The Mets led the NL East for 175 days this season, but the Atlanta Braves still won the division for the fifth straight year.
The Mets did what they could to stay in the divisional race by winning both games of a doubleheader, 4-2 and 8-0, against the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night at Citi Field. But the Braves clinched the crown with a win over the Miami Marlins. The Mets will host the San Diego Padres in a wild-card round this weekend, with Game 1 slated for Friday.
There was still hope when the day started and even more hope after the Mets edged the Nats in the first game.
“Stay tuned,” manager Buck Showalter said in between games. “We’ve got to see how the circumstances change in the next hour or two. We’ll see.”
The circumstances changed between the fourth and fifth innings.
Still, it was a momentous day for the Mets. The team reached the 100-win (100-61) mark for the first time since 1988 and the fourth time in club history.
“There are 20 clubs that would trade places with us,” Showalter said. “I think it’s good in one way to finally have some finality.”
The Mets were able to put up some gaudy numbers against one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball. The penultimate game of the season opened with three straight home runs, a first in franchise history. Brandon Nimmo, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil each took Paolo Espino deep before he loaded the bases. Mark Canha’s fly ball scored Pete Alonso to make the score 4-0 and Espino was then replaced.
“The adjustment I made was just to calm the game down more,” Alvarez said through a translator. “Over the weekend, I was trying to get that first hit out of the way, so everything was going a little bit quicker. I came in today with a different approach just to be a little more calm and to slow the game down.”
The Mets batted around and ended the inning up 7-0. Francisco Alvarez recorded his first hit and it was a big one – a solo home run to left-center field off of Carl Edwards Jr.
Nimmo went 3-for-5 with a two-run double and a solo home run in the first game and 3-for-3 with three RBI in the second. McNeil continued his quest for the National League batting title going 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored in the first game and a home run in the second. He now leads all MLB hitters with a .326 average.
Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman was two points behind Nimmo as the Dodgers played against the Colorado Rockies and their league-worst pitching staff.
McNeil has been keeping an eye on Freeman, but he isn’t planning on watching the Dodgers’ last two games.
“Before the Braves series I knew I was somewhat close,” McNeil said. “I wasn’t really expecting to be here but I got hot at the right time. Super happy I’m ending up there and that I have a chance to do it.”
Carlos Carrasco pitched well in Game 1, but he wasn’t exactly dominant in his final audition for a postseason roster spot. He went four innings and faced two batters in the fifth, allowing a two-run homer to Washington’s No. 9 hitter, catcher Riley Adams.
“I don’t know how that guy hit that ball right there,” Carrasco said. “The wind was blowing out like crazy today. But we won the game. That’s what we were looking for.”
He went four innings (plus two batters), allowing two runs on five hits, striking out three and walking one.
“Carlos wasn’t happy with his last outing or two so I know tonight meant a lot to him,” Showalter said.
Carrasco could have gone deeper into the game but knew he was going to be somewhat limited. With a rested bullpen coming off of a rainout Monday, the Mets opted to be conservative with his use, and did the same with Taijuan Walker in the second, pulling him with one out in the fifth.
Adam Ottavino (6-3) recorded the win in the first game and Edwin Diaz converted his 32nd save. Stephen Nogosek (1-1) recorded the win the second game.
“He gave us what he had,” Showalter said of Carrasco. “In a little different situation, we probably would have let him continue but we had a lot of people available and they did the job for us.”
It was a solid showing for a team that struggled offensively over the weekend. If there is such a thing as momentum at this time of year, then the Mets should have plenty of it heading into the postseason.
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