This was about as bad a mix as you could get for the Mets. Jason Vargas, a fly ball pitcher, was starting in Wrigley. To make matters worse, the Mets opted to make this the day they broke out the Dominic Smith–Michael Conforto–Jeff McNeil outfield alignment.
On the outfield alignment, while it was a bad decision to play those three players out of position, they played well out there making all the plays. That includes those hit to the ivy:
McNeil makes a leaping grab into the Wrigley Ivy and lets his teammates know that "it's soft" lmao pic.twitter.com/3jimF41S5t
— Phony Van Wagenen (@MetsKevin11) June 21, 2019
It would get better later.
While the outfield got off to a good start the Mets didn’t. For a second day in a row, the Mets scored a run while ending a rally by hitting into a bases loaded double play. Today, that cake courtesy of Smith.
In the bottom of the second, the Mets paid for the transgression by losing the lead right away in the bottom of the second.
The trouble started when Vargas walked the leadoff batter Javier Baez, and it got worse when J.D. Davis completely botched a routine ball at third. After David Bote reached on the error, he stole second putting runners at second and third with one out.
On the stolen base, Tomas Nido made a terrible throw and almost hit a ducking Vargas in the face. It was one of two stolen bases the Phillies had with both throws being poor. It just must be something to do with being a Mets catcher.
The Cubs plated their first run without a hit on an RBI groundout. The second came on a Yu Darvish RBI single giving the Cubs a 2-1 lead. It was the seventh hit of Darvish’s career, and he would be 2-for-2 off Vargas.
While the Mets lost the lead, they remain a resilient team as evidenced by McNeil hitting a two run homer to give the Mets a lead in the top of the third:
🐿 does it all! #LGM
— New York Mets (@Mets) June 21, 2019
That lead lasted until the bottom of the fifth when Addison Russell hit a go-ahead two run homer. Things then get dicey when the lineup flipped over. Kris Bryant doubled, and in a weird course of events Anthony Rizzo struck out.
— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) June 21, 2019
Initially, Rizzo was seemingly ruled not to swing, but for some reason, he also wasn’t awarded first on a ball that hit him. That’s when Vargas flipped, and he actually got the third base umpire (who upon further review ruled dead ball and not no swing) and home plate umpire to get everything squared away. In the end, Rizzo was ruled to have struck out.
With Vargas departing, he has now had 10 straight starts allowing three earned or less. The problem is he’s only pitched 5+ innings in only half those starts putting pressure on a bad bullpen. Fortunately, the Mets were up to the task shutting out the Cubs for 4.1 innings.
The Mets would even take a late lead in this game and hold onto it. The outfield would again be the driving force.
In the sixth, Conforto hit his 15th homer of the year to tie the score at 4-4. Then in the seventh, McNeil did what he needed to do to get the lead hitting a two out RBI single scoring Adeiny Hechavarria.
On the play, McNeil was thrown out trying to go to second. On the one hand, it seemed like Hechavarria was scoring anyway. On the other, the play killed the chance of the lead growing with Pete Alonso due up.
This put the game in Seth Lugo‘s hands. After an 11 pitch seventh, he came back out for the eighth. Things didn’t go as smooth.
Willson Contreras hit a two out single to left. McNeil, who had replaced Smith in left when Juan Lagares came into the game for defense, appeared to deke Rizzo. Deke or no deke, Rizzo cannot be heading to third in that spot. He got into a rundown thereby ending the rally and the Cubs last chance to tie the game.
The reason is Edwin Diaz looked like Diaz again. Maybe it was his working with Phil Regan, or maybe it was some rest or just some luck. Whatever the case, it was great seeing the Mets bullpen do it’s job again and put the Mets back in the win column.
Game Notes: As noted by MMO‘s Michael Mayer, Lugo has a 0.38 ERA over his last 23.2 innings pitched. The Mets have no finalists in the All Star voting.
The Mets had an opportunity to not just get back to .500 this weekend. They had the chance to make a statement against the Cardinals while going over .500 and making a real push towards the Wild Card and division ahead of a big road trip. As we know, it didn’t happen:
1. Perhaps everything is different if Edwin Diaz could pitch through the rain. He couldn’t. Instead, he blew the save, and the Mets would have to wait another day to lose that game, and then because this is the Mets, blow another game.
2. The criticism directed towards Mickey Callaway in sticking with Diaz for the 10th inning of that suspended game was plain dumb. It’s not like he was running him right back out there. No, he used him after a night of rest, and remember, Diaz was their best available reliever. Sticking with him was the right call.
