After a heartbreaking loss, the Mets immediately responded in the first, and it all began with a Brandon Nimmo leadoff walk.
Of course, that was not nearly a big enough lead for Jason Vargas, who immediately surrendered the lead in the bottom of the first.
In subsequent innings, Nimmo and Michael Conforto would homer to recapture the lead at 5-3. Of course, in the bottom of the third, the Brewers tied the score again.
That would be it for Vargas. He lasted just three innings allowing five earned on six hits. With his performance, he managed to raise his 9.87 ERA to 10.62. So much for pitching well against a bad Marlins team.
After all was said and done, the Mets lost this game 17-6, and with Flexen, they lost a potential option to start in Monday’s doubleheader.
Remember, the Mets lead this one 3-0 before the Brewers even picked up a bat. This is as bad and inexcusable a loss as you get in a season full of those.
Game Notes: According to Callaway, with Amed Rosario getting the day off, Reyes started over Luis Guillorme because Reyes was the better shortstop. Jerry Blevins pitched well not allowing a hit over 1.1 scoreless innings.
After scoring just four runs in a three game series against the worst pitching staff in the National League, they had to hope playing in a hitter’s park like Miller Park would rejuvenate the offense.
It didn’t work a few weeks back with a road trip to Cincinnati and Philadelphia, but tonight with Zach Davies, who just came off the DL, starting for the Brewers, it worked tonight.
It worked mostly because Brandon Nimmo, who was named as the everyday leadoff hitter by Mickey Callaway, was phenomenal. On the night, he was 4-4 with two runs, two doubles, and a walk. Going back to yesterday’s game, Nimmo reached base safely in eight straight at-bats.
Brandon Nimmo stretches his on-base streak to seven consecutive plate appearances:
2. Home run
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) May 25, 2018
Nimmo really got everything started with a leadoff triple in the third, and he would subsequently score with Wilmer Flores hitting a one out sacrifice fly to deep right.
The Mets “breakout” came in the third, and it started with an Amed Rosario leadoff single, and Nimmo followed with his first double of the night. Needing a big hit, the Mets were fortunate their best hitter this year, Asdrubal Cabrera, came to the plate, and he delivered an RBI double.
This chased Davies, and the Brewers brought in Dan Jennings to limit the damage. He’d get out of the inning, but not before allowing Flores to hit an RBI single expanding the lead to 4-0.
The five runs the Mets scored were more than enough for Steven Matz, who had his most encouraging start of the year.
It wasn’t encouraging because his six scoreless innings were so dominant. In fact, they really weren’t. He was in trouble all night long.
He had just one 1-2-3 inning, and he had runners in scoring position with less than two outs in the second and third innings.
Both times, Matz executed his pitches and got through the inning. Sure, you could focus on how poorly the Brewers have been against left-handed pitching. However, the Brewers are a good team, and Matz did the job.
Heading into the game, there was much said about how Dave Eiland challenged or disrespected Noah Syndergaard in his saying Thor hasn’t accomplished much at the Major League level. During the broadcast, it was discussed, and Ron Darling said as a player, he would have taken it the wrong way.
Whatever the case, Syndergaard seemed motivated by it in the first inning as he struck out the side while needing just 15 pitches. You got all the more excited seeing Syndergaard knocking home Devin Mesoraco from first after he had drawn a leadoff walk against Jaime Garcia giving the Mets a 1-0 lead. For a moment, it seemed as if things would go rolling on from there, and we would see the Syndergaard we saw prior to the lat injury.
Instead, we saw the Syndergaard we have seen all this season.
In the third, he allowed a one out single to old friend Curtis Granderson, who was playing his first game against the Mets since being traded to the Dodgers for Jacob Rhame last year. After Josh Donaldson popped out, that should have been the end of any prospect of danger.
Instead, we got to see some of Granderson’s knowledge from his playing time with the Mets. He would put himself in scoring position stealing a base, and he would hold at third on a Justin Smoak single. It wound up being a terrible throw from Juan Lagares, but he charged the ball hard, and Granderson, being perhaps well aware of Lagares’ arm, held on third. It didn’t matter because after Syndergaard plunked Teoscar Hernandez with a pitch, Yangervis Solarte hit a two RBI single.
