From Edwin Diaz to Mickey Callaway, there is a lot of blame to go around at the end of the season. The fact of the matter, though is, the New York Mets only have themselves to blame for missing the playoffs, and five games, specifically, come to mind.
The New York Mets have shot themselves in the foot throughout the season. Whether it came by way of disastrous Mickey Callaway decisions, mental errors on defense, poor pitching from the bullpen or clubhouse blowups, the Mets were tearing themselves apart. After an MLB All-Star Break that led to a resurgence, the Mets found themselves crash back down to Earth.
September has been a trying month for the Mets, who have never seemed to be able to win when it matters most. At every opportunity, the Mets have let themselves down. They lost to the Nationals when they could have passed them in the wild card standings. They lost six in a row to the Braves and Cubs at home in the most crucial part of the season.
Still, there are five games that separate themselves as key losses that cost the Mets their season.
May 4: Mets 3, Brewers 4 (18 Innings)
This was the first truly painful loss for the Mets in 2019. The game saw Zack Wheeler matched up against Gio Gonzalez, who was making just his second start of the year. Wheeler was excellent going seven innings allowing two runs, with 10 K and just 2 BB. It’s about as good a start as one could ask for. He was followed by Daniel Zamora who threw a one-two-three eighth.
However, Gio Gonzelez and the Brewers bullpen bettered Wheeler. Gonzalez allowed just one run in 5.1 IP, with seven K and no BB. The Brewers bullpen kept the Mets scoreless through eight innings.
Down one and in the top of the ninth inning, the Mets needed a hero to step forward and keep them alive. The Brewers were without Josh Hader, who had pitched two innings the night before, so Junior Guerra was tasked with closing out the game. To lead off the top of the ninth, Pete Alonso tied the game with one swing.
The Mets bullpen would follow that up with eight shutout innings from Seth Lugo, Edwin Diaz, Drew Gagnon, Ryan O’Rourke, Robert Gsellman and Chris Flexen. The Brewers bullpen matched with seven shutout innings of their own. That all changed in the 18th inning.
Brewers reliever Taylor Williams was on his fourth inning of work, which turned out to be one too many. With two outs, Jeff McNeil drove in Adeiny Hechavarria to give the Mets the lead. The issue for the Mets was painfully obvious: they were down to their last reliever. Flexen was the final reliever in the Mets seven-man bullpen, so he had to pitch a second inning.
Flexen had given up a leadoff double to Ryan Braun in the previous inning and worked out of it, but he didn’t inspire any confidence. He was much worse in the bottom of the 18th inning. Flexen walked three of the first four batters, which set the stage for Ryan Braun with one out. On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, Braun hit a walk-off single.
It might not have seemed it at the time, but this is a loss that would haunt the Mets season. The Brewers are the likely second wild card team, and this win would have been a two-game swing in the standings. This one win could have kept the Mets season alive going into the final series of the season. Instead, the Mets bullpen quickened the team’s demise.
May 29: Mets 8, Dodgers 9
This game can be called the day the Los Angeles Dodgers broke Edwin Diaz. The game started as Noah Syndergaard versus Walker Buehler, a battle of two of the best young pitcher’s in all of baseball. It was supposed to be a pitcher’s duel, but that idea quickly faded.
The Mets jumped out to a quick three-nothing lead in the second. The Dodgers quickly responded with two runs of their own in the bottom of the second, and a game-tying run in the bottom of the third. It was all Mets from there. The Mets scored two runs in the fifth, one in the sixth and two in the seventh. When the bullpen entered the game in the bottom of the seventh the Mets had an 8-3 lead.
Robert Gsellman was tasked with pitching the seventh inning. He gave up a run on a Justin Turner RBI single, but limited the damage to just that. After a scoreless top of the eighth Jeurys Familia was brought in to pitch. Jeurys Familia quickly gave up a run on a Corey Seager home run, but got three quick outs after. The Mets were again held scoreless in the top of the ninth.
In a save situation the Mets turned to their superstar closer, Edwin Diaz. There was no reason not to at this time. Diaz had a 1.64 ERA coming into this game. He had thrown eight straight scoreless appearances coming into this game. Diaz had only one blown save the whole year, and the Mets won that game. In fact, including 2018 the Mets and Mariners were a combined 84-0 in games Edwin Diaz came into with a lead. There was absolutely no reason to believe he wouldn’t shut the door here and get the Mets a win.
The Dodgers broke Diaz. Joc Pederson and Max Muncy led off the inning with solo home runs. It was now 8-7, but Diaz looked vulnerable for really the first time in since 2017. Justin Turner continued to hit Diaz hard with a double, which Cody Bellinger followed up with his own double to tie the game.
This is where this game falls squarely on Mickey Callaway’s shoulders. It’s understandable to trust in your superstar closer, but when he gives up three runs without giving up a run, he has to be removed from the game. There was no excuse to leave him in at that point, but he did. A walk, a single and a sacrifice fly later … the Mets lost.
This was the first of multiple times the bullpen would give up five-run leads this season. It’s also the game that broke Edwin Diaz. He never recovered from this game and turned into a shell of his former self for the remainder of the season. This game is a microcosm of everything that the Mets did to cost themselves a playoff spot this season.
