NEW YORK -- Daniel Murphy was first out of the Rockies’ dugout, hopping the rail in indignation. The rest of his teammates followed, both from the dugout and the bullpen, meeting their Mets counterparts on the infield grass. The kerfuffle lasted a few moments, began to disperse, then reformed as members of both teams exchanged a few more words.
In the context of the Mets’ 5-1 loss to the Rockies at Citi Field, it was a sideshow, lasting only a few minutes without any real effect on the outcome of the game. In the context of the Mets’ season, it was perhaps an indication of where the team stands: Unhappy, frustrated, unable to string together a lengthy winning streak or climb above .500 for any meaningful amount of time.
“The goal is to win baseball games,” starting pitcher Jacob deGrom said. “When we don’t, everybody’s frustrated.”
That statement contrasted directly with the words of manager Mickey Callaway, who insisted that “nobody’s frustrated” in the Mets’ clubhouse, despite Friday’s loss marking their sixth in their past nine games. deGrom pitched effectively but inefficiently, needing 112 pitches to complete six innings, and the Mets mustered next-to-nothing against Rockies starter Antonio Senzatela.
That resulted in a one-run game in the eighth, which split wide open when reliever Drew Gagnon allowed a single, a stolen base and two home runs to increase the margin to four. After Murphy’s homer, Gagnon hit Ian Desmond in the back with a 92-mph fastball, generating enough circumstantial evidence for Desmond to bark at Gagnon while stepping toward the mound.
Gagnon shot back, telling Desmond that the pitch was accidental, as players from both sides closed around the pair. No one threw a punch. No one did anything more than yell.
“I can see where they’re coming from, but I wasn’t throwing strikes all day,” said Gagnon, who threw only 13 of his 23 pitches across the plate. “The ball slipped, a two-seamer. It was a complete accident.”
“He said it wasn't on purpose,” Desmond said. “At that point, I put my head down and started walking up the line. There wasn't really anything major there. … I said, ‘What are you doing?’ He threw two terrible pitches back to back [for home runs]. Whether it was on purpose or not, those were terrible pitches. It was water under the bridge.”
“I don't think it's a great look,” Murphy said. “The first one was up and in. I think it was a changeup and then Desmond got one in the middle of the back. I will say, there are a lot of guys on [the Mets] that I trust in this industry, that I value their opinion and they were all saying they didn't think it was on purpose. I don't think it's a great look.”
Crew chief Mike Winters agreed that there was no intent, warning both benches, but not going so far as to eject Gagnon.
“Bad situation to be hit there, but we didn’t think it was intentional,” Winters said.
“What does it look like?” added Gagnon. “You give up two home runs and you hit a guy. It looks bad. But it wasn’t my intention at all.”
Gagnon’s intention was to pitch a clean eighth, giving the Mets a chance to come from behind, win a third straight game, and set themselves up to reach .500 on Saturday. Instead, the Mets kicked those goals further down the road. They have not won three straight in more than two weeks. They have not been over .500 in more than a month. And they are not performing consistently enough to change either trend.
Friday’s loss went on the books to deGrom, who threw 81 pitches in his first four innings, but managed to hold the Rockies to merely two runs. A more appropriate culprit may have been the offense, which mustered only one run -- a Michael Conforto homer -- off Senzatela, who entered the night sporting a 5.33 ERA.
Consider that notable, given Callaway’s recent exhortation that “we can’t allow people to have the best [games] of their careers against us.”
For the Mets, such trends aren’t changing, no matter how much frustration they vent. Upset or not, the Mets know they must figure out how to start winning, and fast, lest the season slip away from them.
“We’re just upset about the loss tonight,” third baseman Todd Frazier said. “We’re trying to win. We put up one run for Jacob, and it’s just one of those things where we didn’t produce.”