On the single, it is quite arguable any other second baseman but Asdrubal Cabrera gets to that ball, but he didn’t leading the the Blue Jays taking the 2-1 lead.
Seeing how the Mets have played of late, this was a real danger sign. Fortunately, the Mets offense would finally break out.
Beginning with a Jay Bruce double, the Mets would quickly load the bases for Syndergaard, who tied the score with a sacrifice fly. Amed Rosario then nearly hit one out with the ball hitting the top of the fence and bouncing in instead of out. In any event, it was a two RBI double giving the Mets a 4-2 lead.
It should be noted Jose Reyes, who started because with the left-handed pitcher on the mound, Wilmer Flores started at first and Adrian Gonzalez sat, somehow did not score from first. Really, he did not score from first on a ball which was nearly a homer to one of the deeper parts of the park. At best, this was shades of Timo Perez. At worst, this is a player who no longer belongs in the majors.
Lagares would make sure both Reyes and Rosario both scored as he slashed a two RBI single to center, and even with Donaldson cutting it off, he would get to second ahead of the throw.
A Cabrera double after that, and the Mets not only had a five run inning, but they would also have a 6-2 lead. In the fifth, the Mets would add the runs needed to make this the laugher the Mets desperately needed.
Gonzalez, Rosario, and Brandon Nimmo would hit consecutive singles first scoring Mesoraco and later scoring Gonzalez. After that Lagares hit an infield single to third allowing Rosario to score.
When Gonzalez pinch hit for Syndergaard that inning, it was the end of Syndergaard’s night, but really, he was going to be pulled after the fifth anyway.
As noted earlier, Syndergaard labored through the third, and he would do the same in the fifth needing a Hernandez double play to get out of the inning. Overall, Syndergaard needed 103 pitches to get through five. He walked an uncharacteristically high two batters. While he’s been effective, he has not yet been Syndergaard this year.
Finally, in the eighth, the Mets would put a capper on this game. Lagares hit a leadoff triple, and he scored on a Luis Guillorme RBI single, his first RBI. After a force out, Mesoarco hit his second homer as a member of the Mets expanding the Mets lead to 12-2.
All-in-all, a pretty good night for the Mets. Mesoraco could not make an out going 2-2 with three walks, four runs, a homer, and two RBI. Lagares was just as good going 4-5 with two runs, a triple, and three RBI. Really, in a game like this, you are going to see everyone contribute somehow, and that’s what the Mets did. The only hope now is the team left some hits in those bats.
Game Notes: The Blue Jays have never beaten the Mets in Flushing going 0-12.
With the Mets having lost three straight series, the last thing they needed was a West Coast trip. They needed to play in Petco Park even less. It’s not just that it’s a suddenly woeful Mets offense was going to one of, if not the, most extreme pitcher’s park in the league. No, it was the Mets all-time record at Petco Park entering this game was 18-32.
Fortunately for the Mets, they had their best weapon out there tonight – Jacob deGrom.
Once again, deGrom was brilliant. His final line on the night was 7.1 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, and 8 K.
This is the third straight game he would strike out at least eight, and he now has the longest stretch in the National League of pitching at least 5.1 innings. Basically, deGrom is pitching about as well as anyone, and really, he’s been better than almost everyone.
Given how he’s pitched of late, the offense, and his luck, the questions were whether he was going to get run support and whether the bullpen could hold things down.
In Jacob deGrom's last two starts he's left the game in line for the win only to have the bullpen surrender the lead .According to Elias, since 2014, deGrom has 20 such "blown wins", the most in the majors.
— Michael Mayer (@mikemayer22) April 27, 2018
Well, deGrom would get his run support before he even stepped foot on the mound. After Doug Eddings, who had a wildly inconsistent strike zone all game long, ruled a 3-1 pitch was a strike and not a ball, Asdrubal Cabrera hit a lead-off double off Clayton Richard. After moving to third on a Yoenis Cespedes fly out to deep right, Cabrera scored on a two out Todd Frazier RBI single.
