That’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from a Seth Lugo start. He’s not going to give up more than two earned runs. He’s going to bear down and be at his best when there are runners on base. Most importantly, he’s going to give the Mets a chance to win.
In the first, Lugo navigated his way out of a jam after a Martin Prado two run homer. Lugo would intentionally walk Justin Bour after a Giancarlo Stanton two out double to get to Jeff Mathis. Lugo struck out Mathis to get out of the inning.
In the third, the Marlins would have runners at first and second with one out and Stanton walking to the plate. Lugo got Stanton to foul out, and then he got Bour to groundout to end the inning.
In the sixth, Collins wouldn’t let Lugo get out if the “jam.” After a Bour one out single, Collins lifted Lugo at 82 pitches so face the same Mathis who Lugo struck out to get out of the first. Hansel Robles would justify Collins decision by striking out Mathis and then inducing an Adeiny Hechavarria grounder to end the inning.
Once again, the Mets scored their runs off the long ball.
In the fourth, Lugo started a rally with a two out double. He then came around to score on a Jose Reyes double.
In the fifth, Jay Bruce continued his hit hitting with a two run homer scoring Curtis Granderson. Over Bruce’s last five games, Bruce has gone 7-16 with three homers and five RBI. That accounts for roughly 40% of Bruce’s homers and RBI as a Met.
With that, the Mets magic number to win the Wild Card now stands at three with three games left in the season. The Mets control their own destiny, and as long as they put together three more games like this, they will certainly return to the postseason.
Game Notes: Granderson was 4-4 with a walk. He has now reached on eight straight plate appearances. Asdrubal Cabrera somehow went 0-5. Juan Lagares came on for Bruce for defense, and he was 0-1 at the plate. Familia recorded his 50th save of the season surpassing Francisco Cordero and Jose Valverde for the most saves by a Dominican born pitcher in a season.
The obvious answer to when a team loses a game is after they have recorded their 27th out. It’s also the technically correct answer. However, there are moments within a game, the proverbial turning points, when a team really loses the game.
With respect to today’s game against the Nationals, many will pinpoint the moment Wilson Ramos hit a solo home run off Fernando Salas in the bottom of the seventh. It would be the only run scored in the game. The reason it was the only run scored on the game was because the Mets offense wasted a chance to put a crooked number on the board in the first inning.
Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera led off the game with back-to-back singles off Tanner Roark. Curtis Granderson then drew a one out walk to load the bases. Then Jay Bruce stepped up to the plate. Bruce was brought to the Mets exactly for moments like this. He’s a “proven run producer.” Bruce struck out on three straight pitches.
After T.J. Rivera fouled out, the rally was over. From that point forward, the Mets would only get one more hit. It was important to get a hit there because Roark entered the game with a career 2.76 ERA against the Mets having never allowed more than two earned runs against them in any appearance. Their chance to win the game was right then and there, and they blew it.
It also spoiled a terrific effort by Robert Gsellman. The Gazelle shut out the Nationals over 5.2 innings only allowing five hits and one walk with four strikeouts. It was probably the best he looked in his short time in the majors.
He got into a little trouble in the sixth. He allowed a leadoff single to Roark, and Roark would advance on a wild pitch. At that point, even with two outs, Terry Collins wasn’t messing around with Daniel Murphy coming to the plate.
Instead of this spurring the Mets to victory, it just delayed the inevitable. The Mets never threatened after the first losing the game. With it, the Mets lost the chance to go to 10 games over .500, and they missed the chance to leap to the top of the Wild Card standings.
Game Notes: In going 1-2, Murphy has gotten a hit in all 19 games against the Mets this season. The Nationals were 12-7 against the Mets this year after going 8-11 last year. Rene Rivera threw out two base stealers to complete strike ’em out-throw ’em out double plays.
When perusing the lineup, it was surprising to see T.J. Rivera‘s name in the lineup instead of Kelly Johnson with the right hander starting. Rivera would justify Collins’ faith in him going 3-4 with his first major league homer and three RBI. He would also rob Daniel Murphy of a base hit with a nice play in the first.
Things had started out well with Noah Syndergaard on the mound. Tonight, he continued to make his Cy Young case in striking out his 200th batter of the season and dominating the Nationals.
Thor’a final line was seven innings, four hits, one run, one earned, one walk, and 10 strikeouts. He had his dominant stuff working throwing his hardest slider in the second half.
The only run he allowed was off a Wilson Ramos opposite field double. Ramos only had a chance to hit it as Thor took a little off his fastball there. It was thrown at 98 MPH.
Aside from that double, Thor had everything working. He wouldn’t get the win because the Mets couldn’t generate enough offense.
Asdrubal Cabrera continued his second half tear. He doubled in his first two at bats, and even on a hobbled knee, he would steal third after each double. It was heads up base running as he took advantage of the Nationals shifting with Curtis Granderson at the plate.
