Sitting at 24-29, the Mets welcomed the American League-leading Tampa Bay Rays to Citi Field for the final home series of the year. With under 10 games left on the year, New York hoped to stay in the Wild Card race and the Rays looked to lock up the AL East and top seed in the postseason.
The 2020 season was nowhere near ideal for the Mets, who underperformed from start to finish. Time and time again, the starting rotation faltered, the bullpen struggled, and one of the toughest-looking Mets lineups in years came up empty.
Even with an extra two playoff spots up for grabs, New York was unable to stay above .500 and within grasp.
The end of the season also brings the NL Cy Young race to a tight finish, with Mets ace Jacob deGrom looking to keep his name in the conversation for his third straight award.
deGrom took the mound Monday following an injury worry in Philadelphia last Wednesday, where he went just two innings before exiting with a right hamstring spasm. In the 5-4 win, deGrom gave up 3 runs on 4 hits and saw his ERA rise above 2.00.
The 60-game season leaves no margin for error for the award’s contenders, with starters given around 12 starts each. The short season also gave no room for error in the Wild Card race, as the Mets sat a few games out of the postseason, but behind three other teams.
With October baseball slipping away and the Cy Young race opening up, there was plenty riding on deGrom’s outing.
The first inning took just 10 pitches, with deGrom painting the corners at 100 mph to strike out the side. In the second inning, the borderline calls didn’t go Jake’s way, with a leadoff walk to Nate Lowe opening the frame.
A double and sacrifice fly brought in the free runner, opening the scoring before deGrom shut the door with another strikeout.
Lowe crossed the plate again in the fourth, doubling the lead with a solo homer. Visibly frustrated, deGrom still went back to work, picking up his ninth strikeout in the first four frames and retaking the lead in NL strikeouts.
Offensively, the Mets posed little threat. Tampa’s first three pitchers set down New York with just a handful of hits allowed before the Mets finally put together a chance in the fifth.
A walk, a hit, and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases with two outs before an infield hit by Jeff McNeil to break the shutout. The damage would stop at just one run however, with JD Davis swinging at the first pitch, flying out to end the inning.
The Mets offense has had issues driving in runs all season despite having plenty of foot traffic on the bases. The Mets led the majors in three key offensive stats: batting average, OBP, and runners left on base. Situational hitting has been nonexistent, seemingly unable to ever advance a runner or bring in a run.
After cutting the deficit in half, the Mets bats once again looked to deGrom to keep the score low. Hoping to keep the game, season, and Cy Young in reach, deGrom continued to sit down the Rays.
By the end of his seventh and final inning, the Mets ace matched his career high 14 strikeouts for the second time this season, a mark set in 2019. Following strong outings by Rick Porcello and rookie David Peterson, it marked the first time in franchise history that Mets starting pitchers recorded 10 strikeouts in three consecutive games.
After backing deGrom with 14 runs against Philly and 18 runs against Toronto earlier this month, the Mets regressed into the familiar team unable to provide their star pitcher with a shred of run support.
deGrom once again suffered a loss despite a dominant performance, falling to 4-2 with his ERA at around 2.15.
While he may have been the favorite for the award before, it seems Trevor Bauer is creeping up on the Cy Young in his first season in the National League. Bauer has completed two complete-game shutouts, boasting a sub-two ERA.
Yu Darvish is also certainly in the conversation, as is Corbin Burnes of the Brewers. With one start remaining on Saturday, Jake will make a final effort for his third consecutive award.
As the final games of a lackluster season play out, it seems like it’s once again time for the Mets to turn optimistically to the future. Sitting six games under .500 after Monday with six left to play, it’s safe to say the Mets playoff hopes have come to an end.
Even if results weren’t there this season, young talent has emerged throughout the organization and new ownership is sure to move the club forward. While the NL East is only getting tougher, the window is still open for the Mets to build into a contender.