NEW YORK -- The Mets understand this season is unlikely to end in a playoff berth. That has not stopped them from routinely staving off elimination in the unlikeliest of ways.
Each week, it seems, the Mets find some new path to survival. While it hasn’t been enough to increase their pulse to anything more than a slow thrum, it has kept that pulse beating into the final days of September. They’re proud of that.
So it was late Tuesday, when reliever Paul Sewald watched the Mets rally in the 11th inning to avoid elimination with a 5-4 walk-off win over the Marlins at Citi Field. Entering the night, Sewald had appeared in 118 games and thrown 139 innings, both the most in Major League history by a pitcher with zero career victories. His 14-game losing streak to begin a career was also a National League record, two shy of Terry Felton’s Major League mark.
Sewald, in other words, was not the most obvious candidate to keep the Mets alive and kicking.
And yet Sewald threw a perfect top of the 11th with two strikeouts, before Brandon Nimmo drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the frame to end things. The victory went in the box score to Sewald, and in the standings to the Mets, who kept their elimination number at one with five games to play. To make the postseason, the Mets must not only win all five of their remaining games, but also hope the Brewers lose all five of theirs. (Even then, the Cubs could also win out to force a 163rd game.)
However unlikely a playoff berth may be, however, the Mets are committed to seeing this thing to the end.
“It comes down to we just couldn’t lose,” Sewald said. “I felt like the whole team saw that we just can’t give up. It’s not over till it’s over.”
For most of Tuesday’s game, it appeared to be over. Starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard allowed four runs for the fourth consecutive start, putting himself on the hook for a career-high ninth loss. But Michael Conforto, who homered to provide the Mets’ only two runs off Marlins starter Sandy Alcantara, repeated the trick with a game-tying two-run shot off José Ureña in the ninth. Only moments earlier, the Brewers completed a victory in Cincinnati, forcing the Mets to win or face mathematical elimination.
“We’re aware, but it’s not like it’s going to change the way we play the game,” Conforto said. “We play to win no matter what our playoff chances are.”
For three more innings, the Mets did just that, leaning on reliever Justin Wilson in the ninth, Jeurys Familia in the 10th and Sewald in the 11th. In the bottom of the inning, the Mets loaded the bases on two walks and a hit batsman, before Nimmo drew a one-out walk to make a winner out of both the Mets and Sewald.
More than anything, Sewald’s winless record was a statistical oddity -- a three-year run of rotten luck. Although he entered the night with a 5.18 career ERA, 155 active Major Leaguers had higher marks and at least one win. As Sewald put it, “You see relievers get wins by fluke all the time … you can pitch poorly and get a win.”
“But it’s good just at least to have one,” he added.
The Mets would agree, considering the alternative. Elimination can still come for them as soon as Wednesday, and it is an overwhelming statistical probability to happen before season’s end. And that’s fine. If anyone knows how to defy overwhelming statistical probabilities, it’s Sewald and the Mets.
“We’re going to keep on fighting,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “As long as there’s a chance, we’re going to keep on going. We’ve seen in a five-game stretch, anything is possible, and that’s where we’re at.”