When Sandy Alderson referred to "Panic City" the other day, he meant it as a joke. But what has happened to the Mets since then is no laughing matter.
Just ask Jacob deGrom.
The usually unflappable deGrom punched a water cooler in the dugout with his pitching hand after giving up a home run as the Mets were swept by the Cubs, 6-1, Thursday at Citi Field.
DeGrom cushioned the blow by putting his fielding glove on his right hand. Still, he scored a clean knockout on the unsuspecting cooler.
"I just never had the game I wanted," deGrom said. "I had a tough time commanding my pitches. I was wild. I just struggled out there today."
Manager Terry Collins said he appreciated deGrom's passion, if not his judgment.
"You're allowed to have some emotion," Collins said. "You've got to have some emotion to play this game. He knows we needed him today and he didn't pitch like he wanted to and he's mad about it. I support it. I hope he kicked a lot of stuff on the way out there."
Collins did say he would have preferred that deGrom hadn't used his pitching hand: "That would be a smarter idea."
Frustrations are boiling over for the Mets (40-40). They snapped a 22-inning scoreless streak in the third inning but still dropped their third in a row to the Cubs, who swept the seven-game season series.
The Mets now will take their 11-26 road record to Los Angeles, where they will face the NL West-leading Dodgers starting Friday night. The Mets draw Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in the first two games (against Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey) before Steven Matz faces Mike Bolsinger in the Long Island lefty's second big-league start on Sunday.
Then it's on to San Francisco to face the defending World Series champion Giants. A bad road trip could leave the Mets buried before the All-Star break.
After getting shut out on consecutive nights, Collins called Thursday "a big game for us. We can get on that plane with a smile on your faces."
But no one on the Mets' side was smiling when this one was over. Especially not deGrom, who allowed four runs (three earned) in 51/3 innings in his shortest outing since May 11.
DeGrom (8-6) gave up the game's first run in the second inning when Chicago's Jonathan Herrera executed a perfect safety-squeeze bunt. It was a bitter flashback to the eighth inning Wednesday night, when Darrell Ceciliani botched a suicide-squeeze attempt in the Mets' 2-0, 11-inning loss.
At least the Mets scored Thursday, on third-inning doubles by deGrom and Curtis Granderson to tie it against Jake Arrieta (8-5). The Cubs, who had lost five straight coming into the series, took a 2-1 lead in the fifth on Anthony Rizzo's RBI single. The run was unearned thanks to a throwing error by Daniel Murphy, who also was picked off first by catcher Miguel Montero in the first inning.
DeGrom exited angrily after Herrera hit a two-run homer in the sixth that just went over the leaping try of Granderson and off the top of the wall in right-center. It came on deGrom's season-high 115th pitch. Montero added a two-run homer off Alex Torres in the ninth.
Although the Mets weren't smiling, Collins did tell the team to stop playing so tight in a postgame address.
Then he attempted a little humor of his own, saying: "The only thing left is human sacrifice. So we're going to have to pick somebody."
Mets fans probably have some thoughts on that.