NEW YORK (AP) — Yoenis Cespedes reached down and golfed a knuckleball on a bounce against the right-center field wall, then while running at third-quarters speed started hopping toward second. He bent over when he reached the base and put hands on both knees.
In a series of setbacks for the New York Mets on Thursday, they scratched Noah Syndergaard because of biceps and shoulder discomfort, lost their top slugger to a strained hamstring that will send him to the disabled list, then watched substitute starter Matt Harvey get whacked.
Their 7-5 defeat to Atlanta was their sixth straight loss and 10th in 11 games, dropping them into last in the NL East at 8-13, 7½ games behind division-leading Washington. With the Mets on their longest skid since June 2015, manager Terry Collins felt compelled to give his first postgame speech to the team this year.
“We can no longer sit back and say, ‘Hey, look, you know what: It’s ugly weather. We got some guys hurt.’ No one cares,” Collins said. “They’ve got to care. They’ve got to come out, play with some energy and get this thing going, and I truly believe we can do it.”
On a day of downers, Collins tried to prop up his players with an inspirational message.
“Last year we lost David Wright — he’s out again this year,” he remembered telling them. “We lost Cabby. We lost Walk. We lost Duda. We lost Ces. We lost Harvey. We lost deGrom. We lost Matz. OK, we still made it through. We can do that again. But it’s got to start now.”
Despite season-ending injuries to Wright, Harvey, Neil Walker and Steven Matz and knocks that sidelined Asdrubal Cabrera, Lucas Duda, Cespedes and Jacob deGrom for stretches, the Mets still reached last year’s NL wild-card game. Cespedes injured his right quadriceps on July 8 and had 10 homers and 34 RBIs during the rest of the season around a lengthy layoff coinciding with the All-Star break and an August stint on the DL. He became a free agent and the Mets signed him to a $110 million, four-year contract
He left last Thursday’s loss to Philadelphia with what was called a left hamstring cramp and returned to the lineup Wednesday. After pulling up Thursday, he needed a full minute to hobble to the dugout. He made it alone only to the first-base line, then wrapped his left arm around the back of first base coach Tom Goodwin and draped his right on the shoulder of head athletic trainer Ray Ramirez. Cespedes was sent for an MRI, and Collins said a DL stint was certain.
“You can write all you want, well, we should have put him on the DL. Well, we didn’t, because we didn’t think it was necessary, because he said he was going to be able to play,” Collins said.
Harvey (2-1) didn’t know he was going to start until 10 a.m., when he received a telephone call from pitching coach Dan Warthen. Syndergaard, the hardest-throwing starting pitcher in the major leagues, had been scheduled to take the mound for the homestand finale.
“Kind of started irritating me a couple of days ago,” Syndergaard said. “I was able to throw through it, and then I took some anti-inflammatories and woke up the next day, I was feeling good as new. … I played catch yesterday and felt great, playing catch, and then it kind of stiffens up once it gets cold. I couldn’t really lift my arm above my shoulder at that point, but took another anti-inflammatory last night and I felt really good this morning. I felt like I could go out there and compete, but right now it’s a precautionary thing.”
Syndergaard hopes to start Sunday at Washington.
Harvey, not expecting to pitch against the Braves, had worked out hard with weights on Wednesday and seemed to short out like a 220-volt appliance plugged into a 110-volt outlet.
New York tied the score 2-2 in the fourth on Neil Walker’s RBI double and Kurt Suzuki’s run-scoring passed ball, but Atlanta needed just two pitches to take a 3-2 lead in the fifth. Adonis Garcia singled leading off and scored on Freddie Freeman’s double. His velocity down, Harvey intentionally walked Nick Markakis to pitch to Suzuki, who hit a slider for his first home run this season, a three-run drive.
“Overall mechanically, it just felt really tight on the mound and couldn’t get loose,” Harvey said. “I wasn’t really physically prepared for starting today.”
Harvey allowed six runs and five hits in 4 1/3 innings, tying a career high with five walks. He had made a surprise start against Washington last week when deGrom was scratched with a stiff neck.
“It’s happened before once. I have to be ready for it to happen again,” Harvey said.
“We don’t have no energy out there,” Reyes said. “We feel down 2-0, 1-0, we feel like we already lost. As a baseball player, when you have that attitude, that’s bad. Hopefully, we can change that.”
DeGrom (0-1) is slated to start Friday’s series opener at Washington in his first appearance since losing to the Nationals on April 22.
RONALD BLUM, AP Baseball Writer