The Mets aren’t going down without a fight, but that alone wasn’t enough on Tuesday night.
After temporarily staving off defeat with Javier Baez’s game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth, the Mets still suffered a crushing loss in 11 innings, falling to the Cardinals 7-6 at Citi Field.
Jake Reed, who was activated off the injured list earlier in the day, gave up three runs on three singles in the top of the 11th after the Mets had already used up Aaron Loup, Jeurys Familia, Trevor May, Edwin Diaz and Heath Hembree to cover four innings of relief — with Seth Lugo seemingly unavailable.
Pete Alonso drilled an RBI double in the bottom of the 11th to make it 7-5 before the Cardinals intentionally walked Baez. After Jeff McNeil grounded into a fielder’s choice, Kevin Pillar reached on an error that scored Alonso to get the Mets within one run.
But pinch-hitter Albert Almora Jr. grounded out to end the game as the Mets (72-74) dropped their second straight game, their playoff hopes taking another hit with time running out.
The Mets had a prime chance to win it in the bottom of the 10th after putting runners on the corners with one out. But Alex Reyes got Francisco Lindor to ground into a double play — perfectly executed by Paul Goldschmidt, who fielded the ball, stepped on first and threw home to Yadier Molina, who gunned out Pillar in a rundown to escape the jam.
Baez had worked his magic in the bottom of the ninth, leading off with a solo home run that tied the game 4-4 and had the crowd of 21,825 chanting his name, which he answered with a curtain call. It was the Mets’ first hit since Baez’s bunt single in the first inning.
Baez’s homer took Familia off the hook. For the first time all season, Familia was entrusted with a one-run lead to start the eighth inning. He promptly handed it back as he served up a two-run shot to O’Neill that gave the Cardinals a 4-3 lead. Two batters later, Familia was replaced by May — one of the Mets’ regular eighth-inning arms — who stranded a pair of runners and recorded the final two outs of the inning.
The Mets took an early lead against Cardinals starter Jake Woodford with a four-hit first inning — the same amount of hits they mustered in six scoreless innings against Adam Wainwright on Monday.
Jonathan Villar, Francisco Lindor and Michael Conforto led off with three straight singles to go up 1-0. After Alonso grounded into a double play, Baez popped a bunt single that fell just out of the reach of a diving Woodford to score Lindor from third, making it 2-0.
Marcus Stroman recorded six strikeouts through three no-hit innings before the Cardinals finally got to him in the fourth. Goldschmidt led off with a double and came around to score on O’Neill’s single. One out later, Molina singled to put runners on the corners and Dylan Carlson cashed in with a sacrifice fly to tie the game 2-2.
Stroman helped his own cause in the fifth inning, drawing a one-out walk against reliever Daniel Ponce de Leon. It was the first of three straight walks issued by Ponce de Leon, loading the bases before the Cardinals replaced him with Kodi Whitley.
Conforto then put the Mets ahead 3-2 with a sacrifice fly, scoring Stroman from third.
The Mets missed a chance to extend their lead, though, as Alonso struck out to end the rally. He broke his bat over his knee in frustration as he fell further into an 0-for-19 slump — which became 0-for-20 before snapping it with a double in the 11th.
Stroman gave up just two runs across six innings while striking out eight, but was removed after 89 pitches for Loup, who worked a quick top of the seventh inning, protecting the 3-2 lead.