In the suites high above the field, the Mets’ top executives worked the phones Saturday, enduring the excruciating process of fortifying a fraying roster before Monday afternoon’s looming trade deadline. But more and more, those efforts appear to be futile.
The Mets keep leaking oil, dropping a 7-2 decision to the Rockies on a soggy Saturday, their fourth straight loss. They remain 7 1⁄2 games back of the Nationals — their largest deficit of the season — and 2 1⁄2 behind the Marlins and Cardinals for the final wild-card spot.
The latter is hardly insurmountable. But the way the Mets have staggered through this stretch, a season that was once loaded with promise looks to have reached a tipping point. The fans sensed it, too.
Before the game, they roared during a touching pregame ceremony to retire the No. 31 jersey of Hall of Famer Mike Piazza. But once the action began, those cheers turned into jeers, growing even louder as the night became more grim. Slowly, the crowd thinned out, eventually greeting every inning with boos.
Righthander Bartolo Colon looked exactly like a 43-year-old pitching on three-days’ rest. He was chased after allowing five runs and seven hits in five innings, including a two-run shot to rookie David Dahl.
Meanwhile, the Mets’ deficient offense took a 2-0 lead, on RBI singles by Wilmer Flores and Kelly Johnson. Remarkably, both came on hits with runners in scoring position, situations that have typically brought nothing more than collective failure.
But that momentum stalled while the Rockies piled on. They tagged Colon for three runs in the fourth, with the biggest blow on Dahl’s second homer of the season.
The Rockies tacked on two more runs in the fifth, this time when D.J. LeMahieu poked a single up the middle, just out of Colon’s reach. With that, the Rockies took a 5-2 lead that even Collins acknowledged was virtually insurmountable for his offense.
When the Mets went down in order in the fifth, Collins double-switched slugger Yoenis Cespedes out of the game. The team insisted the move was precautionary, allowing Cespedes to rest an aching right quad that has been an issue since the All-Star break.
It was yet another reminder of the Mets’ precarious state. Earlier in the day, the Mets placed third baseman Jose Reyes on the 15-day disabled list with a strained intercostal muscle. The Mets expressed optimism that Reyes would return when eligible, though intercostal injuries are difficult to predict and often linger.
With this latest wave of gloom as the backdrop, Collins implored his team to “lighten up,” calling their recent struggles a mere “blip.” The Mets manager spoke of playing with enthusiasm and energy, even though all around him, his roster continued to crumble.
“We’ve got to take care of our business right now,” Collins said when asked about a rival getting only stronger.
Earlier in the day, the Nationals traded for Pirates closer Mark Melancon, making themselves an even more formidable foe. Meanwhile, the second-place Marlins have emerged as a serious threat, especially now that they’ve acquired arms to address their pitching needs.
The Mets? They began the evening with a 34.8 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Baseball Prospectus, odds that only went down despite their continuing efforts to find a spark to jolt their offense.
As the day rolled along, the Mets’ efforts to land Brewers catcher Jonathon Lucroy appeared to stall, according to sources. Meanwhile, they pivoted toward Reds slugging outfielder Jay Bruce, though he’s an imperfect fit given the complexion of the outfield.
The Mets hope to spark an offense that went into action with a league-worst .202 average with runners in scoring position. It makes little sense for the Mets to become sellers, despite what’s quickly becoming a tailspin.
So the Mets find themselves hoping for a turnaround similar to last season, when the trade deadline brought Cespedes and new hope that led to the World Series. It’s a resurgence that came only after hitting the nadir, a valley the Mets appear to be navigating once more.