MILWAUKEE -- A season that started with more optimism than any in recent memory will end the same way the previous four have for the Mets, who will once again be watching Major League Baseball's postseason.
A victory by the Phillies earlier on Saturday officially ended New York’s playoff hopes before they even took the field that night in a 2-1 loss to the Brewers at American Family Field. While the writing had been on the wall for some time, that didn't soften the blow even a little bit.
"It's always highly disappointing when you don't achieve that goal," manager Luis Rojas said. "We were expecting at the beginning of Spring Training and early in the season to be a contender, a team that was going to be in the playoffs, so it's disappointing."
Two months ago, the playoffs seemed like a forgone conclusion especially after infielder Javier Báez and veteran left-hander Rich Hill were acquired at the Trade Deadline. But after stretching their lead in the National League East to four games on July 28, the Mets lost nine of their next 11 to fall to third place, 2 1/2 games out, and they never quite recovered.
By the time New York arrived in Milwaukee on Friday, the Mets' playoff chances were all but zero after dropping seven of eight to the Cardinals, Phillies and Red Sox.
"I think we fought," outfielder Michael Conforto said. "You could see the percentages dropping, but we're still out here fighting for every win. We just didn't come up with some close games."
Saturday was a perfect example of the kind of close game Conforto was talking about.
Hill held playoff-bound Milwaukee to just a pair of runs over five innings while the bullpen combined for three scoreless frames, but the Mets' offense mustered just a single run against Brewers ace Corbin Burnes, who struck out nine over seven innings.
Hill struck out six while only allowing two hits as he cleared five innings for the ninth time in 11 starts for New York.
The lefty was burned, though, by four walks, matching a season high set back on May 20, when he was still pitching for the Rays. Two of them came in the third when Willy Adames and Avisaíl García reached on back-to-back free passes and both scored later in the inning when Eduardo Escobar singled to left.
“I put that on myself with the walks,” Hill said. “That didn't put us in a good position.”
The 2-1 loss marked the 63rd time the Mets have played a game decided by one run and the 78th time they've scored three runs or fewer. They're 30-32 and 14-64 in those contests, respectively.
"The game we lost today has been a common denominator of things that happened to us this season," Rojas said. "We didn't play good enough baseball [in the second half] and it led to this. We were playing good baseball and getting good results for a period of time, but we didn't carry it over to the second half and that's what led to this."
Still, it's not yet time to do a complete autopsy on the Mets' 2021 season. Though they won't be playing in the postseason, there are still eight games left in the regular season starting with Sunday’s series finale against the Brewers.
Snapping a losing streak while trying to avoid a losing season and denying the Brewers a chance to clinch the NL Central with a sweep on their home field may not be the same as playing October baseball, but they do offer some incentive for a good stretch over the final week.
"We've still got eight more games to try and finish the season on a high note, then go into the offseason ready to work," Conforto said.