The score stayed that way until the seventh because the Mets could not get anything going against Richard, Michael Conforto made a couple of nice plays in the field, and the Padres were afraid to challenge Yoenis Cespedes‘ arm.
At that point, it was time for Cabrera to once again leave his mark not just on the game but on the early part of the season.
Juan Lagares led off the inning with an infield single just beating Carlos Asuaje throw. Jose Lobaton, who easily had his best game as a Met, singled to set up runners at the corners with no outs. With Richard faltering, it seemed like this is where the Mets would blow the game open. It almost . . . ALMOST didn’t happen.
First, there was the Lagares base running mistake. Instead of following Christian Villanueva down the line on the deGrom sacrifice bunt/safety squeeze, he immediately dashed back to third. If he followed Villanueva down the line, it’s quite possible he scores. Instead he stayed, and when Amed Rosario hit a sharp grounder to Asuaje, the Mets had runners at second and third with no runs and two outs.
With the Padres going into a strong bullpen, it seemed as if they were going to get out of the jam. That perception was absolutely wrong as Cabrera hit a Craig Stammen mistake for a three run homer to effectively end the game.
In the eighth, the Mets would expand their lead with a two out rally. After recording two quick outs, Kazuhisa Makita hit Lagares with a 1-2 pitch, and Lagares would score on the ensuing Lobaton RBI double.
Again, Lobaton easily had his best game as a Met. He caught deGrom, who had a great game. He threw out Franchy Cordero, who was the only Padre to attempt a stolen base. On the play, it was a perfect throw and a perfect tag by Cabrera. Finally, and perhaps most surprisingly, Lobaton was 2-4 with a run, a double, and an RBI.
With the 5-0 lead, the only remaining question was whether the bullpen could hold onto the lead or whether there would be another meltdown.
When deGrom parted with one out in the eighth, there was a runner on, and Jerry Blevins came on to face Eric Hosmer. Conforto needed every bit of that deep right field to corral the long fly Hosmer would send. Mickey Callaway then went to AJ Ramos who got Villanueva to fly out.
Then, Callaway went with Matt Harvey in the ninth to close the door. As bad as things have been for Harvey since 2015, no one could have imagined this outing.
No, he didn’t blow the lead, although he did make everyone nervous with Cordero greeting him with a homer, and Harvey walking Jose Pirela. Given Harvey’s recent history and the recent bullpen meltdowns, this was an ominous sign, and Jeurys Familia was rapidly trying to get loose in the bullpen.
Fortunately for the Mets, Harvey, whose velocity dipped all the way down to 90, yes 90 MPH, got a fly out and a game ending double play.
Yes, there was plenty of reason to be excited for this 5-1 win, but seeing Harvey pitch this way certainly did put a bit of a damper on things. Hopefully, both Harvey and the Mets can figure something out at this point because this has become sad and painful to watch.
GAME NOTES: Before the game the Mets recalled Jacob Rhame and sent Corey Oswalt back down. The Mets moved David Wright to the 60 day disabled list to make room for LHP Buddy Baumann, who the team claimed off waivers from the Padres. Bauman was sent down to Triple-A Vegas. Despite his good numbers against Richard, Callaway sat Adrian Gonzalez in favor of Wilmer Flores
After an epic eighth inning bullpen meltdown against the Washington Nationals, the fans and media began the process of second guessing Mets manager Mickey Callaway. With that the central question was why Callaway went to Seth Lugo instead of allowing Jacob deGrom to face Howie Kendrick, who deGrom has completely dominated both that night and over the course of his career.
As we know, Lugo did the inexcuable and walked Kendrick on four pitches. This led to Jerry Blevins, AJ Ramos, and Jeurys Familia not getting the job done. With the exception of Blevins, there were ensuing questions about how each reliever was used in that inning.
These questions are interesting for debate, but they are missing the larger issue here. In his brief managerial career, Callaway has ridden the bullpen too hard for this team to have sustained success over the course of a 162 game schedule.
