By Lenn Robbins
It was the night of August 9th and the Mets had fallen into a 6-3 sinkhole in the bottom of the 9th against the Nationals when my drinking buddy said, “I’m going to head home. We know how this ends.”
And then, bang-bang!
Todd Frazier crushed a three-run homer. Michael Conforto lined a singled to right driving in the winning run. And my buddy turned to me and said (cue the Godfather soundtrack), “They’ve pulled me back in.”
Which is what made Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field so deflating for the team from Queens and its fans.
The Mets pulled us back in. They had us believing. Shoot, they just bolstered their resume by sweeping the Cleveland Indians last week.
So when Joe Panik stepped to the plate with two outs and runners on first and second, fans rose because since that early-August the Amazins have pulled us back in.
Panik, who’s had a bit of a career resurgence since joining the Mets, hit a soft grounder to first. Freddie Freeman needed no help. He fielded the ball, waved off reliever Mark Melancon, and stepped on first.
No bang-bang! Nothing.
The Mets had been swept in a three-game series for just the third time this season. They slipped two and one-half games out of the Wild Card. The Braves, who seemingly have had the Mets number since they arrived in Atlanta in 1966, had struck again.
They swept the Mets in a three-game tease.
The Braves struck out 26 times Friday night, tying a MLB record, yet won, 2-1. They blew a four-run lead Saturday night, yet won, 9-5. And they were on the verge of coughing up a Dallas Keuchel gem on Sunday when Melancon induced Panik into a ground out that sucked the soul out of Citi Field.
“They’re a really tough team,” Mets starter Steven Matz told reporters. “We’ve played them tough and they’ve come out on top. They grind it out to the end. We play good baseball against them, they just got the upper hand.”
The next 16 games are against teams the Mets are battling for that Wild Card berth. There are 32 games remaining. They can’t afford another sweep. The Mets have pulled us back in, which makes this late-season sweep such a gut punch.
“It was a tough series,” manager Mickey Calloway told reporters.
It sure was.