NEW YORK -- Just when it seemed the New York Mets had received a second wind with Neil Walker's homer Sunday and the acquisition of Jay Bruce before the non-waiver trade deadline, the fate of their season took a serious kick in the gut.
Facing a depleted New York Yankees team that had traded away Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova, the Mets failed to hold a late lead and lost to the Yankees 6-5 in 10 innings in the Subway Series opener.
If the Mets needed a final display before Bruce’s arrival of their futility with runners in scoring position, Curtis Granderson provided it with a game-ending strikeout against Dellin Betances -- the lone remaining member of “No Runs DMC” -- with two men in scoring position.
Setup man Addison Reed had matched the franchise record for holds in a season on Sunday. But in the Subway Series opener, Reed surrendered two runs in the eighth, including one baserunner inherited from Jerry Blevins, as the Yankees evened the score.
When the game reached extra innings, manager Terry Collins summoned Seth Lugo, his final bullpen arm with Antonio Bastardo having been traded and Jonathon Niese not reporting until Tuesday. The Yankees loaded the bases with none out against Lugo and Starlin Castro delivered a tiebreaking sacrifice fly.
The script seemed like it was headed in a different direction until Reed faltered.
Walker’s go-ahead shot on Sunday against the Colorado Rockies helped the Mets snap a four-game skid and arrest the fan base’s growing despair. On Monday, the newly promoted Matt Reynolds took CC Sabathia deep for a three-run shot in the sixth inning to stake the Mets to a 5-3 lead.
But the cold truth is that despite Bruce’s impending arrival, the Mets (54-51) still have issues and face an uphill battle to return to the postseason for a second straight year.
Yoenis Cespedes was absent for a second straight game Monday thanks to the latest flare-up of his balky right quadriceps, and Collins said he will be limited to pinch-hitting on Tuesday. Justin Ruggiano was forced to depart Monday’s game after three innings with a strained left hamstring after coming up lame while unsuccessfully trying to beat out a double play. And Asdrubal Cabrera -- who has a strained patellar tendon in his left knee -- likely is headed to the disabled list on Tuesday, when Niese and Bruce report and the Mets need to free two roster spots. Ruggiano probably is headed to the DL, too.
The Mets were so shorthanded Monday that Steven Matz needed to be used as a pinch hitter.
The Mets have other issues beside injuries and their futility with runners in scoring position, which Bruce cannot alone correct.
One valid concern: How compromised will the defense become with Michael Conforto and Granderson likely to see a significant amount of time in center field so that Cespedes and Bruce can handle the corners?
And say what you want about the Mets, they seem to pen some magical moments this time of year. So do not completely bury them yet.
On the day the Mets acquired Cespedes a year ago, Wilmer Flores delivered a walk-off homer in the 12th inning to slay the Washington Nationals and begin a climb toward the division crown. Flores was at it again Monday, delivering a leadoff homer in the second to open the scoring.
Logan Verrett, who will remain in the rotation despite Monday’s acquisition of Niese from the Pittsburgh Pirates, allowed three runs on four hits and three walks in five innings as the Mets found themselves in a 3-1 hole.
However, a trio of players who have seen significant time at Triple-A Las Vegas this season helped the Mets overcome that deficit.
Brandon Nimmo, who was in a version of the trade to the Reds for Bruce only hours before the deadline, singled as a pinch hitter for Verrett and scored on Conforto’s double in the fifth. Conforto had entered the game an inning earlier for Ruggiano.
Reynolds, promoted from the Pacific Coast League to play shortstop with Cabrera’s knee ailing, then delivered a three-run homer in the sixth against Sabathia as the Mets took a 5-3 lead.
The Mets certainly ought to use this Subway Series as a springboard to get back into serious contention. It was not an auspicious opener Monday, though.