MILWAUKEE — The official knockout punch occurred before the Mets even took the field Saturday night.
The Phillies had won at home, ensuring this season’s NL East champion will have at least 83 victories, a number unattainable by the Mets regardless of their finish. Put another way, the Mets were officially dead in the postseason race, marking a fifth straight year removed from the playoffs for the underachieving franchise.
Unofficially, the Mets had been finished for weeks. A team constructed to play beyond the regular season whiffed, leaving a stench in its wake.
“The offense was the one thing that wasn’t or hasn’t been there consistently,” manager Luis Rojas said before the Mets lost 2-1 to the Brewers at American Family Field for their 12th defeat in 15 games. “It showed up here and there and for the second half we hit a little better, but still not enough.
“We had a tough schedule for the remainder of the season after the trade deadline. I think that was out there, that wasn’t a secret, so we needed to score more runs … our defense also in the second half hasn’t been as it was in the first half and our pitching hasn’t been like it was in the first half.”
Whether it was the absence of ace Jacob deGrom, sidelined by forearm and elbow discomfort since the All-Star break, or underperformance from Francisco Lindor, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, Dominic Smith and James McCann, the Mets never recovered their spring mojo. They were 35-25 after beating the Cubs on June 16, but since then have produced a 38-56 record.
The Mets spent 90 days in first place, but that party ended with a loss to the Phillies on Aug. 6. Since then, the Mets have been trying to catch the Braves and Phillies, who are waging a spirited fight to determine the division champion.
The Braves, who lead the race by a game, will be trying to win a fourth straight NL East title. The Mets last won the division in 2015 (when they advanced to the World Series), and they appeared in the NL wild-card game (a loss to the Giants) a year later. Since then, they have only one winning season.
Rich Hill gave the Mets a chance on this night by allowing two earned runs on two hits and four walks over five innings. It was the left-hander’s eighth straight start in which he allowed three earned runs or fewer.
But the Mets’ bats were silent as they placed just three runners in scoring position. For the fifth time in six games, they scored three runs or fewer.
The Brewers, who have already clinched a postseason berth, took a 2-0 lead in the third. Eduardo Escobar delivered a two-run single in the inning after Hill had walked Wily Adames and Avisail Garcia.
Javier Baez’s RBI single in the fourth pulled the Mets within 2-1. Brandon Nimmo singled leading off the inning and was thrown out attempting to steal second before Conforto doubled, advancing to third on a wild pitch from Corbin Burnes, and Alonso walked. Baez then delivered for his 20th RBI in 41 games for the Mets.
The series concludes Sunday before the Mets return to Citi Field for their final homestand of the season, four games against Miami beginning with a Tuesday doubleheader.
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