One moment, you’re a player whose career is on the verge of ending before it really began. The next, you find yourself in the right situation, and you’re fulfilling your full potential.
Enter Billy McKinney.
McKinney was the Oakland Athletics 2013 first round pick. While a prospect, he was involved in two high profile trade deadline moves. First, he was sent to the Chicago Cubs as part of the Jeff Samardzija trade. Then, he was part of the Aroldis Chapman trade.
Some of the shine came off McKinney’s prospects, and he dealt with a shoulder injury. With his being buried deep on the Yankees organizational outfield depth chart, he was included in the J.A. Happ trade.
McKinney struggles with the Blue Jays, and he was designated for assignment by the Blue Jays late last season. McKinney was claimed by the Milwaukee Brewers. He lasted all of 40 games before the underperforming outfielder was designated for assignment.
Make no mistake. This wasn’t necessarily the case of the Mets seeing something. Rather, with Michael Conforto down and Mets outfielders dropping like flies, the Mets had no other option than to obtain McKinney.
McKinney has been far better than the Mets ever could’ve imagined. Over 12 games, McKinney is hitting .275/.341/.700 with three doubles, a triple, four homers, and 11 RBI.
No, he’s not this good. No one is. However, we do see some positives from his Baseball Savant data. While he’s making a good amount of contact with increased exit velocities, it’s far too soon to adjudge if he can be the player many thought he could be when he was a top 100 prospect.
Right now, the only thing we can be assured of is he can field. Through it all, McKinney has shown himself to be quite a good fielder. If he can hit, his career is about to take off.
Fortunately for McKinney, he’s going to get the time to prove himself. Both Conforto and Brandon Nimmo are on the IL and aren’t returning soon. That allows McKinney to play everyday and to finally establish himself as a Major Leaguer.
On that note, it’s important to note he’s 26 and on the verge of the prime of his career. If he breaks out, that makes him a tremendous asset to a team as he’s under team control through 2024.
The Mets could use that. Aside from the fact this isn’t an organization deep in outfield talent, the Mets need to figure out their outfield past the 2021 season.
After this season, Conforto will be a free agent. In all honesty, he’s going to be extraordinarily difficult to sign. He’s represented by Scott Boras, and he’s basically the only All-Star caliber outfielder available in free agency. For that matter, he may be the only everyday outfielder available.
We can and should expect the Mets to do everything they can to keep Conforto. That said, we learned this past offseason with players like George Springer, the Mets have their limits, and they will walk away if they don’t believe a deal makes sense for them.
This is all a long winded way of saying re-signing Conforto is complicated, and the Mets need a viable alternative. It’s possible that could be McKinney. Still, it’s only been 12 games.
A week or month from now, we may be begging for Conforto and Nimmo as McKinney implodes. We may also be even more excited as McKinney continues his breakout. We just don’t know.
The only thing we do know is McKinney has a chance. If he continues playing well, he’ll continue to play. If that happens, he will continue to get his chance to replace Conforto on a more permanent basis.
Time will tell.
With Marcus Stroman opting out, Michael Wacha having yet another shoulder injury, and Noah Syndergaard undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Mets need a fifth starter. Based on what we’ve seen from Brodie Van Wagenen, we should not rule out his emptying the farm for that fifth starter.
After all, this was the same GM who has already traded Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, Ross Adolph, Anthony Kay, Simeon Woods Richardson, Blake Taylor, and many more prospects to receive nowhere near value in return. Looking at the cumulative, it’s embarrassing how poorly the Mets have done in these trades.
As we saw last year at the trade deadline, the Mets postseason odds don’t matter. He overpaid for Stroman at the trade deadline last year despite the team being six games under .500 and 12.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the division.
Yes, the Mets went on a run, but in the end, it was Van Wagenen’s half measures which kept the Mets out of the postseason. He moved arguably two of his top prospects remaining in the farm system for another starter, but he didn’t back it up by getting a reliever or another outfielder that the team so desperately needed. That was a major reason the Mets fell short.
Based on his track record, we can assume he’ll ignore reason to make a trade for another player. It’ll be a half-measure, and it will further deplete the farm.
Now, this is where some will say teams are not permitted to trade players not in the player pool. This analysis and hope is very short-sighted.
Technically, that is correct. In 2020, teams cannot trade players unless they are part of their designated 2020 player pool. That should give some relief prospects like Mark Vientos, Shervyen Newton, Francisco Alvarez, and Ronny Mauricio won’t be traded.
