The Mets wasted yet another gem by their ace, Matt Harvey. Then, they sat through a blown save from their previously flawless closer, Jeurys Familia. To cap it all off, their slumbering offense sleepwalked deep into extra innings, unable to to muster much against the Cardinals bullpen.
By the 14th inning Monday night, the Mets appeared destined for a well-deserved defeat until John Mayberry Jr. came off the bench.
With the bases loaded, Mayberry's infield single nudged the Mets ahead, 2-1. A crowd thinned out over 4 hours and 13 minutes rejoiced as Mayberry's grounder off Trevor Rosenthal proved just enough to score Eric Campbell from third.
That the Mets wound up winning was the only saving grace in was an otherwise forgettable effort in which Harvey's brilliance was squandered.
In a season that has been marked by a constant give-and-take -- a concession to protecting their budding ace's surgically repaired right elbow -- the Mets must decide just how much to push Harvey.
On Monday night, the answer came through crystal clear from manager Terry Collins, who had been burned five days prior for being conservative.
Last Wednesday, with a 1-0 lead against the Cubs, Collins pulled Harvey after seven scoreless innings and 100 pitches.
Later, he watched in horror as the bullpen blew the lead.
On Monday night, Collins didn't summon a reliever until the ninth, turning a tense game over to Familia who had been 13-for-13 in his save chances.
Collins did almost the opposite of what he had done with the same set of circumstances. He was burned for it anyway.
Noted Mets killer Yadier Molina ripped a one-out single in the ninth to give the Cardinals runners on the corners.
Jason Heyward lifted a flyball to rightfield, deep enough for Pete Kozma to score the tying run on the weak-armed Curtis Granderson, whose throw came in up the third-base line.
With that, Harvey's stellar night became another frustrating footnote, even though he proved equal to the task of protecting a 1-0 lead. The righthander finished with a season-high nine strikeouts and left the Mets in position to win despite little support.
The run came in the fourth, when Luca Duda bounced a ground ball up the middle against the Cardinals, who had shifted three infielders to the right of second base. Granderson scored from third, giving Harvey his only run of support on a night in which he lowered his ERA to 1.98.
Harvey's best work comes by blending power with precision. But as he navigated the early stages of his outing, it was clear that he was missing the latter part of that equation.
Over and over, Harvey fell behind in the count to batters. Even when he got ahead, he failed to put them away. He got away with it.
The Cardinals ripped at fastballs early int he count so Harvey wouldn't have a chance to use his slider and curve.
But with some help from his defense, Harvey held the line long enough to find his groove. In the fourth, Harvey walked Jhonny Peralta after getting ahead of him 0-and-2. Matt Adams followed with a hit, giving the Cardinals a threat.
Harvey bounced back to strike out Molina. Then, he found himself the beneficiary of a brilliant play by maligned shortstop Wilmer Flores, who started a double play when he dived to his left to snare a Heyward liner.
Soon, Harvey hit his stride, and he appeared headed for victory until the Familia allowed the tying run in the ninth.