When Mets infielder Kelly Johnson said last weekend that opposing teams would not feel bad for the Mets and their injuries, he may as well have been talking directly to the D-backs. To a team that lost MVP candidate A.J. Pollock before the season even started. To a team that played much of the summer without star pitcher Zack Greinke. To a team that announced Thursday that outfielder David Peralta will undergo season-ending surgery.
The last-place D-backs don't feel bad for the Mets one bit. And they set about proving it this week at Citi Field, embracing their role of spoiler in a 9-0 blowout on Thursday to secure a crushing three-game series sweep over the Mets.
"We talked about this about a week ago that every day is a new day," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "If we win, great. If we lose, the next day we move on. Obviously, it's great to win three games here. It's not an easy place to sweep. So we're excited about it, but now we move on to Boston."
Stealing four bases off New York starter Noah Syndergaard, the D-backs became the latest team to drive the early-season National League Cy Young Award candidate from a game in the middle innings. Then they piled on late against reliever Jonathon Niese, parlaying Chris Owings' three-run triple into a six-run sixth.
"The Arizona Diamondbacks played three amazing games," Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson said. "You have some All-Stars on that team. When they get things clicking, they can be just as good as anybody else."
It was a significant blow to a Mets team that fell back to .500 for the first time since April 20, losing 11 of their last 15 to fall to the fringes of a NL Wild Card race they once led. The Mets mustered nothing in seven innings against D-Backs starter Braden Shipley, who allowed just three hits -- all singles -- and a walk, needing only 78 pitches.
After Terry Collins went on a 3 1/2-minute rant in his postgame press conference, the Mets manager called a team meeting behind closed doors to address his club's slide.
"We're not going to look at excuses in any fashion," second baseman Neil Walker said. "We're not going to look at the fact that we've had a lot of injuries, or whatever the case may be. We're looking at tomorrow. We understand where we're at. We know what kind of baseball we have to play down the stretch to give ourselves a chance, and that's where we're at. We're certainly not a .500 team."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Running wild: The D-backs stole 13 bases in the three games against the Mets, a team record for most steals in a series. Even Shipley got into the mix with his steal of second in the fourth inning, though it's safe to say the coaching staff would have preferred he not have slid headfirst into the bag. The Mets rank last in the Majors with 102 steals allowed, due in large part to Syndergaard, who has permitted a league-worst 34 of them.
"I think we were just aggressive," Hale said. "We got in good situations. The score allowed us to do that a lot. We talked about pushing the envelope, but if you're down three, four, five runs early in the game, it's hard to do that."
Boos rain down: Last in the Majors in total offense since May 1, the Mets constructed their only real rally when Johnson drew a leadoff walk and Rene Rivera singled off Shipley with one out in the fifth. But Matt Reynolds and pinch-hitter Granderson struck out in succession, eliciting boos from the crowd as the latter walked back to the dugout.
Ship sails: In just his fourth big league start, Shipley did not show any signs of nerves on the big stage of New York. Shipley has now allowed just two runs over his last three starts, spanning 19 innings. When he was initially called up, it seemed Shipley's stay might be short, but given the way he's seized his opportunity, it's doubtful he's headed back to Triple-A Reno any time soon. More >
"That's where confidence breeds from is having success," Shipley said. "The more experience that I get, I'm just going to be able to keep learning and go out there and attack."
Mere mortal: Since peaking with a 7-2 record and 1.91 ERA on June 15, Syndergaard has gone 2-5 with a 4.20 mark. Inefficiency has dogged him -- he's averaging 18.8 pitches per inning over his last five starts -- but so has the running game. The 34 bases that opponents have stolen off Syndergaard are by far the most in the Majors. Next-easiest to run on? Mets teammate Steven Matz, who has allowed 20 steals.
QUOTABLE "Maybe not the smartest decision sliding headfirst. I'm sure everybody is thinking that, but it's just kind of instinctual for me." -- Shipley, on his stolen base
"You owe a responsibility to the fans, our fan base, the organization, and to yourself for the respect of this game, to come out and grind it out." -- Collins, on his message to the Mets
WHAT'S NEXT D-backs:Patrick Corbin will be on the mound Friday at 4:10 p.m. MST when the D-backs open a three-game series with the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Corbin is winless in his last eight starts, compiling a 7.09 ERA over that span.
Mets: With their season approaching the brink, the Mets will turn to right-hander Logan Verrett (3-7, 4.66 ERA), whom they nearly bumped from the rotation following his last poor outing. Verrett will open a three-game series against the Padres at Citi Field, opposite right-hander Paul Clemens. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.