That is until they’re added to the Mets player pool. As per the rules, the Mets can add players to the player pool as needed. As a result, if a team wants a Mets prospect in exchange for a starting pitcher, all the Mets need to do is add that player to their pool.
It’s only a transaction. There is no requirement the player actually be present at the virtual training site. Much like Jose Bautista two years ago, the Mets can literally pluck a player off their couch and put them on a plane.
So, right now, no prospect is safe. Seeing how the Wilpons and Brodie Van Wagenen don’t remotely care about the future of the franchise as they push to win a World Series before they’re all gone, that goes double.
They’ll grossly overpay for anyone if they think that player gives them even a 1% chance greater of winning the World Series. It’s of no matter to them because they won’t be around while these prospects shine at the Major League level.
In the end, no Mets prospect is safe right now, and the situation grows more dire the longer this team has no fifth starter and languishes in last place in the NL East.
— Marcus Stroman (@STR0) March 30, 2020
What is interesting with Smith is this isn’t his first foray into catching. In fact, Smith told Michael Mayer of MMN he caught in high school. As seen above, he hasn’t completely given up on it as he was slated as the Mets emergency catcher in 2019. Overall, reviews of his limited work behind the plate are somewhat positive.
— Braxton Davidson (@Braxdavidson) March 30, 2020
Looking at 2021 and beyond, Wilson Ramos is going to be a free agent, and Smith is a player who is blocked from playing his everyday position of first base by Pete Alonso. Seeing him catching Stroman, being an emergency catcher last year, and the positive reviews of his limited work back there, you do wonder if the Mets should try to move Smith behind the plate.
Before addressing the point in full, as noted by The Hardball Times, Jack Clements is the only left-handed catcher in Major League history to catch at least 1,000 Major League games. His last game was in 1900. To that end, you could consider him the only true left-handed catcher in Major League history, and he played in the Dead Ball Era.
There have really been a handful of left-handed catchers in Major League history (14 in total) with Benny Distefano being the last one to appear in a game. What is somewhat interesting about that is he played first base and the outfield from 1984-1988 before he was permitted to catch three games in 1989, which was a function of his preparing to be an emergency catcher. More interesting than that was the fact he didn’t catch in his professional career before those three games.
With his limited experience, Distefano noted the issues for a left-handed catcher were bunt plays towards third base as well as applying tags at the plate. (New York Times). The Hardball Times addressed this in their article, and they noted there is a slight issue with it, but they also noted a left-handed catcher would not have the same issues with a right-handed batter the right-handed catcher would.
The bigger issue is getting the tag down, which The Hardball Times confirms. On both issues, it was noted it is such a small part of the catcher’s duties it likely would not have a real impact on the game. That is all the more so when you consider the advantages a left-handed catcher would have including fielding plays right in front of the plate and catching breaking pitches from right-handed pitchers.
In total, at least in theory, there would be no real discernible difference between right and left handed catchers other than the fact seeing a left-handed catcher would look strange. In the end, it is not like a left-handed shortstop or third baseman where playing the position is an impossibility.
Seeing how it could happen, we revisit the question of whether the Mets should look to move Smith behind the plate.
Certainly, it helps he already has some experience in terms of high school, preparing to be an emergency catcher, and now catching Stroman. Being a first baseman, he is accustomed to the bunt plays towards third and making the left-handed throw to third base.
We know he has the agility to do it between his first base and left field experience. In terms of left field, we know he has the ability and willingness to learn a new position if it means helping out the team. Overall, he has shown himself to be a team first person, who may prove willing to do this. That may prove to be all the more the case if it meant a regular position for him.
In terms of the Mets, Ramos has a $10 million option for 2021 which may or may not be picked up. Tomas Nido is a defensive back-up with no remaining options. Ali Sanchez may be nothing more than a better defender and possible a worse hitter than Nido. The shot in the dark is Patrick Mazeika who is still just a part-time catcher in the minors.
Really, from an organizational standpoint, the Mets are exactly the team who should experiment with this. After all, Smith is an everyday caliber player, and he has the experience. More than that, he has nothing to do now but work out on his own and to meet up with Stroman to catch him.
The more he catches Stroman, the better prepared for the transition he will be. Speaking of Stroman, Jose Bautista working out with him led to his getting work outs to try to return to the Majors as a pitcher. At the end of the day, there isn’t much reason not to at least see if this could happen.
