The Mets may be going quietly in the last gasps of their season, but one significant member of their ranks is not.
Javier Báez solidified his status as the most unrelenting force in New York’s lineup on Friday, singling home the Mets’ first run in a 4-3 loss to the Phillies that dealt another blow to their thinning postseason chances. Even Báez’s best Yoenis Céspedes impression — more on that later — has not been enough to save the Mets’ season.
“I almost want to call it a letdown,” manager Luis Rojas said. “He’s been so clutch for us.”
That the Mets dropped another game at Citi Field was hardly the fault of Báez, who was the only New York hitter to drive home a run against Phillies starter Zack Wheeler. Although the Mets managed to knock Wheeler out of the game after five innings, he stuck around long enough to win, while Taijuan Walker took the loss after giving up two runs in five innings. The Mets fought back with three doubles off Archie Bradley in the eighth, including run-scoring hits by Michael Conforto and Kevin Pillar, but they could not complete the comeback.
Finishing 1-for-3 with his RBI single and a walk, Báez produced what has been a typical stat line for him. Since joining the Mets in a July 30 trade with the Cubs, Báez has compiled numbers comparable to some of the best Trade Deadline acquisitions in history, batting .306/.381/.581 with nine homers, 26 runs scored and 19 RBIs. Compare that to the 2015 version of Yoenis Céspedes, one of baseball’s most impactful Deadline rentals, who hit .295/.345/.605 with 10 homers, 23 runs and 26 RBIs over his first 139 plate appearances — the same number Báez currently has on his ledger.
“Just a lot of energy, a very exciting player,” Walker said recently.
Báez has also stolen four bases, given the team excellent baserunning in general and played a defensively sound second base. If his efforts have not been celebrated as much as those of Céspedes, it’s mostly because the Mets have failed to convert them into victories.
To be clear: it’s not as if Báez comes free of long-term risk. The free-swinger’s 33.6 percent strikeout rate remains his highest since his rookie season. Then there is the matter of the “thumbs-down” saga that Báez personally ignited earlier this month, when he revealed that he, Francisco Lindor and other Mets players were essentially “booing” their own fan base — a sentiment for which Báez subsequently apologized.