There are a number of caveats many people will cite. There have been a number of off days. The Mets pitchers aren’t going deep enough into games thereby forcing Callaway’s hand. The bullpen can’t possibly be overworked because they have pitched just the 17th more innings in the majors.
Here are some other key stats to consider. There are 15 pitchers in baseball who have made double digit appearances this season. The Mets have three of those pitchers with Familia, Ramos, and Blevins. By the way, they were also the three pitchers who failed to get the job done that fateful eighth inning.
By the way, the Mets are the only team to have three relievers make double digit appearances, and that number will grow to four when Robert Gsellman, who has scuffled a bit of late, makes his next appearance.
We tend to over-focus just on the number of appearances, innings, and pitches relievers throw. Them getting up to warm up also counts. It is part of the fatigue which can set in for a reliever.
At this point, we can not be definitively sure any of the Mets relievers are gassed even with the recent drop-off. Really, that can be explained by regression to the mean or just a fluke small sample size.
Here’s what we do know. For most of this season, Callaway has had a bullpen with an extra arm in it. Despite that, the Mets have had to make roster moves on two separate occasions to get a fresh arm into the bullpen. First, it was Corey Oswalt for a day. Now, it’s Gerson Bautista for who knows how long?
The answer to that one may just be up until he gets gassed and the Mets need to go back to the minors to pull up Hansel Robles or Jacob Rhame again. Maybe this time, it’s Tyler Bashlor who comes up to the majors straight from Double-A.
Point is, the way Callaway is using this bullpen is having an effect, and it is causing the Mets to need to dip into their minor league depth to get fresh arms into this bullpen. Maybe this was the plan all along, and that plan is buttressed by Sandy Alderson’s moves at the trade deadline last year. Probably not.
Whatever the case, the Mets are going to have to figure something out because this cannot continue for 162 games.
Coming into today’s game against the Brewers, the Mets had lost more catchers (Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki) than they had games on the season. One of the reasons why that was the case was this Mets team has gotten contributions from almost everyone on the team and each night presents a new hero.
Early on, that hero was Todd Frazier. Up until today, he had been homerless in a Mets uniform. That changed rather quickly when he hit a homer off Brewers starter Zach Davies to give the Mets a 2-0 lead.
After cruising through the first three innings where just about Lorenzo Cain being the only Brewer to challenge him in any way, Steven Matz would have a tough fourth inning allowing a double to Jesus Aguilar and a homer to Hernan Perez in consecutive at-bats tying the game at 2-2.
Of course, much in the same way the Mets have done all season, they immediately responded. This time the response came in the form of Frazier hitting his second home run of the day. That gave the Mets a 3-2 lead which would expand in the fifth inning.
The inning began with Michael Conforto drawing a lead-off walk against Davies and a Cabrera single. After Davies struck out Cespedes, Craig Counsell went to the lefty Dan Jennings to face Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez.
The move was completely ineffective as Bruce hit an RBI double to score Conforto, and Gonzalez brought Cabrera home with a sacrifice fly. Apparently not having done enough damage to the Brewers’ chances of winning, Jennings threw a wild pitch allowing Bruce to score from third giving the Mets a 6-2 lead.
With the Mets having a lead and winning streak like this, it appeared the Brewers were going to have to be unconventional to try to beat the Mets. In retrospect, they probably want to take back challenging Cespedes in the field:
This glove's for you. pic.twitter.com/cOtQvplxk5
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 14, 2018
Cespedes gunning people on the run now pic.twitter.com/M03iORizI4
â Starting 9 (@Starting9) April 14, 2018
Hyperbole aside, with Matz cruising and the way the Mets bullpen has been pitching of late, this game seemed like a lock for the Mets. As we would soon see in the sixth inning, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
After striking out Travis Shaw, the book on Matz was done. He would be in line for the win after striking out five allowing four runs (three earned) on three hits and two walks in 5.1 innings. With Seth Lugo coming in, it seemed like this game was a lock. Instead, the Mets would find themselves hanging on to try to capture the victory.
Lugo was immediately met with back-t0-back singles by Aguilar and Perez. Lugo would get out of the inning after inducing Orlando Arcia to ground into the 5-4-3 inning ending double play.
