COMMENTARY | Three outs and the game's over. Three outs and there's hope for the New York Mets.
Heading into last night's game against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field, the Mets had won 18 of 29, a stretch that started back on June 18 with a doubleheader sweep of the Braves. Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler both picked up wins that day, and the Mets' starting rotation has basically carried the team through its best stretch of the season ever since.
Last night, Dillon Gee pitched seven strong innings, allowing just two hits and no runs and leaving the game with a 1-0 lead. LaTroy Hawkins got the Mets to the ninth inning when closer Bobby Parnell came in to save the game. Parnell had a rough inning -- as did catcher John Buck, whose passed ball advanced two runners -- and the Braves scored twice on three hits to take a 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the ninth, with the Mets rallying, Jason Heyward made a diving catch in left-center to rob Justin Turner of a hit that could have won it for the Mets, and at the very least would have sent the game into extra innings.
By no means should anyone consider the Mets to be a playoff team. While their starting rotation has been above average, they don't appear to have the position players necessary to take them into October.
But stranger things have happened in sports, and in baseball in particular. The fact of the matter is that this flawed team entered last night just 10 games out of first place. They were three outs away from trimming the Braves' lead in the National League East to nine games. Then, within minutes, the Mets found themselves 11 games out.
Despite the loss, and despite the holes up and down the roster, the Mets should never stop believing that the unbelievable could happen. That's why last night, while far from a national story, was actually a big game for the New York Mets.
Over the course of a baseball season, every team can point to a handful of games that it would categorize as brutal losses. Last night was one of those games for the Mets.
The beauty of baseball is that you get to come back the next day and try again. We'll see how the Mets respond.
Charles Costello has followed the Mets closely since the rookie years of Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984). He was a beat reporter assigned to cover the Mets during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
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