3. The criticism of Callaway has gone way over the top. Take for example Wally Matthews hit on him when Callaway said Dominic Smith was one of their better hitters against Cardinals starter Daniel Hudson. Matthews mocked Callaway saying they never faced one another instead of pointing out how left-handed batters are hitting .311/.411/.508 off Hudson. Of course, that fact stands in the way of the narrative that Callaway is an idiot.
4. If you want to get on Callaway, get on his ever allowing Mets pitching to pitch to Paul DeJong. For some reason, he turns into a hybrid monster of Chipper Jones and Barry Bonds whenever he plays the Mets. It’s infuriating, especially when it was DeJong who mostly cost the Mets a chance to at least split the series or possibly more.
5. With respect to DeJong, one of his homers came off of Chris Flexen. That’s a tough spot for Flexen, who was JUST converted to a reliever with one relief outing in Syracuse before getting called up. He pitched well otherwise, and the Mets need to give him more of a look. That said, it’s an indictment on Brodie Van Wagenen that Flexen needed to be rushed like this.
6. Speaking of Van Wagenen indictments, who is the fifth starter now that Noah Syndergaard is injured? Corey Oswalt is hurt. Flexen is a reliever. Ervin Santana hasn’t been good in years, and Walker Lockett has never been good. Maybe he’ll just trade another asset for a pitcher another organization clearly no longer wants.
7. Like when he traded cash considerations for Brooks Pounders and his career 8.69 ERA. If history is any guide, this will go the way of Tobi Stoner in terms of relievers with fun names who have a big arm and poor results.
8. The Mets entered this season with zero depth in their rotation and their outfield. It’s already caused a huge problem in the outfield, and it is potentially doing so again with the rotation.
9. The outfield really highlights the Mets stupidity. Right now, the Mets are considering playing Jeff McNeil, who is just a second baseman, or Michael Conforto, who will only play right field this year, to play center so they can get Smith, who is only going to play first base, into the lineup as the team’s left fielder.
10. McNeil made a game and season ending play when he nailed Jack Flaherty at the plate. If the Mets lost that game, there may not have been any coming back from it. It’s bizarre to think this was one of just two season altering types of a plays in the same four game series, the other being Amed Rosario‘s inability to get the relay throw in Diaz’s blown save.
11. Say what you want about this team, but they are resilient. They came back from Diaz’s blown save and loss, and they were in position to win the next game until Jeurys Familia blew it. They then came back the next night and won it. They then battled all day Sunday trying to pull out the series split.
12. This team can hit at home. Their 117 wRC+ at home is the fourth best in the majors and second best in the National League. The trick for the team is to find a way to bring that offense on the road.
13. Speaking of offense at home, the team should just leave J.D. Davis at Citi Field because it’s apparently the only ballpark in the majors he can hit. In his career, he hits .209/.274/.341 on the road, .150/.200/.300 at Minute Maid, and yet, somehow, .347/.424/.587 at Citi Field. Maybe there’s just something to the Mets infield dirt that makes those ground balls find a way through.
14. If you are looking for the reasons for the Mets struggles, it’s not Callaway. It’s the bullpen, which is terrible, and it is the defense, which may actually be worse than the bullpen. That’s a combination which is not going to play well on the road, and as we saw in this series, it is not going to play well against good teams.
15. As bizarre and tiresome as this sounds, the Mets still could be in this race. They’re just five games out of a Wild Card and 7.5 back of the Braves, and the Mets have the games against the opponents to make it a race. They just have to go out and to their job.
16. For what it’s worth, Flexen being in the pen along with a returning Justin Wilson may address the bullpen enough that they could be good there. Move McNeil to center with Smith in left, and maybe, this is a team ready to go. After all, we see the fight this team has in it. It’s really just a matter of putting it all together at once.
17. That said, if it was that easy, the Mets wouldn’t be in this position.
18. If you want to know if there is a real chance for the division, look no further than this series against the Braves. If they take two, it’s a whole new ball game. If they get swept, they’ve already lost the division, and they’ll be lucky if there’s still a Wild Card to put their focus.
20. You could buy the criticism directed at Syndergaard for not speaking reporters after his injury if the media held the General Manager and ownership to the same standards. Instead, they fight over themselves to throw jabs at the team’s designated punching bag Callaway, especially when you see how the Mets have handled Brandon Nimmo‘s STILL injured neck.