Lugo would be bailed out a bit again in the seventh. After Cain reached on a single, he thought he would challenge Cespedes on a Santana single. Cespedes nailed the speedy Cain to help snuff out that rally.
Even with Lugo not being himself, Mickey Callaway sent him back out for the eighth. Finally, the Mets got burned as Shaw hit a solo homer to pull the Brewers within one run. After an Aguilar single, Callaway was not about to let this one get away.
Callaway pulled out all the stops to make sure this one didn’t get away. First, it was AJ Ramos to get Perez to fly out. Then it was Jerry Blevins to face Eric Sogard. After Sogard singled, Robert Gsellman came on to get Jett Bandy to get out of the inning.
The only thing left was for Jeurys Familia to come on in the ninth and get his Major League leading seventh save of the season. Familia did that with a rare and much needed 1-2-3 inning to get the Mets to 11-1.
So far, the Mets have won games a number of ways during this nine game winning streak. The handing on for dear life win we saw tonight was a different one than the other wins we have seen the Mets amass this season. It’s just more evidence that no matter what happens this team will find a way to win.
Game Notes: Since joining the majors in 2012, Cespedes has a MLB leading 65 outfield assists. Mets became the first New York team to start the season 11-1 since the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers. Before the game, Jacob Rhame was sent down to Triple-A, and d’Arnaud, who elected to have Tommy John surgery, was put on the 60 day disabled list. Brandon Nimmo and Jose Lobaton were called up in their stead. Lobaton tripled in his first at-bat as a Met.
You know you have a good team when they bring it every day no matter what the circumstances. You know you have a great team when they always respond to adversity. They respond to a tough inning in the field with a good at-bat. When the opponent takes they lead, they come right back and tie the score.
Tonight was just the latest in seeing how this Mets team can be great.
Watch: Cabrera’s HOME RUN puts the Mets up 2-0!! pic.twitter.com/2c0L4R2KVu
— SportsNet New York (@SNYtv) April 11, 2018
Unfortunately, the fifth would prove to be an ugly inning for the Mets. It started with a Yadiel Rivera grounder to third, which probably should’ve been called foul and Mickey Callaway should’ve challenged but didn’t. We’d later see Todd Frazier deflect a ball he should’ve let go to Rosario, which led to the Marlins first run of the game.
The second run was scored on a Starlin Castro sacrifice fly. On the play, Conforto completely missed the cutoff man allowing Rojas to go to second. Justin Bour, who had a big night against the Mets, then homered to give the Marlins a 4-3 lead.
Where some teams would be shell-shocked, the Mets immediately responded with a Frazier double. He’d then get aggressive on the bases tagging up on a Cabrera fly ball to left field and beating Derek Dietrich‘s throw. After a Kevin Plawecki walk, this put him in position to score on the ensuing Juan Lagares sacrifice fly to tie the game at 4-4.
Surprisingly, given how Callaway has handled the pitching staff, deGrom came out to pitch a scoreless sixth. He’d get a no decision, and his final line was 6.0 innings, seven hits, four runs, four earned, one walk, and six strikeouts. Not a great start, but he did put his team in position to win the game. With better umpiring and some better defense, that line would have looked much better.
In the seventh, Jacob Rhame came into the game, and he just didn’t have it. The one none sacrifice out he got was a deep fly ball to center that probably would have gone for extra bases had it been someone other than Lagares out there. Rhame did have a chance to get out of the inning, but he made a mistake on the first pitch to Bour. Bour launched his second homer of the night giving the Marlins the lead against at 6-4.
Paul Sewald in just his second appearance of the year got the final out of the inning allowing the Mets a chance to comeback and tie the score.
Given how this Mets team has played so far this year, it should come as no surprise they did actually tie the score in the top of the eighth. Flores and Cabrera would both homer off Kyle Barraclough.
In the bottom of the inning, Hansel Robles and the Mets dodged a bullet as Bryan Holaday just missed a homer. Everyone but Robles, who probably wasn’t pointing up, thought that was out. Where many expected Robles to melt down, he bore down. He got out of the inning highlighted by punch out of Rojas to end the inning.
