Pete Alonso hung his head as he walked back to the dugout, then smashed his bat to pieces. Alonso had just struck out for the third time in the Mets’ 4-0 loss to the Braves on Sunday, leaving another runner on base. He, like his team, was frustrated.
Despite a consistent attack at Truist Park in Atlanta, the Mets simply could not hit when it mattered most. They stranded multiple runners apiece in the first through fourth innings, and 13 in total against five Braves pitchers, finishing 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position. As a result, they dropped their fifth straight game.
Afterward, the Mets did not make any position players available to interview.
“We have to be better,” general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said. “I don’t think there’s any way to sugarcoat that.”
Coming off a Saturday loss in which they scored one run (on a sacrifice fly) and left 11 men on base, the Mets immediately fell into the same sort of trouble on Sunday. In the first inning, they loaded the bases on two walks and a hit, but Robinson Canó hit into an inning-ending double play. The Mets put two runners on base in each of the next three innings, but they could not come up with the hit they needed against starter Kyle Wright or the first man out of the bullpen, Tyler Matzek.
They never stopped putting pressure on Atlanta’s pitchers, but that key hit continued to elude them. In the seventh inning, Alonso let a 91 mph Shane Greene fastball buzz through the inner half of the strike zone without offering at it; he eventually struck out looking, leading to his dugout bat smash.
“It’s disappointing right now,” manager Luis Rojas said. “We have to put it together. And when I say put it together, when we pitch well -- I thought we pitched really well today -- we have to come in with those at-bats.
“We are creating situations. Guys are showing signs of quality at-bats. They’re battling out there. … We’ve got to deliver.”
The Mets indeed received a quality start from David Peterson, who recovered from a rocky third inning to hold the Braves to three runs while striking out eight. But he took a loss in his second MLB outing due to the Mets’ lack of timely hitting. Alonso in particular is in a 1-for-16 slump with seven strikeouts over that stretch, frequently chasing balls outside the strike zone. But he is far from the only one. The last Met to deliver an RBI hit with a runner in scoring position was J.D. Davis in the sixth inning Friday, during a game in which the Mets blew a six-run lead.
The team has now lost five straight games, three of them to a key division rival. With the season one-sixth complete, the Mets are already four games out of first place and falling fast.
Most Mets learned after Sunday’s loss that they will play the rest of the season without Yoenis Céspedes, who has elected not to play for COVID-19-related reasons. Perhaps a more significant role for Dominic Smith, in Céspedes’ absence, can help turn around the Mets’ fortunes.
“The offense, we had a bunch of hits,” Peterson said. “We had guys on base. It just didn’t work out for us today. I have a lot of faith in those guys in there. I know how hard they work every single day. There’s no doubt in my mind that they’re going to come back in the ballpark tomorrow ready to go.”