Some help arrived Saturday for the Mets, but lefty-hitting Daniel Vogelbach was in the dugout, not in the lineup.
And on another quiet night for their bats, and with a 1-through-9 that looked the same as it did months ago, the Mets appeared to need more reinforcements.
They made a clear case for adding another righty bat as they were silenced by the Padres, 2-1, in front of 39,359 at Citi Field on a muggy summer night, losing a third consecutive game for just the second time this season.
The Mets fell to 58-37 and their NL East lead dropped to just a half-game above the Braves after their loss and Atlanta’s 7-2 victory over the Angels. The Mets’ lead had been 10 ¹/₂ games at the beginning of June.
It took until the ninth inning, but the Mets finally mounted a rally to avoid being shut out. JD Davis, hanging on to his righty-hitting DH spot by a thread, blooped a single to right field to score Pete Alonso. But with runners on the corners, Tomas Nido — batting despite a hand contusion suffered a night earlier, with Jeff McNeil sitting unused on the bench — popped out to second to end the threat against Padres closer Taylor Rogers.
Manager Buck Showalter said McNeil was available to bat against the lefty Rogers, but he felt comfortable with Nido in the spot. The Mets’ problems, however, were bigger than the choice for the game’s last batter.
“We had some opportunities, we put some people out there,” Showalter said after his team went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. “We just couldn’t get that hit to put us over the hump.”
Employing a righty-heavy lineup that included Davis (2-for-4 with two strikeouts) at DH against lefty Blake Snell, the Mets stranded eight runners on another night when big hits were missing. They have scored 10 runs in their past five games.
Chris Bassitt (seven innings, two runs) was excellent in a start in which he briefly flirted with perfection, but even perfection might not have been enough, because the Mets’ offense had no pulse.
Starling Marte was the surprising biggest culprit. The right fielder struck out three times during an 0-for-4 night, leaving three on base in the process.
Vogelbach, the slugger acquired Friday from the Pirates, is a righty-killer who likely will make his Mets debut Sunday. His DH partner for the moment is Davis, who walked back to the dugout following his seventh-inning strikeout hearing boos from a crowd that likely will see a different righty DH for the final few months of the season.
Davis has been a problem, but was not the problem Saturday. The Mets advanced a runner into scoring position in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings and came up empty each time.
“They figured out a way to push two across. Usually that doesn’t stand up,” Showalter said. “It’s just a spot here where [runs] are hard to come by. I have a lot of confidence that will change.”
The chances dried up after Snell was lifted, until the ultimately disappointing ninth.
While the offense was wasting its opportunities, Bassitt was wasting no pitches.
A Padres batter did not reach base until the fifth and San Diego did not score until the sixth — under controversial circumstances.
Bassitt, who struck out 11 to match a career high, walked none, hit one batter with a pitch and surrendered four hits. It seemed he was out of the sixth inning when a top-of-the-zone slider surprised Manny Machado, who watched it go by. Bassitt had taken several steps toward the dugout when he realized what could have been strike three was actually ball one, as called by umpire Jim Wolfe.
Asked how he saw the pitch, Bassitt said: “Like everyone else. But it’s part of the game. It’s OK that he missed it. I just have to make a much better pitch the pitch after that.”
The next pitch — a “terrible” slider, Bassitt said — slid into the middle of the plate, and Machado rocketed it to left field for a two-run home run that brought Bassitt into a deep squat and the park into a stunned silence.
The swing ruined a brilliant performance by the Mets righty who, since a 3 ¹/₃-inning, seven-run outing against the Padres on June 8, has strung together six straight quality starts in which he has posted a 2.43 ERA.
Bassitt has rounded into form, and there are clear avenues for the Mets to enter the postseason with a potentially dominant rotation if Jacob deGrom returns and his health lasts.
But the rotation was far from the minds of the Mets. Some help had arrived for the offence, but clearly not enough, with a week and a half until the trade deadline.