The Mets got swept in a season series by Pittsburgh for the first time in their history, and Sunday’s 8-1 defeat underscored how much the Pirates own them and how far they have to go to contend.
Despite coming into this series off a sweep of the Rockies and leading the NL East, the Mets ran their losing streak against Pittsburgh to seven straight games. Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen said there is no secret formula.
“We’re pretty good ourselves. It doesn’t really matter who we play. We can compete with anybody out there,’’ McCutchen said. “We’re a good team. We don’t have one of the better records in baseball for no reason. We’re capable of competing with anybody out there. We’re right up there at the top.’’
But the Pirates, who lead the NL wild-card race, didn’t just compete against the Mets; they crushed them. This three-game sweep — the Pirates’ first in Flushing since 2004 — was far more competitive than the Mets’ humiliating trip out to Pittsburgh. But the Mets still went 0-6 for the year and were outscored 37-10 by the Pirates.
“You talk about a very hot team, a team that’s been as good as anybody in baseball all through the month of August,’’ Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “[The Mets] have a good team. It’s good to see [good teams]. … Our mentality for the team is: The better the competition, it’s better for us.’’
Maybe that’s a hardened edge the Mets — also 0-6 against the Cubs, who hold the second wild-card spot — need to have sharpened the hard way. When the Pirates look to the other dugout at the Mets, they see a little bit of themselves. Well, at least they see themselves before they got over the hump and learned how to win.
The Mets are similar in many ways to Pittsburgh, built on pitching (second and third in the majors in staff ERA) and preaching patient, opportunistic offense. But the Mets are in their first pennant race since 2008, while these Pirates have grown up playing meaningful games in September.
In 2012, they were over .500 every day from June 3 through Sept. 18 before fading. The next year, they broke through with 94 wins and have made the playoffs the last two seasons.
“The huge thing for this organization was getting over the hump in 2013,” said second baseman Neil Walker (1-for-3, run scored), who sees some similarities in the Mets. “We made the playoffs. We had a couple years before that we were good until late in the year and fell off. When you get over that hump and have that confidence, it just breeds throughout the team.
“Yeah. It’s a very interesting group. They had a lot of injuries [when we played], David Wright, a couple pitchers. Their staples are very similar to ours: Pitching, defense and being opportunistic in the offensive side. It’s very similar, it’s built on the same principles. This is a very good team.’’
But one that got a humbling reminder of how far they are from knowing how to win.