PHILADELPHIA -- About an hour before Sunday’s series finale at Citizens Bank Park, Mets owner Steve Cohen visited the clubhouse, where the team’s players were “ready and in a good frame of mind,” he later tweeted. Manager Luis Rojas described Cohen’s message as urging “trust” and “brotherhood” throughout the roughest stretch of the Mets’ season. First baseman Pete Alonso summed it as: “Onward and upward.”
The Mets, however, did not respond by moving upward. Instead, they continued their freefall to what they can only hope is rock bottom. Entering this weekend’s series at Citizens Bank Park, the Mets still held first place by half a game. When they departed, they were in third place, 2 1/2 back of the Phillies.
Their final indignity was a 3-0 loss on Sunday to ex-Met Zack Wheeler, who fired a two-hit shutout to complete a three-game series sweep.
“Mets fans, believe in us,” Alonso said afterward. “And don’t just believe. Know. Because there’s tough times not just in baseball, but in life in general. Know that this is just a speed bump and a challenge. And also, smile. You get to watch baseball. It’s a game. I know we have the most passionate fan base in baseball. I know that. And I understand that it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating for us. But just understand that we’re here together. We’re all in this together, and we’ve got this. We’ve got this. Just smile and know that we’ve got this.”
Alonso’s comments highlighted a rose-colored postgame in which he and Rojas expressed continued faith in a Mets team that has lost nine of its last 11 games while ceding 6 1/2 games in the National League East standings. Alonso cited his personal exit velocities and launch angles as reasons not to worry, despite his current 0-for-21 stretch at the plate. Rojas said that “we can’t be frustrated” given the talent up and down the roster.
“We believe that we can do this,” Rojas said. “We trust that we can still do this.”
But regardless of how sound the Mets’ process might be, their results have been consistently poor. Outside of Brandon Nimmo, who finished 2-for-4 against his former teammate Wheeler, the Mets went 0-for-25. Their own starting pitcher, Taijuan Walker, allowed solo homers to Jean Segura, J.T. Realmuto and Bryce Harper to suffer his fourth consecutive loss.
“We’ve still got to keep being positive,” Walker said. “We’re going through a little rough patch right now, but it happens. This is a long season. There’s still plenty of ballgames left to go. I think we’re going to catch fire, and it’s going to be at the right time.”
Consider that a significant challenge given the nature of New York’s upcoming schedule. Following three games this week against the Nationals, the Mets will play 13 consecutive contests against two titans of the NL West, the Dodgers and Giants. Seven of those will take place in California, where the Mets -- like most East Coast teams -- have routinely struggled throughout their history.
They’ll at least need to hold their own in those games without a cadre of players including ace pitcher Jacob deGrom, who is out until at least September due to right elbow inflammation; shortstop Francisco Lindor, who continues to nurse a strained right oblique; and perhaps even Lindor’s backup, Javier Báez, who departed Sunday’s game in the fifth inning due to left hip tightness.
Simply put, nothing is clicking right now for the Mets, who scored just five runs over their three losses in Philadelphia, so it was noteworthy that their owner chose Sunday of all mornings to visit the team. Rojas called this a preplanned visit for Cohen, who tends to travel to games on the weekends, when he is not busy with his day job as a hedge-fund manager. Even so, Cohen’s public messages have become increasingly urgent in recent weeks, including tweets that “we have to get our act together soon” and pleas for “a little positive energy.”
Following another loss, Alonso and Rojas echoed that sentiment, urging Mets fans to have patience with eight weeks left in the season.
“Fans should be supporting the guys at this point,” Rojas said. “These guys, they come in every day ready to play, ready to give their 100 percent, and I think all of them need their support. Nothing more than positive support will help the players play at their best, knowing they have the fan base behind them. … I think that’s the best advice for the fan base right now.”