This was supposed to be a breeze. Instead, the breeze that has arrived has chilled the Mets’ bats.
The Mets, who are supposed to be trampling weaker opponents, instead were swept in a three-game series for the first time this season, the final indignity a 6-3 loss to the Cubs at Citi Field on Wednesday night in front of 28,522.
The Mets scored a total of six runs in the three games against a Chicago club that has been out of contention for months. Buck Showalter’s crew next will host the Pirates for four games that seemed easier a few weeks ago.
The Mets are amid a stretch of 16 straight games against sub-.500 opponents, and they have dropped seven of the first 12. The only positive development around the club is that its nemesis has begun losing, too.
The Mets (89-55) remained a half-game ahead of the Braves, who lost to the Giants and have dropped consecutive series in Seattle and San Francisco.
The Braves have built-in excuses while playing on the West Coast and against competent teams. The Mets could point to injuries — Starling Marte is on the shelf and Max Scherzer missed his second start — but the biggest problems lie with their offense. A six-run deficit in the first inning felt and proved insurmountable.
In a disastrous effort, starter David Peterson was charged with five runs while recording one out in an inning he did not escape. The hole was dug, and the Mets never got back in the game.
The signs of pressing and frustration from the Mets’ offense were everywhere. In the third inning, Darin Ruf chased a breaking ball in the dirt and slowly walked back to a dugout as fans booed him. In the fourth, Pete Alonso flailed at a strike three that bounced and stood at the plate for a few moments, as if refusing to trudge back to the bench. Jeff McNeil grounded out in the seventh and spiked his helmet after touching first base.
Chicago’s Drew Smyly limited the Mets to two runs on four hits through five innings. The Mets could not find the big hit against the Cubs bullpen.
In the ninth, the Mets had the makings of a threat against Mark Leiter Jr., who drilled McNeil to start the frame. But Eduardo Escobar’s deep drive to right-center was tracked down by Michael Hermosillo, who made a remarkable leaping catch against the wall. Luis Guillorme then grounded into a double play.
Tomas Nido provided the Mets’ first run with a third-inning homer — his second dinger in as many games after being held homer-less for 85 games to start the season. Alonso lined a solo homer, his 35th of the season, in the eighth.
The Mets lost a game in which they caught a few breaks. They scored a run in the fifth inning when, with Escobar at third and two outs, Brandon Nimmo hit a chopper to third base. Chicago’s Patrick Wisdom whiffed on the ball, which bounced into left field as the Mets cut the gap to 6-2.
In the third, the Cubs put runners on the corners against Trevor Williams. With David Bote at the plate, Nelson Velazquez took off for second, and Nido faked a throw to second before throwing behind Higgins at third, and the Cub dove back safely. But home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt ruled that Bote interfered with Nido’s throw, getting the Mets out of the jam.
The breaks — and excellent work from the Mets’ bullpen — would not matter because the offense could not make up for Peterson’s disastrous outing.
The lefty first could not find the strike zone and then could not find an out. He walked the bases loaded, struck out Wisdom then surrendered a pair of doubles — one to Yan Gomes, another to P.J. Higgins — for four runs. Showalter had seen enough.
Williams entered and only widened the wound, allowing a double to Hermosillo and single to Nelson Velazquez, allowing the Cubs to score a touchdown (with no extra point) in the first. Williams settled down from there.
Peterson was charged with five runs on two hits and three walks in one-third of an inning. He could be shuffled to the bullpen next week with Scherzer expected to return.
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