NEW YORK -- A homestand filled with wild emotional swings ended refreshingly drama-free for the New York Mets on Sunday. Now it’s left to determine whether the Mets have played their final 2016 game at Citi Field.
Rookie Robert Gsellman tossed seven scoreless innings, Curtis Granderson produced his 30th home run, and Jay Bruce showed further signs of awakening as the Mets routed the Philadelphia Phillies 17-0 in the series finale at Citi Field. It was the largest shutout win in franchise history.
It was a topsy-turvy final homestand for the Mets. On Wednesday, after Jacob deGrom underwent surgery to move the ulnar nerve in his pitching elbow, Ender Inciarte robbed Yoenis Cespedes of a would-be walk-off homer, and the Atlanta Braves completed a three-game sweep.
A day later, the Mets twice overcame a two-run deficit while down to their final two outs and beat the Phillies in 11 innings.
On Saturday, after spot starter Sean Gilmartin got knocked out in the first inning, the Mets nearly overcame a 10-run deficit. They fell short by two runs after bringing the winning run to the plate in the ninth.
Finally, players arrived Sunday to news that Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez had been killed in an early morning boating accident. Cespedes, at the suggestion of Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, taped a Mets jersey to the dugout wall with the name “Fernandez” and his No. 16. The Mets will bring that jersey to Miami this week.
The Mets, while respectful of the tragedy, overcame the emotional hurdle on Sunday. They needed a day to exhale on the field without overtaxing the bullpen.
“Our bullpen was shot,” manager Terry Collins said. “When you run 27 pitchers out in three games, you’re out of gas. It was nice to be able to have comfortable innings at the end of the game.”
Bruce, starting for only the second time in the past eight games, doubled and scored in the second inning to open the scoring. Granderson hit a solo homer in the fourth for a 2-0 lead. The Mets later scored runs on a pair of bases-loaded walks to Jose Reyes, when Rene Rivera was hit on the left hand with a pitch to force in a run and on a wild pitch. Asdrubal Cabrera offered an exclamation point with a seventh-inning grand slam.
After struggling in games started by emergency starters Gabriel Ynoa and Gilmartin the previous two days, Gsellman (3-2) stabilized things with a 107-pitch effort. He limited the Phillies to three hits and two walks while striking out eight in seven innings, and he departed to a standing ovation. His ERA now stands at 2.56.
With Steven Matz’s return on indefinite hold because of renewed shoulder discomfort and deGrom’s season over after elbow surgery, Gsellman and fellow rookie Seth Lugo figure to get starts in a division series against the Chicago Cubs -- if the Mets get that far.
“Hopefully we get to the postseason. He’s got to be a part of it,” Collins said about Gsellman. “I thought it was really, really important to build him up to the 100 pitches, so whether he throws 70 or 75 pitches in a playoff game, it’s easier for him.”
Of course, the Mets first have to qualify for the postseason. They have two series remaining -- three games apiece at Miami and Philadelphia. The series at Marlins Park will be particularly emotional and complicated because the Mets’ postseason pursuit will be secondary to the still raw emotions surrounding Fernandez’s death.
Collins will meet with his players before the game. He feels the Mets have the correct pitcher, 43-year-old Bartolo Colon, starting Monday on what surely will be a difficult night. The manager also feels good because Colon and Noah Syndergaard will combine to toss four of the final six regular-season games if the Mets still need to qualify on the final day of the regular season.
“We’ve got six games to go. We’re going to run, basically, our two best pitchers out there twice each,” Collins said. “Tomorrow is going to be a rough one for everybody because I’m sure they’re going to be all fired up not only to beat us but in honor of Jose. But we’ve got to do what we’ve been doing -- go out and play, execute. We’ve got to feel good because we’ve got Bart going tomorrow night because if anybody can handle those situations, it’s him. We’ll see what happens.”
The Mets will be better situated to earn a wild-card spot if Bruce can awaken from his funk, and there are signs that is beginning to take place. After he hit a homer as a pinch hitter Saturday, Bruce went 2-for-4 with two runs scored in the series finale. He had been hitless in 15 straight at-bats before Saturday’s long ball.
Although 25 of Bruce’s homers came with the Cincinnati Reds before an Aug. 1 trade, the Mets now have three outfielders sitting at precisely 30 long balls. Granderson joined Cespedes and Bruce at that total on Sunday. This marks the first time the Mets have had multiple 30-homer hitters on the roster since 2008, when Carlos Delgado and David Wright reached the total.
“Guys are swinging the bat as a collective group, and that means a lot,” Collins said. “You’re not just looking at three or four guys. You can spread the lineup out. I’ll tell you, Jay Bruce, with last night and today’s performance, that’s going to be big for us as we move forward.”
The Mets have matched a franchise record by scoring eight or more runs in four straight games. They have done so on six previous occasions -- most recently in July 2011.
“We want playoffs!” fans chanted with one out remaining Sunday.
The Mets finished 44-37 at home this season. Whether they have another home date on Oct. 5 in the wild-card game or afterward remains to be determined.
“Tomorrow is going to be a tough day,” Collins said. “Tomorrow is really going to be a tough one. But we got through this one today. Robert Gsellman was real, real good. I’m glad it’s over. And I’ll be glad when tomorrow is over, I’ll tell you.”