In 2018, Jose Bautista had a good year where he showed he could adapt to a utility role. He capably played both corners in the infield and outfield, and even more astoundingly, he held his own at second for an inning. He was a slightly above league average hitter who showed he still had a penchant for the big moment.
At 38, you didn’t expect him to get a multi-year deal. In fact, you could argue he shouldn’t have received more than an invitation to Spring Training. However, it still is surprising he didn’t sign anywhere. That goes double when you consider he apparently still wanted to play.
Check that. Bautista definitively still wants to play.
As reported by Jeff Passan of ESPN, Bautista is working out to play for the Dominican Republic to help them qualify for the Olympics. In addition to playing first base, he’s also expected to be available to pitch out of the bullpen.
A man who never pitched a professional game in his life is going to start pitching now. On the surface, it may sound absurd. However, it becomes far less absurd when you consider former teammates like Marcus Stroman believe in him.
Reports are Bautista can throw 94, and he has a real slider. For his part, Stroman said Bautista can pitch in a Major League bullpen. Stroman said that BEFORE this became news.
Digging deeper, you see the two were working out together and preparing for the 2020 season. It turns out Stroman may prove prescient with his praise of his former Blue Jays teammate.
— Marcus Stroman (@STR0) January 17, 2020
If you’re a team, Bautista is well worth a workout and quite possible a minor league deal. After all, Tim Tebow got a minor league deal, and Bautista can actually play baseball.
More than that, teams need to think critically about how to address the three batter rules and limits on the amount of pitchers a team can carry on the roster. Having a two way player like Bautista is an ideal scenario . . . given he can actually pitch.
If he can, you get a modern day Brooks Kieschinck. You get a potent bat off the bench who could also get you some innings out of the bullpen. Once you qualify as a two way player, you get to carry an extra pitcher giving you an advantage over other teams.
Looking at it all, we know Bautista can hit. He can handle backing up at least four positions. Maybe he can pitch too. If you’re the Mets, that’s well worth a minor league deal.
The Mets added Andres Gimenez, Jordan Humphreys, Ali Sanchez, and Thomas Szapucki to the 40 man roster protecting them from the Rule 5 Draft. This leaves the Mets hoping they won’t lose players like Patrick Mazeika and Shervyen Newton.
To that end, the Mets also hope they can find a player in the Rule 5 Draft who will have a positive impact in 2020. While Johan Santana and Jose Bautista are the ideal, they’ll certainly settle for a player like Sean Gilmartin, who was a valuable reliever in that 2015 bullpen.
While you are looking for All-Stars and valuable contributors, the dream is you draft a future Hall of Famer. In Major League history, that feat has only been accomplished three times. Can you name the three players? Good luck!
With the way the free agent market has played out, Manny Machado signed an arguably under-value contract after position players reported to Spring Training. Many cite top end free agents like Bryce Harper, Dallas Keuchel, Marwin Gonzalez, and Craig Kimbrel still being on the market as a sure sign there is a problem with free agency.
Those making that claim are right, but the problems do go deeper than that.
Take for example Jose Bautista. Last year, the Mets literally signed Bautista while he was sitting on his couch. He’d fly to New York, and he would prove himself to still be a capable Major League player.
In his time with the Mets, Bautista was an above league average hitter (104 OPS+). In 83 games, he hit .204/.351/.367 with 13 doubles, nine homers, and 37 RBI. He’d play all over the diamond as well, and he would actually play well defensively. Bautista was actually a 1 DRS in 109.2 innings in left. He was serviceable elsewhere with a -2 DRS in right and a -1 DRS at third base. He would show himself to be quite a versatile defender also playing 14.2 innings at first and even an inning at second base.
What is interesting is when Bautista was traded to the Phillies, who were still fighting for a postseason spot, Bautista raised his game. In 27 games for the Phillies, Bautista would hit .244/.404/.467 with four doubles, two homers, and six RBI.
Now, there is no question Bautista’s skills have diminished. He is far from the All-Star and MVP candidate he was in 2015. Still, not all of his skills have eroded. He still has a good eye at the plate, and he has maintained an excellent walk rate (16.8 percent). He had an above-average .175 ISO and 13.1 percent HR/FB. Ultimately, this is a player who still has power and a flair for the dramatic:
At this stage in his career, the 38 year old Bautista is no more than a bench or utility player. He is a power source off your bench. As he showed last year, he still has something in the tank. Really, in a normal free agent market you would see a team signing him to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training.
