The Rangers’ at-bats were loud early, and the Mets’ were quiet late and especially when it mattered most.
Trevor Williams buried his team in a hole they never climbed out of, and the Mets’ situational hits failed again on a sunny Saturday afternoon in a 7-3 loss to Texas in front of a crowd of 26,494 at Citi Field.
The Mets (48-30) have lost four of their last five ahead of Sunday’s rubber game against the Rangers. The Braves won again, narrowing the Mets’ lead over NL East to just 2 1/2 games, the closest the division has achieved since April 30.
The Rangers’ four homers, including three in the first four innings — two of them by right fielder Kole Calhoun — were enough to sink the Mets, who remained scoreless after the fourth inning and finished 8-0 with runners in scoring position .
In their last five games, the Mets — who have thrived at critical moments for much of the season and run big hits to big rallies — have played 4-to-39 (.103) with runners in goal position.
“We couldn’t put a lot of things together,” said manager Buck Showalter of his club, which has conceded ten runs in the last five games. “We create some opportunities but don’t take them. But then we [did] hit four balls today on the button they were defending.”
When the offense is absent, the Mets must rely on a pitching baton, which when healthy can carry a heavier load. On the same day that the Mets officially announced Jacob deGrom’s rehab stint would begin Sunday (two days before Max Scherzer’s scheduled return to the major league rotation), Williams, a typically reliable replacement, underscored the need for that the co-aces come back .
Williams has done well as a swingman this season, but he gave back-to-back homers in the second inning to Calhoun and Jonah Heim, who went an estimated 792 feet combined.
The Mets had taken the lead in the first inning on Starling Marte’s eighth homer of the season, a two-run shot. But they went from a two-run ledge to a two-run hole that proved insurmountable.
“A couple of mishandled pitches that ended up hurting,” said Williams, who took a three-day break for a rotation missing Scherzer, deGrom, Tylor Megill and now David Peterson, who left to be with his wife expecting their child every day. “The three-run homer [to Calhoun] was the dagger.”
Williams only lasted 3 ²/₃ innings, finishing with as many strikeouts (three) as home runs were allowed. Each of the five runs he was tasked with came from the long ball, the last of them a second homer by Calhoun.
After Williams was removed, the Mets’ bullpen gave the offense a chance to strike — another chance that was wasted.
The Mets hit just one run after the first inning, on a home run by Eduardo Escobar in the fourth that made it 5-3. They didn’t come any closer.
Their best subsequent threat came at the end of the fifth when Marte singled in front of Francisco Lindor’s walk, bringing Pete Alonso and excitement to the plate. But while the slugger hit the ball hard, it went straight to shortstop Corey Seager, who started a double play late in the inning.
Alonso had another chance in the eighth inning after Lindor tied for second with a no out, but he swung through the three. Lindor was one of seven stranded.
What went wrong with the Mets’ on-time bats?
“Baseball,” Lindor said when asked how a team that was successful in the clutch froze. “The ups and downs of baseball. It’s that time of year for us. We all grind, we all try, we all do our best.”
The Rangers rode ahead of Tommy Hunter on singles runs in the eighth and ninth. Seager poked the move to plate one with a single, while Leody Taveras’ homer was the final run of the game.
There are games where the Mets can easily lead 2-0 in the first inning to victory. But those days are a lot more common when deGrom or Scherzer are on the hill.
The Mets’ big pitchers are expected to be back soon. Will the big hits return too?