By Lenn Robbins
When a team had been going as well as the Mets, when Citi Field had become a playground of thrills and chills, when the Wild Card had become a legitimate goal instead of a punch line, these last few games have served as a brutal reality slap.
Reality: Despite that amazing stretch in which the Mets won 15-of-16 they remain a flawed and thin team.
After Wednesday night’s 6-4 loss to the Braves in Atlanta, an eight-game win streak has been replaced by a three-game losing streak.
It was just this past Sunday that the Mets were even with the Washington Nationals for the Wild Card. This morning they are three games out of the playoffs, muddled with six other teams that are within 4.5 games of the two Wild Card spots.
After winning series against the Padres, Pirates (twice), White Sox, Marlins and Nationals, the Mets (61-59) are assured of losing their first series since July 18-21 when they dropped 3-of-4 to the Giants.
Suddenly, the Mets world seems dubious.
“We’re still in a good spot,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway told reporters. “It’s not the end of the world.”
It’s just starting to feel that way.
But that’s no reason to lose sight of the long view. No true Mets fan, I’m referring to the Mets fans that have seen the annual hope in April evaporate by the dog days of August, really believed this was a playoff team.
They might have been talking themselves into believing in a miracle but the flaws were too glaring to ignore. The bullpen was awful. The offense was anemic. The depth was shallow. The manager was suspect. And the vaunted starting pitching wasn’t living up to expectations.
We’ve seen several of those warts these last three games.
* Uncloser Edwin Diaz continued his train wreck of a season in the 7-4 loss to the Nationals.
* Starter Zack Wheeler was off in a 5-3 loss.
* Seth Lugo, whose been as good a reliever as anyone in baseball, got scorched Wednesday night.
* Callaway still is trying to convince the world he made the right decision pulling Steven Matz in the seventh inning of Wednesday night’s loss when the Long Island native had thrown just 79 pitches.
And during this three-game streak the Mets lost their best hitter, Jeff McNeil to a hamstring injury.
Now that the Mets have completed the cream puff portion of their schedule, the flaws are popping out all over once again. Even during the amazing run, one of the players most responsible for that success, was planting the seed that this Mets turnaround wouldn’t necessarily yield the desired result this season.
“At the end of the day or at the end of the year, we are going to be in a really good spot,’’ Alonso told reporters in early August.
The truth is the Mets are in a really good spot going forward. If they resign Wheeler, which they absolutely should, the Mets will have the best rotation in the game. Alonso, McNeil and Michael Conforto are big time hitters.
Bolstering the bullpen, adding another bat and depth, and finding another manager should be high on the offseason to-do list. If the Mets do that, 2020 could be special.
Is this season over? Of course not. Is the possibility of the playoffs kaput? No.
But reality can be a brutal slap. Just brutal.