Disappointing loss ends Mets' season
Bullpen allows late takeover by Marlins as bats come up shy
NEW YORK -- Shortly after this latest and final defeat, the rather apt conclusion to an unfathomable demise, the Mets kept themselves busy selecting adjectives to explain what no one completely understood.
"Frustrated," was what David Wright chose, and perhaps that's most apt. The Mets' 4-2 loss to the Marlins on Sunday left him and his teammates rightly frustrated, victims yet again of something beyond the grasp of even their baseball understanding.
"Heartbroken," Ryan Church selected, and that one also seemed to fit. Blowing a 3 1/2-game lead with 17 games to play could humble even the proudest Mets, especially once viewed through the prism of last season.
"Disappointed," Damion Easley said, after pondering for a moment. "I could come up with more. But that's enough."
The rest of his teammates -- a pacing, frazzled group still quite unsure of what to do with themselves -- one by one began to agree.
"I really don't know what else to say," said Scott Schoeneweis, Sunday's losing pitcher. "There's nothing to say."
"I have no more words," Carlos Beltran added, walking away.
Beltran had already used his most pointed words early in Spring Training, trumpeting his opinion that the Mets, and not the Phillies, were the team to beat in the National League East. It was a play on Jimmy Rollins' preseason proclamation from the prior season, when Rollins and his Phillies precipitated the Mets' historic collapse. Up seven games in the standings with 17 to play, the Mets lost six of their final seven games to miss the postseason.
Since the final out of that final game of 2007, the Mets have been unable to take a step, nor utter a word, without drawing comparisons to last September. Perhaps they didn't begin this season as favorites to make the playoffs, even despite Beltran's outspoken confidence. But they played themselves back into that position, building a 3 1/2-game division lead with 17 to play.
That was the first parallel, followed in rapid succession by a string of others. The deeper the Mets descended into September, the more they began to resemble last year's group, stewards of a fair bit of unwanted history.
They jumped out to early leads, but couldn't tack on runs. They received strong starting pitching, but inadequate support from the bullpen. And so after the final Friday of the season, they found themselves staring at second place in the NL Wild Card standings. The Phillies had already clinched the division, but the Mets were now chasing the Brewers. And they were doing so with almost eerie symmetry.
They won Saturday, beating the Marlins on Johan Santana's impressive pitching, just as they had a year ago when John Maine dazzled Shea. Then, riding all that momentum and even a perception of near-invincibility, they lost. The Marlins returned to Shea Stadium and beat the Mets, knocking them out of the playoffs for the second successive season.
"We just didn't get it done," manager Jerry Manuel said.
Jose Reyes let out a long, low sigh, almost a whistle.
"I don't know what happened," he said. "But it's kind of hard to swallow this one. I don't want to go home."
Sunday's loss was rather unlike the one that occurred one year prior. The Mets had a chance in this game until their final at-bat, when Church, with a man on base, sent a fly ball nearly to the warning track in center field.
Innings earlier, Beltran had tied the game with a two-run homer, giving the Mets new life on a day that was all about staying alive. And Oliver Perez pitched admirably on three days' rest, allowing three hits and one run before leaving in the midst of a critical sixth inning -- but otherwise performing as well as Manuel might have hoped.
Yet the bullpen, culprits for so much of this season, folded. Joe Smith entered in relief of Perez and walked in a run, before Schoeneweis and Luis Ayala allowed back-to-back home runs to Wes Helms and Dan Uggla to lead off the eighth.
Only moments later, Shea Stadium's scoreboard, on what turned out to be its last day of use, burned an uncomfortable truth into the afternoon sky: Brewers 3, Cubs 1. The Mets' NL Wild Card competitors had claimed their first lead of the day, doubly vexing the Mets.
"We should have locked this up a long time ago," Church said. "It doesn't feel good. I'm hurting right now."
They all were. From Pedro Martinez -- who may never pitch again in the Majors -- all the way down to rookies Daniel Murphy and Nick Evans, the Mets were hurting. This was not a "done deal in Spring Training," as Moises Alou likened the team's playoff chances last season. But the Mets made it into something worth pursuing, even providing evidence that this might be different, quite different than last year.
In the end, however, in the clubhouse where the team could no longer hide behind hope and potential, several Mets milled around quietly and said their goodbyes. They were practiced in coping with situations such as these, and they remained acutely aware that Sunday's loss would follow them all winter, all spring, even deep into next season.
The Mets knew, also, that on this day, in this room, there was nothing more that they could do.
