With the Mets’ 82nd loss of the season last night, the season is essentially over. Though it is never permissible to fold it in, with just seven left to play in an excruciatingly long grind of a year and no shot at .500, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising not to see the Mets going 100%.
And what did I learn today? That mentality is clearly a thing of the past.
These Mets still have not quit.
Down 6-2 in the top of the 9th against a top NL team in an unbearably (for them) close playoff race, the not-so-fearsome trio of Willie Harris, Nick Evans, and Josh Thole were due up against Jason Motte, the hardest thrower in the St. Louis bullpen. I expected to see a quiet 1-2-3. To be honest, spoiling the Cards’ chances at a playoff berth is a double-edged sword. I’d rather see them in the playoffs than the Braves. Can’t stand the Braves. But that is neither here nor there.
The Mets batted around. Yes, they were assisted by an error from Rafael Furcal (former Brave, it might be noted) that looked like a double play but these Mets just gave good at-bat after good at-bat. The showings by Justin Turner, who drew a bases loaded walk, and Ruben Tejada, who ripped a double after falling behind 0-2, were especially impressive. I’m sure Tejada, obviously vying with Turner for playing time next year (assuming Reyes is back), didn’t want to give the team clown a chance to pull ahead in the competition. Both youngsters showed some real grit and focus in the first situation where it may have actually been understandable to see that missing.
The rally was helped by a broken bat single by Reyes, still grinding for that batting title, and capped by a 2-run single from Willie, who actually led off the inning. Hustling in behind Reyes to score the insurance run? Tejada, of course.
And then in the bottom of the 9th, Parnell came in and set the Cards down quietly while Pridie sealed the game on a fantastic diving catch in right.
So let’s see. Let’s try batting around. Let’s work counts, no matter how far we fall behind. Let’s give the younger guys the at-bats. Let’s draw walks and beat out broken-bat hits. Let’s see 99 mph from Parnell. Let’s back up our shaky closer with all-out defense.
This is what Terry Collins has given the Mets. This has been an absurdly long season. With injuries, trades, and an incredible lack of experience or stability on the roster, morale was the trick, it was what Terry had to manage. He did it, and did it well. He’s still doing it. There may be nothing left on the table for this team, but they haven’t taken a back seat, even now.
It’s the mentality change, top to bottom, that the Mets kept talking about during the offseason and now we’re finally seeing it. It’s easy to talk about a mentality change when a team starts winning. But a 4-run defecit in the 9th? Against a playoff pushing team in a game where the lineup was thoroughly dominated? Just a day after sealing a losing season? It’s much harder to see an attitude change there, and yet it is where the New New Mets have shone the brightest.
And with six games left in the season, I only expect them to continue to do so.