As a bad Marlins team will learn many times this year, you don’t give a good team like the Mets this many chances.
Brian Anderson threw a ball away allowing Rosario to reach safely instead of the Marlins recording the second out of the inning. Brad Ziegler followed the error by walking Conforto to put the game in Yoenis Cespedes‘ hands. Even with Cespedes being on a 1-20 cold streak, he still had the magic to deliver a two RBI double to give the Mets an 8-6 lead.
The two run lead was more than enough for the resurgent Jeurys Familia to close it out.
Ultimately, the Mets won this game because they are resilient. They won because Cabrera hit two huge homers. They won because they are embodying the spirit of Frazier who responds to every negative play with a positive one. They won because they’re a great team.
In fact, at the moment, you can argue they’re the greatest team in Mets history because they now have the best start to a season in Mets history with them standing with the best record in baseball at 9-1.
If you look at the Mets first eight games of the season, Mickey Callaway has already been tested twice. The first test came in the first five games of the season against the Cardinals and the Phillies.
In those five games, Callaway had to show everyone he wasn’t Gabe Kapler or Aaron Boone. Put another way, he had to show us and his team he knew what he was doing. He showed that mettle which has escaped both Kapler and Boone thus far in his putting his team in their best position to win a game. More than that, he capably sat Brandon Nimmo after a big game and played Juan Lagares by justifying it to the media and his team rather than simply pointing to numbers. Yes, Callaway used the numbers to inform his decision, but he handled his situation capably with no griping from the fans or team.
The next test came much earlier for Callaway than it comes for most managers. That test was whether he had the ability to manage in a big series.
We can argue whether an April series is ever truly a big series. What we cannot argue is Callaway managed it like it was one, and his team responded in kind sweeping the Nationals and announcing this was a team to beat in the National League East.
Part of managing this like a big series was riding his bullpen arms hard. Jeurys Familia pitched 1.2 innings for the save, and he has pitched six innings over his first five appearances. Robert Gsellman pitched two games in the series, and he has made two two inning appearances over a four day span.
Seth Lugo was given the heaviest workload. Two days after pitching two innings, he was used for an inning to close out an 8-2 game. Three days later, he’s pitching three innings and picking up the win in a 12 inning game.
When it is a big series, and when you have short starts from both Matt Harvey and Steven Matz, you can certainly understand why Callaway rode his top guns the way he did. The Mets had a chance to make a statement in that series, and they did.
Now, the Mets are not sneaking up on anyone. We know they’re good, and the rest of baseball knows it now too. The question is how does Callaway handle it.
Does he continue to ask his top relievers to keep going to the well, or do we start to see more innings from Paul Sewald (likely to be demoted when Zack Wheeler is activated), or Jacob Rhame, who made a statement of his own closing out Sunday’s win? Really, how does this Mets team respond to success?
Do they continue looking like a team having fun grinding the salt and pepper shakers? Are they going to be alright with splitting playing time or staying on the bench for stretches?
We don’t know the answer to those questions yet. However, we do see Callaway is the type of manager who can deftly handle these and all questions this team is going to face. Hopefully, we will see Callaway pass this third test with flying colors like he did with the first two tests.
All night long, it appeared Mickey Callaway was content to play with fire. Tonight, he went too long with both Matt Harvey and Robert Gsellman, and it burned the Mets. The question was whether it was going to cost the Mets the game.
Heading into the bottom of the fifth, the Mets had a 4-2 lead with both teams scoring runs off of big homers. The Nationals came in the first when Bryce Harper, who once literally could not hit Harvey, hit a monster two run homer.
In the third, Tanner Roark completely lost the strike zone issuing three straight two out walks. By the time he straightened himself out and threw a strike, Adrian Gonzalez wiould hit it for a grand slam giving the Mets a 4-2 lead:
— Today in MLB (@TodayintheMLB) April 9, 2018
The Nationals got a run back in the fourth against a laboring Harvey. Harvey would allow an RBI double to Pedro Severino, and he had his chance to get out of the inning quickly with a Roark comebacker. Harvey couldn’t make the play, but he would eventually get through the inning without allowing another run. Part of the reason why was Anthony Rendon just missed a grand slam off the bat.