In true Mets fashion, they would strand him there in the first. However, in the third, T.J. Rivera took advantage of the RBI opportunity much in the same way he’s taken advantage of every opportunity he’s ever been given by this Mets organization. Rivera’s RBI single would tie the score at one. Rivera would be heard from again.
In the fifth, Yoenis Cespedes would start the game winning rally with a single off Nationals starter A.J. Cole. Granderson brought him home with an RBI triple. Rivera then brought him home with a sacrifice fly.
With the seven innings from Thor, and the two run lead, the game was effectively over. Addison Reed pitched a scoreless eighth, putting Jeurys Familia in position to recorded his 49th save of the season to tie Jose Valverde for the most saves in a single season by a Dominican born pitcher.
It didn’t happen as Familia was abandoned by his defense.
Murphy just beat out an infield base hit bringing Bryce Harper to the plate. Familia did his job getting Harper to ground to Jose Reyes. With no play at second on Murphy, Reyes went to first throwing wide of the bag. James Loney, who never stretches, also apparently never comes off the bag.
Instead of Murphy and second with one out, the Nationals had runners on second and third with no outs. Anthony Rendon hit a single past the diving Reyes. On the play, Reyes did not show much range. The Nationals then tied the game on a Ramos infield single.
At this point, the wheels were unravelling, and it appeared to be a near certainty the Mets were going to lose. There were runners on first and second with no outs. Familia bore down. He first got Ryan Zimmerman to hit a weak liner to Loney. Clint Robinson then hit a sinking line drive to Rivera, who nabbed it just before it hit the dirt. Not taking chances, he flipped to Rivera for a 4-6-3 double play.
The game was tied at three making it a brand new ballgame. Rivera would untie it in the 10th with his first career home run off Mark Melancon.
It put the capper on what was a terrific game for the undrafted Rivera. Tonight, he showed everyone the guile and talent that took him from non-prospect status to an important contributor for a playoff team.
Fernando Salas then came on to close it out in the bottom of the 10th. One of the reasons why he the Mets got him was his closing experience. He got so close too by making quick work of the first two batters. However, Jayson Werth would bloop one in, and Terry Collins wouldn’t take any chances.
Collins went to the former National Jerry Blevins to get the former Met Murphy. For what it’s worth, Murphy has trouble with Blevins:
Murphy was telling me at All Star Game he just has trouble seeing the ball out of Blevins' hand
— Kevin Kernan (@WheresKernan) September 14, 2016
Blevins would then get a huge strikeout of Murphy recording his first save as a Met giving the Mets a 4-3 victory.
With that, the Mets get back in the win column and have a chance to get some breathing room in the Wild Card race with the Cardinals currently losing.
Game Notes: Wilmer Flores is still unable to go with a neck injury.
Like last year, the Mets acquired Addison Reed right before the August 31st trade deadline. He quickly assumed the seventh inning role for a pennant winner last year. This year, he has taken over the eighth inning, and he has been as good a setup man as there is in baseball.
The problem is Reed and most of the Mets bullpen is fatigued. With that in mind, enter Fernando Salas.
Salas mostly relies on his fastball, change up, and a knuckle curveball. He has a slider he uses very infrequently, but when he does throw it, it has proven to be an effective pitch. Given the pitching philosophy of his new team and pitching coach, that may change.
Like Reed last year, Salas has struggled for the most part this year. For the season, Salas has a 4.47 ERA, 1.260 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9. Each of these stats are among the worst in his career.
However, it should be noted Salas has pitched much better of late. After a nightmare June and a bad July, he’s a much better pitcher in August. Batters are only hitting .211/.286/.368 against him this month. He had a 3.48 ERA, 1.161 WHIP, and a 10.5 K/9. It’s part of the reason he had taken over as the Angels closer.
For what it’s worth, his postseason numbers are a mixed bag. In his postseason career, he is 0-1 with a 3.54 ERA and a 0.984 WHIP in 18 games. Those stats are actually elevated as he had one bad inning in the 2011 World Series. Speaking of the 2011 World Series, Salas does bring championship experience.
Overall, Salas is a pitcher who should help the Mets. He should give pitchers like Reed rest, and before the season is over, he may very well lock down the seventh inning.
In exchange for Salas, the Mets gave up Erik Manoah. The Mets 2014 13th round pick certainly has promise. He has the ability to get his fastball up to the mid-nineties with a developing curveball and change up. Perhaps as important, he has excellent control.
Still, Manoah has a 5.84 ERA for his minor league career. It’s possible the Angels unlock something, and the Mets will rue the day they traded Manoah.
However, Manoah is far from a guarantee. It might be more likely that Salas is the pitcher who makes the necessary adjustments and makes more improvements. Its why the Mets were right to make the deal.