Sept. 3: Mets 10, Nationals 11
This loss was supposed to be the end of the Mets season. They were slipping and sliding down the standings after losing six in a row to the Braves and Cubs, and they couldn’t afford any losses at this point of the season. Their playoff hopes were on life support.
The game started as Jacob deGrom versus Max Scherzer. The two best pitchers in the national league going head to head. It wasn’t the pitchers duel everyone expected though, Scherzer allowed four runs in six innings and deGrom allowed four in seven innings plus.
The Mets had a five-four lead headed into the ninth inning. With the way the bullpen had been pitching, they knew they needed more runs, and they got them. They put up five runs against the Nationals bullpen, which gave them a 10-4 lead. It should have been a bullpen proof lead; it wasn’t.
With a six-run lead, Mickey Callaway pulled Seth Lugo hoping to save him for tomorrow. Paul Sewald came into the game in his place. He gave up a single, but the second batter to fly out. With one on and one out things seemed to be going fine. That’s when everything fell apart. Trea Turner hit an RBI double, Asdrubal Cabrera hit a single, and Anthony Rendon hit an RBI-single.
With the score 10-6, with two on and one out, Callaway made a change. He brought in the lefty Luis Avilan in to pitch to Juan Soto. Soto greeted him with a base hit. The bases now loaded, Callaway brought in Edwin Diaz.
Unlike in the Dodgers game, Mickey knew about Diaz struggles at this point in the season. There was no reason to believe he could get the job done in this spot. Yet, Mickey still went to him against the middle of the Nationals lineup. Ryan Zimmerman hit a two-RBI double to make it 10-8. The next batter up was Kurt Suzuki, who hit a walk-off three-run home run.
The Mets allowed seven runs in the bottom of the ninth. It was clear then that they were not playoff-bound. The mismanagement of the bullpen killed the Mets season. The Mets’ second-best reliever this season, Justin Wilson, was just sitting in the bullpen. He never even warmed up in this game. That’s part of the reason why this loss is squarely on Mickey Callaway.
Sept. 15: Dodgers 3, Mets 2
Somehow, the Mets playoff hopes were still alive two weeks after their bullpen blew up in Washington. It’s a testament to both the Mets’ resilience and the lack of two standout wild card contenders. The Mets were just three games back of the Cubs and two games back of the Brewers before the game started.
A win here meant the Mets would have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs. The Brewers were headed to St. Louis to play the Cardinals in their next series, the Cubs were playing the Cardinals in seven of their final 10, and the Mets had series against the Rockies, Reds and Marlins coming up. There was every reason to still believe a playoff spot was up for grabs.
The game started with Zack Wheeler versus Walker Buehler. Two pitchers who have had strong second halves, and are capable of putting together a dominant start on any given night. It was the Mets who jumped out to a strong start, scoring two runs in the second inning off a Brandon Nimmo triple.
Zach Wheeler would allow just one run in seven innings. He was exactly what the Mets needed him to be in this game. Sadly the bullpen did what they did all year. Justin Wilson had a freaky eighth inning that included a balk and a wild pitch. Two things that he hadn’t done even once in 2019 prior to that night. It led to the Dodgers tying the game.
Seth Lugo put out the fire in the eighth and was asked to pitch the ninth. With one on and two out, Lugo allowed an RBI single to Jedd Gyrko. The Dodgers grabbed the lead and didn’t let it go. The Mets got one on in the bottom of the ninth, but never got a hit off Kenta Maeda.
After this loss, the Mets fell four behind the Cubs and three behind the Brewers. There was still a sliver of hope due to the injuries to Christian Yelich and Javier Baez, but it was a total long shot. This was one game the Mets absolutely needed to win, and the offense and bullpen let Wheeler down.
Sept. 23: Marlins 8, Mets 4
The Mets didn’t have much playoff hope entering the Marlins series, but there was a scenario in which they got in. They needed to go unbeaten in their last seven and all the Brewers or Nationals had to do was lose both series. Considering the Nationals were playing the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Indians, there was a shot that could happen. There was even a shot that the Brewers magic ran out and they were spoiled by the Reds and the Rockies, considering both of those series are on the road.
The Mets hadn’t lost a game against the Marlins at Citi Field this year. Steven Matz had been dominant at home at year. This should have been an easy win. Especially since the whole team knew how important this game was.
Instead, they were losers form the start. The Marlins jumped out to a six-zero lead behind two Jorge Alfaro home runs. The Mets would get some of that back on an Amed Rosario grand slam, but it was never enough. The Mets never led this game once.
They gave up eight runs to the second-worst offense in all of baseball. That’s unacceptable on a normal night, but on a night where the Mets needed to win to keep their slim hopes alive, it’s even worse.
The Mets are their own worst enemies. Their inability to win games they needed to and their inability to win both close game and extra-inning games doomed them this season. The Mets were 6-9 in extra-innings and 23-23 in one-run games. That’s one of the big differences between the Mets and the wild card teams. The Brewers are 27-16 in one-run games. That record falls on the bullpen and the manager. Their inability to win close games is fully and squarely on themselves, as is this lost season.