In the top of the fifth, Asdrubal Cabrera got a run back with a solo shot giving the Mets a 5-3 lead.
Surprisingly with Harper leading off the fifth, Callaway stuck with Harvey. Well, Harper walked, and Matt Adams walked putting Harvey in immediate trouble. For a split second, it seemed like Harvey would get out of it unscathed when Howie Kendrick hit into the 6-6-3 double play. However, Trea Turner would deliver the RBI single to pull the Nationals within 5-4.
What is interesting is how things would be similar in the seventh inning.
After pitching a scoreless sixth, Callaway sent Gsellman out for a second inning even with Harper set to lead off the inning. Gsellman wanted not part of him and issued a four pitch walk which set the inning off on the wrong foot.
Soon, it was runners on first and second with two outs, and it looked like the Mets were going to possibly get out of the inning. Certainly, it seemed that way when a crossed up Todd Frazier was still able to get Harper out at third. However, this time it was Michael Taylor delivering the key two out RBI single to tie the game at 5-5.
With that, a couple of questionable Callaway decisions helped turn this game into a dogfight and a battle of the bullpens.
The Mets bullpen, Seth Lugo specifically, came up huge in the ninth inning. Harper led off the ninth because Anthony Rendon was picked off by Jerry Blevins. This also meant Blevins was getting pulled from the game because his spot in the order was due up.
Like the rest of the Mets staff, and frankly, MLB, Lugo didn’t want Harper, and he walked him. After throwing away a pickoff attempt and an Adams fly out to center, Harper was on third. In response, Callaway ordered the bases loaded putting the hands directly in Lugo’s hands. He responded with back-to-back strikeouts of Taylor and Severino to send the game into extra innings.
? @seth_lugo ? pic.twitter.com/QdYZtk06Ty
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 9, 2018
While Lugo was out there pitching great over three innings, the Nationals Sammy Solis was mowing down the Mets. Over his two innings of work, he struck out five Mets. With the way Solis was pitching, the turning point of this game was Brandon Kintzler coming into the game because the Mets have tattoed him in the first two games of this series.
It started again with a Juan Lagares bloop single to start the 12th inning. He moved to second on a Amed Rosario sacrifice bunt. The Nationals then walked Conforto to bring up Cespedes in a big spot. Cespedes would deliver with the game winning RBI single to give the Mets a 6-5 lead.
With the 6-5 lead, Callaway turned to Jacob Rhame. This was presumably because Jeurys Familia has been worked hard to start the year. After retiring two straight, he allowed a Wilmer Difo double before getting Adam Eaton out to end the game.
It’s amazing. The Mets went into Washington on a high after beating up on presumably lesser competition. Now, they are 7-1 after sweeping the Nationals in their home ballpark. Better yet, the Nationals had a chance in each game in this series, but the Mets just beat them because maybe, just maybe, the Mets are in fact the better team.
Game Notes: Opposing base stealers are a perfect 11/11 against d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki.
In the Mets first game against the Nationals, the Mets let the Nationals and all of baseball know that at their best, this Mets team is as good as any in all of baseball. Now, that’s easy when you have Jacob deGrom on the mound, Michael Conforto returning to the lineup, and Yoenis Cespedes hitting homers. The next question and perhaps the real question is what happens when these factors weren’t present.
Brian Goodwin would draw a two out walk, and he’d quickly steal second base on the duo of Matz and Travis d’Arnaud. On a 3-2 with a chance to get out of the inning, Pedro Severino singled up the middle, and the speedy Goodwin dared challenge Lagares’ arm:
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 7, 2018
That’s the Gold Glove Lagares who re-emerged last year. Whether or not his new swing and approach are for rule almost seems inconsequential when he plays center this way.
Another note here is in this game, you got to see all that d’Arnaud is as a catcher. When his pitchers aren’t even bothering to hold on base runners, much like Matz didn’t in this game, he’s not going to have a real shot to throw out anyone trying to steal a base. The Nationals know that better than anyone, and they stole five bases in five attempts off of him.
