Oh what three days can change. Just one game out of the Wild Card going into the All-Star break, the Mets get swept out of Atlanta in their first post-break series and fall 3.5 games behind.
With nine days of rest after collapsing against the Phillies on July 4, starter Chris Young left little suspense about his next performance early on against the Braves. Young’s three walks outnumbered his two strikeouts, he gave up five runs by the third inning and was back in the dugout by the fourth. The Mets rallied with four runs in the fourth inning but Young dug his lineup too big of a hole to climb out of, and the bullpen gave up an additional two runs, including a deal-sealing solo bomb off Braves third baseman Chipper Jones.
It’s one game. The Mets seemingly could have won if Young was able to go the distance and close out better in two-strike situations. But even the rotation’s pocket aces, R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana, could not win against a powerful Braves offense. Dickey’s All-Star glow faded a bit with a five-run, five-inning outing on July 14 and, despite a fiesty seven runs from the Mets on small ball, Bobby Parnell gave up a 7-5 lead in the bottom of the eighth by allowing the Braves three runs. Then Braves closer Craig Kimbrel made quick work of the Mets in the ninth inning.
It’s just two games, two that the Mets could have won with better pitching. But the third straight loss on July 15, 6-1, was plain bad all around. Did Terry Collins raise expectations too high by declaring that the Mets are “in the hunt” earlier this month? With a record still a sliver above .500, there is little disappointment in the team compared to the past few seasons. But new Wild Card expectations make this past weekend deflating.