"It burns," Wright said. "It's a bad feeling. And this is just the beginning."
|2007||Mets||Phillies||Mets' Lead||2008||Mets||Phillies||Mets' Lead|
|9/1||Won @ ATL, 5-1||Lost @ FLA, 12-6||3||9/1||Won @ MIL, 4-2||Lost @ WSH, 7-4||2|
|9/2||Won @ ATL, 3-2||Lost @ FLA, 7-6||4||9/2||Won @ MIL, 6-5||Won @ WSH, 4-0||2|
|9/3||Won @ CIN, 10-4||Lost @ ATL, 5-1||5||9/3||Won @ MIL, 9-2||Lost @ WSH, 9-7||3|
|9/4||Won @ CIN, 11-7||Won @ ATL, 5-2||5||9/4||Off||Off||3|
|9/5||Lost @ CIN, 7-0||Lost @ ATL, 9-8||5||9/5||Lost vs PHI, 3-0||Won @ NYM, 3-0||2|
|9/6||Off||Off||5||9/6||Rain out||Rain out||2|
|9/7||Won vs HOU, 11-3||Lost vs FLA, 6-3||6||9/7||Split DH with PHI||Split DH with NYM||2|
|9/8||Won vs HOU, 3-1||Won vs FLA, 9-1||6||9/8||Off||Won vs FLA, 8-6||1.5|
|9/9||Won vs HOU, 4-1||Won vs FLA, 8-5||6||9/9||Won vs WSH, 10-8||Lost vs FLA, 10-8||2.5|
|9/10||Won vs ATL, 3-2||Won vs COL, 6-5||6||9/10||Won vs WSH, 13-10||Lost vs FLA, 7-3||3.5|
|9/11||Lost vs ATL, 13-5||Lost vs COL, 8-2||6||9/11||Off||Won vs MIL, 6-3||3|
|9/12||Won vs ATL, 4-3||Lost vs COL, 12-0||7||9/12||Rain out||Rain out||3|
|9/13||Off||Won vs COL, 12-4||6.5||9/13||Split DH with ATL||Won vs MIL, 7-3||2.5|
|9/14||Lost vs PHI, 3-2||Won @ NYM, 3-2||5.5||9/14||Lost vs ATL, 7-4||Won DH from MIL||1|
|9/15||Lost vs PHI, 5-3||Won @ NYM, 5-3||4.5||9/15||Lost @ WSH, 7-2||Off||0.5|
|9/16||Lost vs PHI, 10-6||Won @ NYM, 10-6||3.5||9/16||Lost @ WSH, 1-0||Won vs ATL, 8-7||-0.5|
|9/17||Lost @ WSH, 12-4||Won @ STL, 13-11||2.5||9/17||Won @ WSH, 9-7||Won @ ATL, 6-1||-0.5|
|9/18||Lost @ WSH, 9-8||Won @ STL, 7-4||1.5||9/18||Won @ WSH 7-2||Won @ ATL, 4-3||-0.5|
|9/19||Won @ WSH, 8-4||Lost @ STL, 2-1||2.5||9/19||Won @ ATL, 9-5||Lost @ FLA, 14-8||0.5|
|9/20||Lost @ FLA, 8-7||Won @ WSH, 7-6||1.5||9/20||Lost @ ATL, 4-2||Won @ FLA, 3-2||-0.5|
|9/21||Won @ FLA, 9-6||Won @ WSH, 6-3||1.5||9/21||Lost @ ATL, 7-6||Won @ FLA, 5-2||-1.5|
|9/22||Won @ FLA, 7-2||Won @ WSH, 4-1||1.5||9/22||Lost vs. CHC, 9-5||Won vs. ATL, 6-2||-2.5|
|9/23||Won @ FLA, 7-6||Lost @ WSH, 5-3||2.5||9/23||Won vs. CHC, 6-2||Lost vs. ATL, 3-2||-1.5|
|9/24||Lost vs WSH, 13-4||Off||2||9/24||Lost vs. CHC, 9-6||Lost vs. ATL, 10-4||-1.5|
|9/25||Lost vs WSH, 10-9||Lost vs ATL, 10-6||2||9/25||Won vs CHC, 7-6||Off||-1|
|9/26||Lost vs WSH, 9-6||Won vs. ATL, 5-2||1||9/26||Lost vs FLA, 6-1||Won vs. WSH, 8-4||-2|
|9/27||Lost vs STL, 3-0||Won vs ATL, 6-4||Tied||9/27||Won vs FLA, 2-0||Won vs. WSH, 4-3||-2|
|9/28||Lost vs FLA, 7-4||Won vs WSH, 6-0||-1||9/28||Lost vs FLA, 4-2||Won vs WSH, 8-3||-3|
|9/29||Won vs FLA, 13-0||Lost vs WSH, 4-2||Tied|
|9/30||Lost vs FLA, 8-1||Won vs WSH, 6-1||-1|
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.