Mets Squandering Chances In Game . . . East
There’s one fatal flaw if the strategy against the Nationals is to get into their bullpen – you have to actually get into their bullpen. With how dominant Max Scherzer has been against the Mets, and how dominant he’s been this year, that wasn’t happening tonight.
That’s not to say the Mets didn’t have their chances. The Mets grounding into three double plays only confirms the Mets had their chances. Like all double plays, these were back breakers.
The following inning, Steven Matz tried to help his own cause with a lead-off single, but he was erased when Michael Conforto grounded into the double play. The shock here was that entering tonight’s game, Conforto actually hit Scherzer well going 6-15 with three homers off him. Tonight, Conforto was 0-3 with a walk and two strikeouts.
Finally in the sixth, the Mets had runners on first and second with one out. That rally ended with Wilmer Flores grounding into the inning ending double play. It was the latest sign Flores is cold. After scorching through May and earning a starting job, Flores is 2-19.
The squandered opportunities cost the Mets. It put Matz, who was making his second start off the Disabled List, in the unenviable position of having to be perfect. Unfortunately, Matz was just good.
While he generally kept the Nationals off the basepaths, he was victimized by the long ball. Matt Wieters and Michael Taylor went back-to-back to start the third. In the sixth, Anthony Rendon hit an opposite field two run homer that just cleared the wall.
With that, the Nationals were up 4-0 and in position to win despite the Matz pitching fairly well. His final line was seven innings, eight hits, four runs, four earned, no walks, and four strikeouts.
With Dusty Baker understandably not wanting to go to his bullpen, a tiring Scherzer pitched the eighth. Things got a little interesting with Reyes leading off the inning with a homer, and Curtis Granderson sending one to the wall in his pinch hitting appearance.
This is where Scherzer showed how great he is. He was clearly on fumes, but he bore down. He made quick work of Conforto before entering a battle with Yoenis Cespedes. Despite Scherzer quickly getting up 1-2 in the count, Cespedes fouled off a number of pitches, and the count would go full. On the 11th pitch, Scherzer finally got his strikeout.
Still, it was within striking distance at 4-1. That’s when the Mets defense blew their chances.
Taylor led off the inning with a well placed bunt single. Flores made a nice play, but with his arm, he had no shot at Taylor. Same went for d’Arnaud when Taylor stole second. Taylor was certainly helped by Fernando Salas not even bothering to hold him on.
Despite all of that, the Mets had a chance to get out of the ninth inning unscathed. There were runners at the corners with one out, and Brian Goodwin hit a tailor made double play ball. For some reason, T.J. Rivera lollipopped it over to Reyes, who had no shot to get the speedy Goodwin.
After a Bryce Harper single, Ryan Zimmerman hit a single to left. Goodwin seemed like he would score with ease, and for some reason, Harper headed to third. Cespedes made a one hop throw to third Flores could not field. It at least appeared if Flores fielded it cleanly, Harper would’ve been out before Goodwin scored thereby negating the run.
It didn’t happen that way and because official scorers do that the do, Cespedes was charged with the error despite his heads-up play and good throw.
Then Terry Collins does what he does best. He made a questionable move.
Despite the Nationals bullpen being bad, they’re not six runs in the ninth inning bad. The real shame is the Nationals bullpen pitched as expected with Jay Bruce greeting Shawn Kelley with a lead-off home run in the ninth to make it 7-2. The Mets would get no closer.
The Mets have had two cracks at the Nationals to help them make some headway in the National League East. They responded by playing some of their worst baseball this month. They were not fundamentally sound, nor were they smart. They didn’t effectively work counts to get into that bullpen, and they played poor defense.
The most the Mets can hope for now is a split. If they continue playing like this, it won’t happen.