However, he offsets that deficiency in other ways. As we see in the Lagares play, he’s exceptional in fielding a throw, blocking the plate, and getting the tag down. Really, he’s the best catcher in baseball on the front. He’s also a very good pitch framer. That came into play on a day when Mets pitchers would record 10 strikeouts while walking just three.
That pitch framing led not to not just a third inning strikeout of Anthony Rendon, it also led to his ejection on what was a horrible overreaction by Home Plate Umpire Marty Foster:
Anthony Rendon got ejected for this? pic.twitter.com/2moGgjPOWK
— Kenny Ducey (@KennyDucey) April 7, 2018
That ejection was the Mets gain because Rendon is a great player who kills the Mets.
Even with Matz pitching well, the Mets still could not get ahead of Gio Gonzalez. That’s not unusual because he came into this game 14-5 with a 2.93 ERA against the Mets in his career. That left the Mets with little margin for error. That margin of error went away on two plays centered around Todd Frazier.
The first play was in the fourth inning. Jay Bruce hit a two out double to right. The much maligned Glenn Sherlock could have sent Frazier to have him challenge Bryce Harper‘s arm. It would make sense with two outs and Matz due up next. Instead, Sherlock stopped Frazier, and Matz struck out.
This decision was magnified in the fifth when Frazier threw a ball away on a Michael Taylor grounder. After a Goodwin sacrifice bunt, Severino plated him with an RBI single giving the Nationals a 1-0 lead.
What made the game interesting and the start of this season interesting was how the Mets immediately responded. In the sixth, Frazier atoned for his error by hitting an opposite field one out double that nearly went out. He’d then score on a d’Arnaud RBI single (the other aspect of his being a complete catcher) tying the game at 1-1. The Mets would have a chance to get the lead, but Jose Reyes could not deliver in a pinch hitting situation.
On came Hansel Robles.
To start the 2018 season, he has been a bit of a revelation. He went from send down to Triple-A to start the year to getting a big sixth inning opportunity against Harper. Mets fans expected him to melt down and point to the sky. Well, in his defense, it was a a really good pitch:
Great freeze frame on SNY of this Bryce Harper home run. Took a fastball that may have been off the outside edge and slammed it 107.7 mph + 405 ft the other way. pic.twitter.com/X577w2SJ3T
— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) April 7, 2018
All this proved was Harper is a great player. What Robles proved from there was he could settle in, limit the damage, and give the Mets a chance. The Mets took that chance with some exceptional base running in the seventh.
Amed Rosario led off the inning with a single up the middle, and he’d fly around the bases on the ensuing Asdrubal Cabrera RBI double getting just ahead of the Severino tag. Not to be outdone, Cabrera would go from second to third on a Cespedes grounder to short. Knowing Ryan Zimmerman can’t throw, the Cabrera, who can’t really run, read the situation perfectly and took the extra base.
After the pinch hitting Conforto was intentionally walked, Cabrera scored on a Frazier RBI groundout. The Mets finally had the lead at 3-2, and it was time to see if this so far improved Mes bullpen could hold the lead.
Rhame proved up to the task by getting former Met Matt Reynolds to groundout. What was surprising was where Rhame succeeded, Jerry Blevins didn’t as he issued a one out walk to Harper. This set the stage for Jeurys Familia.
In what was his biggest moment since he faced Conor Gillaspie in the 2016 Wild Card Game, Familia was in a position to get a big save. With him needing to get five outs, he was going to be tested. That should say tested in theory. The Nationals were no match for him, and as a result, the Mets came away with a 3-2 victory.
It’s April and the season is barely a week old. However, this is a different Mets team. They’re getting the most out of every ounce of their ability. They’re playing smart baseball. They’re fighting. They’re special. They’re showing that to the Nationals, and they may soon show it to the rest of baseball.
Game Notes: Mets pitching has recorded 10 or more strikeouts in six of the seven games they have played. The one time they did not record 10 strikeouts was in their sole loss of the season.