cluster of wins, too, like their alien 11-1 start to the year. But there’s never not a sense that whatever happens, for better or worse, feels deeply beyond their control. The Mets are an average major-league team, from the .500 record to their ranking in the late teens or worse in just about every team batting and pitching category, but their streaks in either direction can easily convince you otherwise.
When a team loses four of six games by a single run, as the Mets did in their road trip to Milwaukee and Atlanta, it can be easily chalked up to bad luck—or indicate that regression will flip some of those into wins throughout the season. But you can’t view the Mets’ 17-6 loss to the Brewers on Saturday, another squandered Jacob deGrom gem on Monday, or A.J. Ramos’ walk-in-the-winning-run act just before landing on the disabled list as signs of anything other than a very hobbled team that also might be a very bad one.
The delusional and damaged Mets fan can always turn to a long-winded conditional about their Full Potential When Healthy, and the optimism inherent in simply fielding a roster close to what was there on Opening Day. If Syndergaard, Yoenis Cespedes, Todd Frazier, Wilmer Flores, Anthony Swarzak, and Ramos all return by the All-Star break they might have a chance here. It’s always just a half-dozen activations out of reach.
All the uncertainty makes it easy to second-guess a tough, necessary split. Matt Harvey’s departure earlier this month felt like a minor victory of sorts, closing the book on a chapter that had reached something like its second epilogue. But when you look at what’s left there—Jason Vargas, Jekyll and Hyde work from Zack Wheeler, and the prospect of losing Syndergaard and Matz for an extended period, it’s hard not to confront the idea that whatever fractured relationship with Harvey remained couldn’t be much worse than the hand they’ve been dealt.
Of course there’s a degree to which none of this matters. Whether or not Charlie Culberson walk-off home runs will carry the Braves into meaningful October games, they are winning games right now, which is really all you can hope to do. For the first time in years, the NL East seems to have three competitive teams, and the Mets are not one of those.