The Mets are living in the trash-compactor scene from “Star Wars.” The walls are closing in, mayhem bubbles just below the surface, and they really need a hero to save them.
Their list of recent brush fires, literal and figurative, now includes a four-game sweep at Citi Field by the Chicago Cubs. On Sunday the Mets fell meekly, 2-0, with the Cubs scoring on a steal of home and a sacrifice fly to the second baseman.
Help us, Yoenis Cespedes. You’re our only hope.
Mickey Callaway, the Mets’ rookie manager, did not say those exact words Sunday morning, but he came close. The Cubs would be starting a left-handed pitcher for the third time in the series, and the Mets countered with a lineup that featured five lefties among the eight position players.
Jon Lester walked the first two hitters, then struck out the next three. The Mets did not get their first hit until the sixth inning, and managed just three overall. They have lost 11 of their last 14 games and have a 27-30 record. That 12-2 start was a galaxy far, far away.
Sunday’s lineup, with the struggling lefty hitter Jay Bruce batting third and catcher Kevin Plawecki (.189, no homers) batting fourth, echoed Collins’ infamous cry for help on July 23, 2015. That was the night John Mayberry hit cleanup and Eric Campbell hit fifth against the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, who zipped through a three-hit shutout.
The next day, the Mets started making trades, culminating with a deal for Cespedes, who helped carry them to the World Series. Cespedes has missed the last 20 games with an injury the team lists as a mild strain of the right hip flexor. It may be mild, officially, but Cespedes has still not taken batting practice off a pitcher. He is scheduled to do so on Tuesday.
A different right-hander, Todd Frazier, has missed about a month with a strained hamstring, but Callaway said the Mets would activate him Tuesday. Perhaps Frazier will improve the Mets’ anemic production from the No. 4 spot. Their cleanup hitters came into Sunday’s game with a .206 average, two home runs and a .282 slugging percentage — all major league lows.
Bruce, meanwhile, said he did not expect Zobrist’s ball to drift as far as it did, and he thought Guillorme had settled under it for a routine pop up. Bruce should know by now that the Mets don’t do routine.
“It’s not fun,” Bruce said. “It looks terrible. I have to be better.”
Callaway is running out of answers. He is not as animated as Collins, but his words convey pure exasperation. He scolded the players Friday after Michael Conforto missed a cutoff man; the team, Callaway said then, was not playing the game the right way. This time he mentioned a lack of focus, and even cited the burden of playing in New York.
“Let’s be honest, this is a tough place to play,” said Callaway, the former Cleveland pitching coach. “It’s tough on everybody. If they were in Cleveland or somewhere else, maybe they wouldn’t feel that pressure. But you are playing in New York. We have passionate fans that want to see a good ball club out there. We have to do some things to get over that and make sure that we’re focused every second of the day that we’re out there.”
“I think we need to shift our focus,” he said, referring to the fundamentals. “Obviously, we’re not focusing on that part of the game very well. If we have to go out and work on cutoffs and relays and popups and P.F.P.s, that’s what we’ll do instead of being on the field hitting.”
They should probably not ignore hitting, though: the Mets have scored just once in their past 24 innings.