Remember, Bautista showed last year he was not above that. He signed such a deal with the Braves, and he spent time in the minors to prove himself as a third baseman. It didn’t work there, but it did with the Mets and the Phillies in a different role. Bautista could work well for another team in 2019 if just given the chance.
From a Mets perspective, you could see why they haven’t brought him back. They have Gregor Blanco and Rajai Davis fighting for outfield spots. Younger players like J.D. Davis and to a certain extent Dominic Smith are fighting for a Major League bench spot. There’s also Dilson Herrera, Gavin Cecchini, Will Toffey, Luis Guillorme, and David Thompson who could be fighting for a role not just for the Major League team but also the Syracuse Triple-A team.
To that extent, you understand the Mets not bringing back Bautista. But that’s just the Mets. What are the other 29 Major League team’s excuse?
Last night, the New England Patriots won the sixth Super Bowl in team history. If you look at how the Mets have performed in the other five years the Patriots won the Super Bowl, you may not believe this to be a good thing:
Super Bowl XXXVI
After a disappointing season on the heels of a National League pennant, Steve Phillips decided it was time to make some drastic changes with the Mets. The team would clear out Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile to make way for Mo Vaughn and Roberto Alomar. The team would also reunite with Roger Cedeno and Jeromy Burnitz. A disappointing rotation was “buttressed” with pitchers like Pedro Astacio, Jeff D’Amico, and Shawn Estes.
What would result was an unmitigated disaster as none of the imported players would perform close to their historical levels of production. In fact, only Estes would be playing baseball the next time the Mets made the postseason. Perhaps the biggest indignity to their also-ran season was Estes inability to exact revenge against Roger Clemens.
Super Bowl XXXVIII
This year was probably rock bottom for that era in Mets history. The team proved ill advised at trying to make Mike Piazza a part-time first baseman. Kazuo Matsui looked like a bust leading you to wonder why the Mets not only contemplated signing him, but also shifting Jose Reyes to second base to accommodate him. You also wondered if Reyes was going to prove out to be an injury prone player. Braden Looper should never have been contemplated as the closer.
As bad as that was, the team made a series of trade blunders. First and foremost, for some reason with the Mets being five games under .500 and seven out in the division, they talked themselves into contender status leading to the infamous Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano trade.
As bad as that was, we would also see the Mets first obtain Jose Bautista only to trade him away for Kris Benson. Again, this was done in the vein of the Mets are contenders despite being so many games out of contention.
Jim Duquette would shoulder the blame for the moves, which probably were not all his idea, and he would be reassigned in September. Without Duquette at the helm, the Mets would completely bungle firing Art Howe leaving him to manage the end of the season knowing he was doing it with the axe swiftly coming down on his head.
Super Bowl XXXIX
With Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph at the helm, this was a new look Mets team. Still, things weren’t quite there. Doug Mientkiewicz proved to be a bit of a disaster. The team leaned on Miguel Cairo too much. At the time, Carlos Beltran seemed to be channeling Bobby Bonilla with a year where he regressed in nearly every aspect of his game. As bad as that was, he had the horrific collision with Mike Cameron in right-center field in San Diego:
The biggest bright spot of that season was Pedro Martinez, who was vintage Pedro all year long. He flirted with no-hitters, and he led the league in WHIP. He was a throwback to a time when the Mets dominated with their pitching. He would also battle some injuries leading to Randolph smartly shutting him down for the rest of the year.
Except he wasn’t. As Pedro would detail in his eponymous book “Pedro,” Jeff Wilpon forced him to pitch while he was hurt. This would exacerbate his existing injuries and would lead to other injuries. Instead of having Pedro in the 2006 postseason, he was watching with the rest of us.
Super Bowl XLIX
Mets: Lost World Series 4-1
Even when things are going right, they fell completely apart. Alex Gordon jumped on a Jeurys Familia quick pitch. Daniel Murphy booted a grounder. Lucas Duda couldn’t make a throw home. Terry Collins did about as poor a job managing a World Series as you possibly could do. What was once fun ended in bitter fashion.
Super Bowl XLIX
The 2016 Mets made a late furious push to claim a Wild Card spot despite being without Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler in the rotation. The thought was if these pitchers could be healthy in 2017, then the Mets could return to the postseason for a third consecutive year, and maybe, just maybe, the Mets could win the World Series.
