MIAMI — The Mets left South Beach on Thursday, but only after they had been busted for indecent exposure.
In the three weeks since the All-Star break, they have been exposed as inadequate, a team clinging to first place on the strength of a weak NL East. But before this weekend concludes, even that false security of the division lead could dissipate.
The dreary offensive output that has plagued them for most of the season continued in a 4-2 loss to the Marlins at loanDepot park, the Mets’ third defeat in four games against the NL East’s cellar dweller.
The Mets left 15 runners on base in wasting a solid pitching performance from Rich Hill. The Marlins seized the game in the eighth, scoring three runs against Jeurys Familia. The dagger was Lewis Brinson’s two-run double that buried the Mets in a 4-1 hole. The Mets rallied in the ninth, adding a run on Brandon Drury’s RBI single, but left the bases loaded for the third time in the game.
Now the Mets get a weekend series beginning Friday against the Phillies, who had closed within one game of the division lead as their afternoon game against the Nationals was set to commence. The Mets are 9-12 since the All-Star break, but will awaken Friday in first place for a 90th straight day.
Michael Conforto was asked about his confidence level the Mets will still hold first place on Monday.
“We’re showing up with the intention to win every single day,” a visibly frustrated Conforto said. “I guess that answers the question.”
Manager Luis Rojas is fine with his players showing anger in the aftermath of a tough loss, but said he doesn’t want such raw emotion carrying over into the next day. But the Mets certainly resemble a comatose team that could use a wake-up call.
“They should be having fun, getting ready,” Rojas said. “This is a fun group. They should be doing the same: turning on their music, everything they do preparing for a game. If I see any [anger], if I catch anything like that, I will call somebody out.”
Nobody had a worse afternoon offensively than Javier Baez, a day after he blasted a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning to help the Mets win their only game in the series. On this day Baez went 0-for-5 with five strikeouts and left eight runners on base.
In his best start in three since joining the Mets last month, Hill allowed three hits and one walk over five innings in which he allowed one run (unearned). The veteran lefty has pitched five innings in each of his three appearances for the team, limiting his exposure to the third time through the lineup.
Hill, a veteran of pennant races with the Dodgers, said he’s not looking too much at the standings yet.
“You probably want to do standing checks probably around Sept. 15,” Hill said. “It’s going to be such a tight race all the way down to the finish here. The biggest thing is … control what you can control. And what we can control is coming to the ballpark every day and putting in the work and the time and the effort to be as successful as possible.”
Hill surrendered an unearned run in the third, after Conforto misplayed (actually kicked) Miguel Rojas’ single, allowing the runner to reach second. Rojas stole third and scored on Jazz Chisholm Jr.’s sacrifice fly.
Jonathan Villar’s RBI single in the sixth tied it 1-1 after Albert Almora Jr.’s third hit of the afternoon, a double, started the rally. Brandon Nimmo drew a pinch-hit walk and Villar delivered a bloop single. But after a walk to Pete Alonso loaded the bases, Dominic Smith was retired for the final out.
The Mets missed a big opportunity in the first inning, when they loaded the bases against Braxton Garrett with nobody out but failed to score. J.D. Davis and Baez struck out in succession and Conforto was retired to end the inning after Pete Alonso sandwiched a walk in between singles by Villar and Smith.
“I just think that we missed our pitches and we chased them,” Rojas said. “I thought we had a pretty good start with the bases loaded and no outs, but once again we showed up as if we weren’t prepared to face that pitcher, what the pitcher had. It kind of haunted us. We needed those runs later in the game.”