NEW YORK -- Mickey Callaway's latest attempt to defibrillate the Mets took the form of his lineup card, which looked as if a lottery machine spit it onto his desk early Saturday afternoon. The Mets batted Amed Rosario leadoff for the first time in his career, bumped Todd Frazier up to second and placed Brandon Nimmo third, where they hoped he might do more damage.
Sabermetricians preach that lineup construction is overrated, and the Mets spent the rest of Saturday providing anecdotal evidence of that. Despite three runs in the first inning, the Mets fell silent from there, waiting for the inevitability of what came next: a go-ahead Aaron Judge solo homer in the eighth inning of the Mets' eighth straight defeat, a 4-3 loss to the Yankees at Citi Field.
"It's a close game every night," Callaway said. "We just need the big hit. We need the big shutdown inning. It's not like we're getting boat raced every night. We're in every single game. And we all feel like we have a chance to win every single night."
The Mets simply haven't converted them, instead stringing together their longest losing streak in 14 years. Until Saturday, the Mets hadn't lost eight in a row since dropping 11 straight in 2004. Until Saturday, the Mets hadn't suffered 10 consecutive defeats at home since losing a franchise-record 15 in a row at Shea Stadium in 2002.
It has become formulaic. Staked to a three-run lead in the first, starter Steven Matz enjoyed a bit more margin for error than Jacob deGrom did on Friday. But Matz gave one run back on a Gleyber Torres home run in the third inning, then the rest on a Miguel Andujar two-run shot in the sixth. He struck out six in six innings, delivering his third quality start in his last four tries, but took a no-decision regardless. Over the life of the Mets' eight-game losing streak, their starting pitchers have posted a 2.16 ERA.
The Mets' early rally Saturday came courtesy of Frazier, who homered in the first inning, and Asdrubal Cabrera, who added a two-run shot later in the frame. But much as they fell silent after Nimmo's leadoff homer on Friday, the Mets were done roughing up Yankees starter Domingo German, who did not allow another run through six.
Two innings after German departed, Judge turned on Mets reliever Anthony Swarzak's first pitch, arcing it over the left-field fence for the deciding blow.
"With a guy like Swarzak, he's got wipeout stuff," Judge said. "You've got to try to get him early."
The timing of key hits and rallies hasn't much mattered given the state of the Mets' offense. And little relief appears to be in sight, with injured outfielder Yoenis Cespedes suffering a setback Saturday during his rehab assignment at Double-A Binghamton. For weeks, the Mets have banked on the returns of Frazier and Cespedes sparking their lineup. But the former's return has yet to result in any victories, while the latter's may not occur for some time.
Instead, the Mets must hope for improvements from Jay Bruce, Michael Conforto and others who have scuffled -- the same things they've been wanting to see for weeks.
"It's been a trend because we're on a losing streak, and so it's very apparent right now," Nimmo said. "If we were doing better, I think you'd just chalk it up to, 'That's baseball.' But we're on a losing streak now so things are emphasized more."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Like deGrom before him, Matz blamed only himself for the Mets' loss despite a quality start. He mostly regretted four walks, the last of which came with one out in the sixth. Matz hung a curveball up in the zone to the next batter, Andujar, who crushed it a projected 404 feet, according to Statcast™, for a game-tying homer.
"Four walks is no good," Matz said. "My fastball command was bad. And I made a really bad pitch there in the sixth inning and it cost us the game, essentially."
The Mets have lost six straight Subway Series games, their second-longest losing streak all time against the Yankees. The only longer streak was seven straight from 2002-03.
Upset with a called third strike against him to end the eighth inning, Cabrera jawed a bit with home-plate umpire John Tumpane, then renewed the conversation in the ninth. Tumpane ejected Cabrera as he chattered from the dugout, though the second baseman's spot in the lineup did not come back up.
HE SAID IT
"He's a very nice person. You know, he deserves all of the success in the world -- just not this series, I guess. I'll do a better job next time I get to face him." -- Swarzak, who was briefly teammates with Judge in 2016
With Noah Syndergaard still nursing a strained ligament in his right index finger, Seth Lugo will start for the second time this season in an 8:05 p.m. ET game Sunday against the Yankees at Citi Field. Facing right-hander Luis Severino, Lugo will be on a limit of about 80 pitches as he continues stretching out from his bullpen role.