NEW YORK -- Stop me if you've heard this one before, but the Mets let another critical game slip away, which would have allowed them to gain legitimate ground in the playoff race.
The Mets received some late-inning heroics on Tuesday night, but it wasn't enough to get them a win, as they unraveled in extras, falling to the Cardinals for the second straight evening, this time by a score of 7-6 in 11 innings.
After Jeurys Familia surrendered a go-ahead two-run home run in the top of the eighth, Javier Báez's game-tying solo blast in the bottom of the ninth gave the Mets new life.
Heath Hembree then got out of a jam in the top of the 10th by inducing a huge inning-ending double play off the bat of Met killer Yadier Molina.
However, the Mets proceeded to fail in getting the winning run home from third with one-out in the bottom half, as Francisco Lindor grounded into an unorthodox 3-3-2-5 inning-ending double play to send things to the 11th.
Due to having a short-handed bullpen tonight, the Amazins' fate was ultimately sealed from there, as Jake Reed, in his first appearance since returning from the IL, was then forced to enter with the go-ahead run in scoring position and did not fare well. As a result, Reed recorded just one out, allowing three-runs on three hits, as the Cardinals' offense teed off to take a three-run lead.
After the Mets went down 7-4 in the top of the 11th, they made things interesting, pulling within a run in the bottom half. But their second late-inning comeback attempt fell short, as pinch-hitter Albert Almora Jr. grounded out to end the game with the tying run in scoring position.
With Luis Guillorme available off the bench, the Mets instead chose to go to Almora, who stepped to the plate with a .118 batting average, and this move backfired.
The Mets are now 28-31 in one-run games this season and have lost 14 of their last 16 one-run contests. They wasted a prime chance to gain ground in the playoff race with three of the five teams they are chasing in the Reds, Phillies and Braves all losing tonight.
Instead, the Mets wound up 72-74 and are four games back of the second Wild Card due to their loss to the Cardinals, who have now moved into this spot. The Mets are also 5.5 games back of the Braves in the NL East with just 16 games left to play.
Marcus Stroman had another solid outing for the Mets, going six innings, while allowing two runs on four hits and striking out eight with only one walk. But Stroman was lifted after just 89 pitches, which handed things over to a bullpen that didn't have Seth Lugo or Miguel Castro available tonight.
According to manager Luis Rojas, Stroman, who has thrown 169 innings this season after not pitching at all last year, was fatigued, which led to the decision to not let him go out there for the seventh.
"I didn't throw at all last year, I had 0 innings pitched," said a testy Stroman after the game. "And now I've made the most starts in the big leagues. Maybe it's Luis [Rojas] or the coaches looking out for my best interest."
Regarding the move to not let Aaron Loup go another inning, despite only throwing seven pitches in the seventh, or not pushing Edwin Diaz for an extra inning after tossing 13 pitches in the ninth, Rojas says it all boils down to how the players respond during the game.
"I can't ask any more from the guys. I mean, right now it would be unfair," said Rojas. "I can't put them in a situation, where it will compromise anything else. Their stuff, their health. You might run a guy back out there and he might not be the same pitcher you're asking them to be as well.
"There are a lot of things that go into it," he said. "Ideally, the manager wants to pitch everyone, everyday, but there are other things that come into play when you talk. It's the player's feel, the pitching coach's feel, my feel."
To be fair, the Mets' offense didn't do their part either. New York's bats fell asleep after scoring two runs in the first inning.
Following Báez's RBI bunt single in the bottom of the first, they did not record another hit until Báez's game-tying homer in the ninth. They scored one additional run before Báez's long ball, which came on Michael Conforto's sacrifice-fly in the bottom of the fifth.
The bullpen management played a big part in the loss, but so did the offense, which didn't have the best approach and basically went on cruise control beyond a productive first inning.