Instead, Harvey would have off-the-field issues leading to a suspension. Back then, we thought those issues were affecting his performance. In actuality, it was Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Joining Harvey on the shelf was Noah Syndergaard, who went down with at a torn lat. Matz had ulnar nerve issues costing him most of the season. With Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman unable to reclaim their 2016 magic, the season was history.
Still, during that season there was a glimmer of hope in the form of Michael Conforto. The then 24 year old was playing at a superstar level. He was named a first time All Star, and he was proving himself to be a leader for a Mets team which still had the talent to be contenders in 2018. Instead on August 24, he would swing and miss on a pitch and collapse to the ground with a severe shoulder injury.
As if that all wasn’t enough, this would be the first time since 2003, David Wright would not appear in at least one game for the New York Mets.
Super Bowl LIII
This past offseason, Brodie Van Wagenen has set out to put his stamp on the Mets. He has rebuilt the bullpen with Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, and Justin Wilson. He has reshaped the lineup with Robinson Cano, Jed Lowrie, and Wilson Ramos. There are still some holes on the roster, but generally speaking, this is a stronger club than the Mets have had over the past two seasons.
The additions have come at a cost. The Mets traded away arguably their two best prospects in Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn. The team has also parted with well regarded prospects Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, and Scott Manea for J.D. Davis. There was also a further burying of former first round picks Dominic Smith and Gavin Cecchini on the depth charts.
Sure, there is no real correlation between the Patriots winning a Super Bowl and the Mets performance during the ensuing season. To suggest that is foolish. And yet, there is an unsettling pattern where a Patriots Super Bowl begets a disappointing Mets season.
Really, when you break it down, the real analysis to be made here is the disparity between the Patriots and the Mets. Whereas the Patriots are regarded as one of the best run organizations in all of professional sports with a terrific owner, the Mets are regarded as one of the worst run organizations with meddlesome owners. If the Mets are to break this “streak,” it is going to be because the Mets are a much better run organization who has the full resources and backing it needs from ownership.
While it may sound strange now, back in 2004, the Mets actually traded away Jose Bautista to try to make the postseason. As absurd as that may sound, the Mets obtained him for just Justin Huber, and he was then flipped for Kris Benson.
As odd as the circumstances surrounding his arrival and departure for the Mets might’ve been in 2004, his story nearly 14 years later might top it.
After a storied Blue Jays career, the best Bautista could muster last offseason was a minor league deal from the Braves to return to third base. After 12 Major League games with the Braves, he hit .143/.250/.343, and he would be released.
On May 22nd, Bautista was sitting on his couch in Tampa when the Mets came calling.
A team once so blessed with outfield depth was in desperate need for an outfielder, and Bautista was the best of the lot. On that day, Bautista went from his couch to being instead in the starting lineup.
Bautista was signed as the Mets were hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. The team who was once 12-2 was 24-19 and trailed Bautista’s former team by 3.5 games.
Well, since Bautista was signed, everything fell apart to the point the Mets were sellers at the trade deadline. While there were many people to be blamed, Bautista wasn’t one of them. In fact, the Mets did catch lightning in a bottle with Bautista.
In that horrid June when the Mets went 5-21, Bautista was great. In 25 games that month, Bautista hit .250/.434/.536 with seven doubles, three homers, and 11 RBI.
Bautista was everything the Mets hoped he would be. He not only played a very solid outfield, but he would also handle first, second, and third. Seemingly each and every day, Bautista found a way to contribute. That included him hitting his first career walk off homer:
It was a signature moment for a 15 year veteran who had a number of them in his illustrious career.
Fourteen years after having pass on by, the Mets got a chance to see Bautista put on their uniform. Bautista was willing to contribute to the Mets in any way they asked, and contribute he did.
He’s now joining Asdrubal Cabrera in Philadelphia in the hopes of another magical postseason run with more epic bat flips. Despite his destination, it will be fun to see him get that chance.
Best of luck to him.
— B/R Walk-Off (@BRWalkoff) August 29, 2018
Thus began another magical night of watching deGrom pitch.
The Cubs were doing all they could do to get to deGrom. In fact, they found a way to get their leadoff hitter on in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. deGrom responded nearly each time with a combination of guile and defense.
What’s interesting about that was deGrom slipped attempting to fielding a Baez infield single. He was initially limping, but he shook it off much like he shook off base runners all night long.
The real threat against deGrom came in the seventh, and the Cubs finally broke through with deGrom and the Mets getting some tough luck.
