If that was David Peterson’s last start of the season, it’s one that he’ll be stewing over all winter.
Peterson, who was making his 19th start of the year and will drop out of the rotation when Max Scherzer is back from injury, walked each of the first three hitters he faced. After finding the zone to strike out Cubs’ cleanup hitter Patrick Wisdom, the next two hitters both thumped two-run doubles. That was it for Peterson, who is now the owner of the Mets’ shortest start of the year, and goes down as the losing pitcher in this 6-3 defeat.
Four runs on the board, one out, and a very long walk to the dugout for Peterson put the Mets in great position to get swept. Several hours later, the Cubs completed that task despite not getting any more runs after the first inning. Trevor Williams came on in relief of Peterson in the first inning and let one of his inherited runners score, then coughed up an earned run of his own to put the Mets down six before they even got to hit. The top of the first inning lasted roughly 25 minutes, but ask anyone in attendance, and it felt significantly longer than that.
“It sucks,” Peterson said of his failure to get through the first. “The way that I didn’t put us in a good spot from the get go, that’s the thing I’m most frustrated about. This one’s on me.”
The Mets have finally reached the point of the year that the Yankees just got through. As fans of the city’s American League team cried wolf throughout the entire month of August — during which the Yankees went 10-18 and watched their lead in the division shrink by seven games — the Mets just kept on sailing. Arguably the most impressive part of the Mets’ season was their ability to avoid any prolonged slumps. Instead of playing hot and cold, they found a temperature that worked for them and sustained it all season.
Now, things have gotten arctic.
“I thought we were going to make a run here or there,” Buck Showalter said in his postgame forum. “But a double play ball or something happened that took us out of the momentum we were trying to gain.”
In their three losses to the Cubs, the Mets scored just six runs. They left 21 runners on base and were 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position. The whole series was also full of some very un-Mets-like sloppy defense. An overall lack of energy permeated across the three listless nights at Citi Field. Showalter was asked if he thinks his hitters have been pressing recently.
“Oh, I hope so,” he said between chuckles. “You bet. It’s human nature.
You got a deadline, you’re pressing,” he said to the reporter who asked the question. “That’s the way life is.”
Even worse, the Cubs played the entire series without their best player (the injured Willson Conteras) and did not start fellow All-Star Ian Happ on Wednesday.
Everyone knew the Mets were not invincible, just like the Yankees — or any other baseball team for that matter — are not invincible. But seeing these last three games play out the way they have has certainly invited questions about whether it would have been better to get this fallow period out of the way earlier. Stumbling into the postseason is never a good thing, even if Showalter thinks that September performances don’t correlate to October. On top of that, losing so consistently to bad teams is perhaps the most troubling thing that a contender can do right now.
For a team that’s won over 62% of its games, going 5-7 against the Nationals, Pirates, Marlins and Cubs over the last 12 games certainly qualifies as rock bottom. While a rough stretch in April or May would have probably hurt the Mets chances of winning the National League East, it would have also been a much more preferable time to bottom out. Having the rest of the season to correct things, rather than just the 18 games they have left, seems like it also would have been better for everyone’s mental health.
On the plus side, Williams was sensational yet again as a long relief man. He nearly set a Mets’ franchise record for most strikeouts in a game by a relief pitcher, but fell one short of Tug McGraw’s nine-K effort in 1971. Along with Pete Alonso going yard for a second straight game, Williams was one of very few bright spots in this game. Darin Ruf, at long last, also got his first hit since August.
Something has to change quickly. It’s obviously too late in the season for sweeping personnel changes (at best, the Mets can stop giving so many at-bats to guys who aren’t hitting) so the biggest changes will have to come from within. Whatever it takes to light that internal furnace needs to be found soon, otherwise the Mets’ season could very well end in the wild card round.
When the best thing that happens to a team is their division rival losing, as Atlanta did on Wednesday, that’s a pretty good sign that things are deteriorating.
“I think some good baseball is ahead of us,” Showalter said optimistically. “I hurt for them because I know how much it means to them, and they haven’t been able to get there.”