What could have been
Big hits by Dom & McNeil remind how season was expected to go
The Mets won a tight, well-fought game against a divisional contender, powered by key hits by Dom Smith and Jeff McNeil. The bad news is it’s likely too little, too late, instead underscoring what might have happened this season had the team’s hitters played close to their capabilities.
We’ll catch you up on all the news of the day. But first, let’s recap last night’s action.
⚾️ IN SHORT: The Mets mixed strong starting pitching with an effective bullpen and clutch hitting to win a one-run game against a division rival. Dom Smith had a huge two-run, pinch hit double to tie the game 2-2 in the fifth. Rich Hill pitched well enough for the team to win, giving up just two runs in 4.2 innings with seven strike outs. Aaron Loup got the win in relief and Edwin Diaz nailed down his 30th save as the Mets won 3-2. [Box Score]
🔑 KEY MOMENT: With the game tied at 2, Jeff McNeil led off the bottom of the seventh with a blast that fell just short of Shea Bridge.
❶ IN THE LOUP: Aaron Loup continues to be one of the best stories of the 2021 Mets, and a key off-season pickup by the front office. With a scoreless inning of relief, Loup lowered his season ERA to 1.00.
❷ DOM’S PINCH HITTING: Although he hasn't had more than one at bat in a game since his last start on September 9, Dom Smith delivered clutch, RBI pinch hits on Saturday and Sunday.
STAYING POSITIVE: “I don’t have any concern,” Smith said of his diminished playing time. “I know what I can bring to this game. So if I’m sitting here worried about stuff I can’t control, I’m just going to drive myself crazy. You know me, I’m not that type of person. I love life. I have fun. And I enjoy my job, my career.”
❸ MCNEIL’S FINISH: Jeff McNeil is one of many Mets hitters looking for a strong finish to a disappointing season. He’s now 6-for-13 in the past four games.
CONFIDENCE: “I’ve done it for three years, I’ve done it for over a thousand at-bats, I know I’m a pretty good hitter,” McNeil said after the game. “A few hundred at-bats doesn’t make me a bad hitter at all. I’ve taken some very good at-bats this year, just haven’t had the results that have been there in the past. It’s a year I can try to forget about and try to learn from at the same time.”
🧑🏫 SOUND SMART: No Met pitcher has ever had a season of more than 20 innings with a sub-1.00 ERA. Loup will look to become the first to do so over the next few weeks: “Finishing under 1.00 (ERA) would be the icing on the cake,” Loup told reporters last night.
⏭ NEXT UP: The Mets have a day off before heading up to Boston for a two-game set at Fenway. Marcus Stroman (9-12, 2.88 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for the Amazins. We’ll have more on the series tomorrow.
📉 STANDINGS: While the win snapped a five-game losing streak and “lifted” the Mets to 73-77, they did not gain ground in the divisional race, as Atlanta beat the Giants. They are also seven behind in the wildcard race.
9️⃣ MAGIC NUMBER: The Mets’ elimination is imminent enough that there is now a single-digit magic number: any combination of 9 Mets losses and/or Atlanta wins will put the Amazins out of the running for the division title.
🗓 SUNDAY IS FUNDAY: The Mets have now won on five straight Sundays.
🍆🏔 DICK MOUNTAIN: Rich Hill has now gone a whopping 49 straight starts without allowing more than 4 runs. Only 4 pitchers in history have had a longer streak.
NO QUIT: “I think there’s still an opportunity,” Hill said of the Mets’ faint playoff chances. “I always hold on hope to be able to see that there might be something that could be on the horizon.”
🦸 NOAH: Noah Syndergaard threw 15-20 pitches during a live batting practice session yesterday to Jose Peraza and Luis Guillorme, and the team is reportedly considering activating him without sending him back on a minor league rehab assignment. It is believed the righty could return on the upcoming road trip through Boston and Milwaukee, but would not use his slider or curveball this season at the advice of medical officials.
➰ MORE LOUP: As mentioned earlier, Aaron Loup’s ERA on the season is now a surreal 1.00. Fortunately for the Mets, the lefty (and imminent free agent) said after the game that he’d “love to come back” next year, adding, “I've had a blast playing here. I've had fun with the guys all year long and I've had a great year, so I see no reason not to."
🤩 ALVAREZ: 19-year-old super-prospect catcher Francisco Álvarez has completed his season, putting up some impressive numbers. In just 99 games, the teenaged backstop hit 24 homers with a .942 OPS (.272/.388/.554).
🏆 CHAMPIONSHIP: The Mets’ St. Lucie affiliate has won the Low-A Southeast East Division title, marking the first time they’ve won a division championship since 2016.
🧍 FAIR PAY: Players from both the Mets’ and Phillies’ minor league affiliates in High-A — the Brooklyn Cyclones and Jersey Shore BlueClaws — wore teal wristbands that said #FairBall on Saturday in solidarity for higher wages in the minor leagues.
STANDING UP: “I think those guys standing for something that they believe, you’ve got to respect that,” Rojas said. “If there’s going to be an upgrade there, I’ll be one of the guys to say, ‘Yeah, that would be great.’ These are guys that are choosing baseball as their career, and immediately they want some impact when it comes down to their economic choice. I’ll be someone that will support that if they’re voicing it. Everyone has their right to show what they want, show the gesture.”
📚 ON THIS DATE:
🔗 Steve Cohen is failing the Mets more than Francisco Lindor, by Ian O’Connor, NY Post: “Cohen is a lifelong New Yorker and Mets fan who had spent more than eight years in the organization as a minority owner. He had closely watched the Wilpons, Fred and Jeff, make all their mistakes, before buying their team for $2.4 billion. And when Cohen promised that his operation would be defined by professionalism and integrity, and that he was “not gonna put up with maybe the type of stuff that has happened in other places,” it sounded like code for, I’m not gonna put up with the type of stuff that happened in this place, under Fred and Jeff.”
🔗 How can the Mets be better on the bases? by Tim Britton, The Athletic ($): “The Mets entered the spring with an intense focus on fixing their flaws in the so-called “little things;” Rojas defined defense, holding runners and baserunning as three chief concentrations in spring training. The defense was much better for much of the season, though it has slipped since the end of July. The Mets have allowed below the league average in stolen bases, and only three teams have caught basestealers at a higher percentage this season. The baserunning is a different story.”
🔗 ‘Once Upon a Time’ provides comfort from current Mets’ reality, by Mike Vaccaro, NY Post: “As much as we love sports as a diversion, as a wonderful source of joy and passion and energy and love, we also know there is a flip side. We know sports can keep us up at night. We know sports can inspire anger. And as a result, we know that sports sometimes needs to find its own antidotes to deal with all of this craziness. This, I think, is where the value of “Once Upon a Time in Queens” comes in.”
And… we leave you with a conversation between a Mets skipper, a former Mets skipper and a former candidate for Mets skipper:
Thanks for reading! Follow us on Twitter for regular updates until tomorrow’s newsletter.
And please check out our newsletter about the Knicks, too.