DENVER -- Over a 10-game road trip through Atlanta, Arizona and Colorado, the Mets watched Brandon Nimmo emerge as a potential All-Star, Michael Conforto flip from ice-cold to red-hot, and Jacob deGrom cement himself as perhaps the best pitcher in the National League.
They finished the trip with three wins and seven losses.
The last of those defeats occurred Thursday at Coors Field, where Steven Matz allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings -- easily their best start at elevation of any pitcher not named deGrom -- in a 6-4 loss to the Rockies. Homering for the third consecutive game, Nolan Arenado drove in five runs against Matz, giving him nine RBIs in a three-game stretch. The Mets could not match that type of offensive output, hitting into a franchise-record-tying five double plays.
So Thursday, offense was the Mets' undoing. Wednesday, they could blame their defense and bullpen. Tuesday, starting pitching was the culprit.
"There's no magic pill or magic wand to make everything sync up at the same time," manager Mickey Callaway said. "That's been the tale of our season so far."
Go back to the beginning of the Mets' 10-game road trip, and the same issues pop up throughout it, overshadowing all the good things Nimmo (seven RBIs in four games against the Rockies), Conforto (seven hits in the series), deGrom (best pitcher alive, depending on who you ask) and others have done. The Mets' roster is top-heavy in that way, with a few standout players unable to prop up teammates accomplishing less.
For every Tim Peterson (3 1/3 perfect innings at Coors Field), there is an equal and opposite Hansel Robles (demoted to Triple-A after Tuesday's game). For every deGrom (first in the Majors in ERA), there is a Jason Vargas (last among pitchers with at least 30 innings).
"Baseball's a tough sport, man," third baseman Todd Frazier said. "You're going to fail more than you succeed. We talk about it all the time: only the strong play this game. When you start struggling, you see really what you're made of. We're working hard, we're working our butts off. There's not much more to say. We're just not winning."
It was Frazier who gave the Mets an early lead Thursday with a solo homer in the first. Two innings later, after Nimmo's RBI single extended his hitting streak to a career-high six games, Frazier hit into the second of New York's five double plays.
The Mets continued fighting with consecutive hits to open the eighth inning, scoring on Wilmer Flores' sacrifice fly, but Devin Mesoraco followed with yet another double play. In the ninth, Kevin Plawecki tripled and scored, and Dominic Smith rapped out his fifth hit in his last seven at-bats, before Rockies closer Jake McGee nailed down the final out. That dropped the Mets back to 10 games under .500, matching their season high.
"There's always a sense of urgency, whether it's now or the beginning of the year or the end of the year," Plawecki said. "Things haven't necessarily gone the way that we imagined it. But we're not going to sit in here and feel sorry for ourselves, sulk about it. We're going to keep working."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Major damage: After allowing a leadoff double to DJ LeMahieu and hitting Charlie Blackmon with a pitch to open the bottom of the first inning, Matz jumped ahead of Arenado in the count, 0-2. He wasted a fastball high, then tried to bury a changeup low. But the pitch broke back over the inner half of the plate, where Arenado crushed it 387 feet, as projected by Statcast™, for a go-ahead three-run homer. The Rockies never trailed again.
"Matz is a good pitcher," said Arenado, who is 5-for-14 lifetime with four home runs off the left-hander. "I don't go up there thinking, 'I can't wait to face Matz.' [Almost] all my hits are just homers. He's beaten me, but I was able to hit a couple mistakes today."
FROM THE TRAINER'S ROOM
Seeking to give second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera an off-day at some point this week, Callaway used the elbow bruise he sustained in Wednesday's game as an excuse to do so Thursday. Cabrera sported a heavy wrap on his left elbow before the game, but the Mets expect him to return to action Friday at Citi Field. He has appeared in 70 of the Mets' 72 games, leading the team in that category.
"He plays through so much, there comes a time where he might need a couple of days off in a week just to get him to where he needs to be," Callaway said. "We've benefited early from quite a few days off. But these long stretches, we might need to pay a little more attention to him, especially at this point in the season."
Following the game, the Mets optioned relievers Paul Sewald and Chris Flexen to Triple-A Las Vegas. According to a source, outfielder Kevin Kaczmarski and right-handed reliever Drew Smith will be called up in corresponding moves. Smith, the return in last year's Lucas Duda trade, is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Mets' No. 30 prospect.
HE SAID IT
"I'm not a big fan of rebuilds, to be honest with you. I'm a fan of guys who have been there before. I'm a fan of the pitching staff we have. I'm a fan of the guys we have coming up and the guys we've been playing with. It's just a matter of winning games.
"You don't trade guys like Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard or Zack Wheeler, just to name three off the top of my head. Everybody's talking about those. Those are top-of-the-line pitchers that you want on your squad for the rest of their careers. Eventually, things will turn as hitters and we'll get more wins for them and things will happen. But in my mind, if I'm in those meetings, I would scratch those off right from Jump Street. For us, we've just got to find ways to win games." -- Frazier
The Mets' challenging road trip may be behind them, but their schedule doesn't grow any easier as they return home to face the defending NL West champion Dodgers. Wheeler will kick the three-game series off Friday at Citi Field, starting opposite left-hander Alex Wood. And if the Mets needed any more motivation, longtime antagonist Chase Utley is due to return from the disabled list in time for the 7:10 p.m. ET game, which will be broadcast as MLB Network's Showcase Game.