But then the first punch to the gut. Wes Helms launched Scott Schoeneweis' fastball into the left-field bleachers, putting New York behind, 3-2, and making a Milwaukee loss evermore necessary for a tiebreaking game on Monday.
Then, the one-two combo -- a two-run shot from the Brewers' Ryan Braun in the eighth -- was absorbed by a sellout crowd. A short boo simmered into the realization of the end nearing faster than anticipated. Suddenly, the Mets needed a win.
The runs would never come -- from New York or Chicago. And the cheers never really returned.
"You knew when they cheered, you knew when they booed," Ryan Church said of the crowd's reaction to the Cubs-Brewers game. "You didn't have to look."
After their 4-2 defeat to the Marlins, the Mets could look at that eighth inning and pinpoint when their season's hopes had almost fully deflated. The crowd knew that New York's back was against the wall.
Most of all, the Mets knew it.
"We see. We see," shortstop Jose Reyes said of the scoreboard. "We fight all the way through. I mean, nothing happened, so like I said, it's tough. It's disappointing."
Schoeneweis was visibly distraught after giving up the deciding home run, which would be followed by Dan Uggla's solo shot off of Luis Ayala. Schoeneweis could express very few words, all of which could only express how sorry he felt.
Across the Mets' clubhouse, the devastation of that inning resonated. Heads were slouched and limbs remained idle as players sat in their fold-up chairs.
Letting it slip away was everyone's fault, David Wright said. You could blame it on Schoeneweis, you could even try to blame the Cubs for not mustering the win, but in the end, the Mets knew it was on them for their crowd's silence and the jubilation in Milwaukee.
At 27-27 heading into May, and 13-12 in September, New York wasn't good enough at the right time. It was once in first place in the National League East, and was once ahead by a few games in the Wild Card race.
Now the Mets' fate finally flipped to misfortune in one moment -- when all of the numbers didn't go their way.
"Excluding the first two months of the season and the last couple weeks, we took care of business," Wright said. "We just weren't good. We needed to get hot and play like a playoff team. We couldn't do that down the stretch."