By the time the clubhouse doors opened on Monday morning, it was difficult to discern whether the Mets were prepping for a ballgame or making a cameo in “The Walking Dead.” Coffee cups were ubiquitous, as were the blank stares and the deliberate gaits that were brought about by sleep deprivation.
Sunday night’s nationally televised game against the Nationals forced the Mets into Monday’s Labor Day slog against the Reds, though in the end, it hardly mattered. Playing with a lineup of backups, a concession to fatigue, the Mets beat the Reds, 5-0, to remain a game behind the Cardinals for the final wild-card spot.
Not even a charter flight through the night could undo the Mets, who got their biggest contribution from their sleepiest player.
Matt Reynolds, called up from Triple-A Las Vegas to add depth, did not arrive at the ballpark until Monday morning, hours behind the rest of his teammates. But he went 3-for-4 with a solo homer, an RBI single, an infield single and two runs scored.
Kelly Johnson smacked his ninth homer, extending a monthlong power surge. And the Mets (72-66) put the game away with a three-run seventh inning.
Bartolo Colon, the 43-year-old marvel, had flown to Cincinnati ahead of the team. The extra rest seemed to help. The righty tossed six shutout innings, allowing five hits and a walk to improve his record to 13-7.
The Mets have won 12 of their last 16 games. After stumbling out of the gates in the second half, they evened their record at 25-25 since the All-Star break. If the Cardinals lose on Monday, the Mets would be tied for the second wild card.
“I’m not by any means throwing in the towel today,” manager Terry Collins said, explaining a starting lineup that was without Jose Reyes, Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera, who delivered a run-scoring pinch-hit single.
Both Cespedes and Cabrera have been given days off to rest lingering leg injuries. And Reyes has been a staple in the lineup since coming off the disabled list.
“With the turnaround the way it is last night, if I played a couple of guys today, I’m asking for them to get hurt in my opinion,” Collins said. “I can’t have that. We’ve still got a long stretch to go here and I need those guys ready.”
As it has been lately, everything worked out for Collins, who watched his lineup of replacements provide plenty of support for Colon.
Reynolds endured a marathon travel day to make it in time for Monday’s game. He boarded an 11 p.m. red-eye from Salt Lake City to Boston, where he changed planes to get to Cincinnati.
Kept awake by a chatty seatmate, Reynolds cobbled together only two hours’ sleep at most. The majority of it came from a morning nap he took in his hotel room upon arriving around 9:15 a.m. By 11 a.m., he was sitting in a quiet corner of the Mets clubhouse, scrambling to get dressed and tracking down another cup of coffee.
Reynolds found himself in the starting lineup at shortstop. Nevertheless, he performed well, just as he did under similar circumstances when he homered in a Subway Series game against the Yankees.
The rest of the Mets looked no better, arriving at their hotel around 3:15 a.m. after their Sunday night victory over the Nationals at Citi Field.
Collins’ alarm clock woke him at 8 a.m. and he dragged himself to Great American Ball Park. The sleep-deprived manager made jokes about baseball’s old days, before it was commonplace in clubhouses to brew cups of coffee spiked with now-banned amphetamines.
“Do not touch the coffee today,” he said with a laugh.
Those days have long passed, of course. Still, members of the Reds’ clubhouse staff apparently showed some empathy for their road-weary foes. When Collins staggered into his office, he looked at his chair and was greeted with a can of Red Bull.
Perhaps, it was just enough.