The inevitable has finally happened.
After predictions of a 90-win season in the winter, after headlines about them once again owning New York at the All-Star break, and after a season spent constantly trying to prove their worth to their city, to their fans, and—I suspect—to themselves, one thing is now undeniably clear to the 2014 New York Mets and the people who love them: the Amazins won't be playing in October. With the Pirates victory over the Brewers tonight, it is mathematically impossible for the Mets to make it to the playoffs.
There will be time to reflect on this in greater detail, and to access how we Mets fans feel about this 2014 squad. For now though, let's focus on Friday night's game, when the Mets played spoiler to the Braves (barely) more realistic playoff hopes, beating them 5-0 at Turner Field.
Coming off a rough start last time out against the Nationals, Zack Wheeler redeemed himself slightly tonight against the Braves, as he struck out seven over six shutout innings. Nevertheless, the righty once again struggled with his command, particularly early on in the game. In the first, for example, after leadoff man Phil Gosselin grounded out, Anderlton Simmons singled, and Freddie Freeman walked to put runners on first and second for Justin Upton. However, Wheeler managed to squeak out of trouble by striking out the Braves left fielder and inducing a ground ball off the bat of Christian Bethancourt to get out of the inning.
After he made it through the second unscathed, Wheeler again struggled to get through the bottom of the third, against almost the exact same people. The Mets righty struck out Gosselin to start things off, he then allowed another single to Simmons. After a Freeman strikeout, Upton notched a single to put runners on first and second for Bethancourt. The Braves catcher flew out to center to end the inning, but it had taken Wheeler 63 pitches to get through a third of the game.
As for the Mets offense, for the first five innings; they could put nothing together against Braves starter Julio Teheran. That's not to say they didn't have their chances. Daniel Murphy had four hits on the night, but in the first and fourth, when he acquired the first two of them, Travis d'Arnaud hit into two double plays to prevent the Mets from putting any pressure on Teheran.
In the fifth, the Mets had their best shot yet to put some runs on the board. After Wilmer Flores popped out to center, Curtis Granderson doubled to left to put a Mets runner in scoring position for the first time all game. Matt den Dekker came up next and hit a line drive right up the middle, which should have scored Granderson. Frustratingly, the Mets right fielder had no sense of where the infielders were positioned behind him, froze for a second too long, and was only able to get to third on the play. Unfortunately, this miscue was followed by a Dilson Herrera pop up to second and a Wheeler strikeout that stranded the runners and kept the score tied at nothing apiece.
Speaking of Wheeler, after a 1-2-3 fourth, he created problems for himself again in the home half of the fifth. After he set down the first two batters he faced in that inning without issue, Anderlton Simmons notched his third hit of the night, this one a double into the left-center field gap. Wheeler then walked Freddie Freeman to put two runners on for Justin Upton, who did what he does most of the time with runners in scoring position, and struck out to end the inning. Wheeler came out again for the sixth, and set the Braves down in order to leave on a positive note, but one can't help but wonder how truly awesome he would be if he was just a little more efficient.
Regardless of that, in the top half of the sixth, the Mets finally got on the board. After Eric Young Jr. grounded out, Murphy smacked a ground rule double over the left-center field wall. This brought up d’Arnaud, who once again asserted his desire not to get on base by popping out to short. Thankfully for the Mets, Lucas Duda came up next and hit his first home run in the month of September to put the Mets on top 2-0. To make the whole event even more magical, a Braves fan caught Duda’s homer in his bucket of popcorn, showing once again how "The Dude" brings joy to all when he shows off his power stroke.
Neither team added to their tally in the seventh or eighth innings, with the Braves looking particularly lost over that span, failing to put a man on base against Carlos Torres and Jeurys Familia. In the ninth though, the Mets added some insurance against the Braves bullpen. Wilmer Flores started things off with a one-out infield single off of Jordan Walden. The latter then walked Matt den Dekker and Curtis Granderson to load the bases for Dilson Herrera. Wonderfully, Herrera managed to draw a walk himself to put the Mets up 3-0 and spell Walden from the game. After pinch hitter Anthony Recker struck out against new Braves pitcher Luis Avilan, Eric Young Jr. singled to right, and drove in den Dekker and Granderson to put the Mets up 5-0.
Buddy Carlyle came on in the ninth and set the Braves down in order, and helped crush whatever was left of the latter's playoff hopes in the process. So on a day when Mets fans finally had to accept the fact that their season will be over after 162 games, it was nice to feel that the Amazins had a hand in assuring that the Braves shared the same fate.
SB Nation GameThreads
* Amazin' Avenue GameThread
* Talking Chop GameThread
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Zack Wheeler, 32.6; Lucas Duda, 26.2
Big losers: Travis d'Arnaud, -19.9; Eric Young Jr., -6.5
Teh aw3s0mest play: Lucas Duda homer, top of the sixth
Teh sux0rest play: Freddie Freeman walk, top of the first
Total pitcher WPA: 47.6
Total batter WPA: 2.4
GWRBI!: Lucas Duda