After a Kyle Schwarber leadoff single, Albert Almora, Jr. laid down a bunt. deGrom pounced on it and got Schwarber at second. Ben Zobrist, who entered the game 1-for-10 against deGrom, hit a ball that went under Jay Bruce‘s glove to set up runners at the corners.
David Bote hit a sacrifice fly to center to bring home the Cubs first run of the game.
Still, when you play players out of position and when you give deGrom little to no margin of error, these types of plays get magnified.
After the Bote sacrifice fly, the inning was not over. After Bote was Mets killer Daniel Murphy came to the plate. In a tough seven pitch at-bat, deGrom finally won the battle and struck out Murphy to escape the jam.
After the string of leadoff hitters reaching and with that high stress inning, you’d understand Mickey Callaway pinch hitting for deGrom with two outs in the top of the eighth. He didn’t.
For what it’s worth, deGrom was the only Met to get an RBI as the team continued to shoot itself in the foot trying to score runs for deGrom.
In the third, the Mets tried to make something happen with Rosario and Jeff McNeil trying to execute a double steal. While it was initially ruled Rosario evaded Bote’s tag, he was ruled out on review. The inning sputtered from there.
Both rallies were killed with a Michael Conforto strikeout. For his part, Conforto had a very tough night at the plate going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. In total, he’d leave eight runners on base.
In the fifth, deGrom singles to short and Rosario bunted his way on. McNeil then couldn’t deliver the two out hit.
Finally, the Mets broke through in the sixth. As alluded to earlier, deGrom delivered the big hit with a two out RBI infield hit.
In the seventh, the Mets had a golden opportunity to push across an insurance run.
McNeil hit a ball which looked out. Unfortunately, it got caught in the wind and stayed in the park. Counting on nothing, McNeil busted it out of the box with a leadoff triple.
Jackson then lined out to Baez, and Conforto lined out to Rizzo. Todd Frazier was intentionally walked and stole second, but it was for naught as Bruce struck out to end the rally.
In the eighth, the Cubs once again tried to crack deGrom.
Rizzo singled, and Heyward walked to start the inning. Then like he had all night, deGrom struck out Baez. He then grabbed a comebacker from Victor Carantini to start the inning ending 1-6-3 double play.
All told, deGrom’s final line was 8.0 innings, eight hits, one run, one earned, one walk, and 10 strikeouts. All that was good for was a no decision.
Despite him reaching Seaver and Gooden heights, deGrom walked away with a no decision.
With the rain delay which came in the top of the tenth, the game was a microcosm of deGrom’s season.
Game Notes: Before the game, Jose Bautista was traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.
Despite the Phillies claiming Jose Bautista off waivers, the Mets risked getting a deal getting nixed due to injury by putting him in the lineup. The reason for the decision was Bautista’s numbers against Jon Lester.
Essentially, the Mets risked a possible piece for the future to win a meaningless August game.
To his credit, Syndergaard got out of that jam partially because he picked Javier Baez off first, and the rundown was executed well enough to prevent Murphy from scoring from third. That was a moot point after the Rizzo double.
The Mets reclaimed the lead in the second with Conforto hitting an absolute monster home run:
Just your typical *squints, double-checks notes* 472-FOOT CRUSH JOB from @mconforto8.
That's not a typo. ?? pic.twitter.com/w94CsZ1zpj
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 28, 2018
The second inning rally began anew with Kevin Plawecki drawing a two out four pitch walk. Surprisingly, Lester then walked Syndergaard leading to Rosario hitting an RBI single to give the Mets a 3-1 lead.
It was a very uneven game for Plawecki. Behind the plate, he struggled, but at the plate, he excelled.
In the third, Syndergaard seemed close to working his way around a Javier Baez leadoff double. With runners at the corners and two outs, Syndergaard threw a pitch in the dirt.
Rather than getting down to block the call, Plawecki tried to backhand it leading to a wild pitch and a run scoring. Subsequently that at-bat, Syndergaard threw one in the dirt, and Plawecki didn’t get down quick enough. Fortunately, Jason Heyward didn’t move up because he lost track of the ball.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t matter.
After a Willson Contreras infield single, Mickey Callaway ordered an intentional walk to load the bases. With two outs and Lester up, a career .092 hitter at the plate, it should have been inning over.
Instead, Syndergaard threw a fat pitch, and Lester hit a two RBI single giving the Cubs a 4-3 lead.
In total, Syndergaard pitched six uninspiring innings allowing four earned on nine hits with three walks and six strikeouts. Maybe it’s all the missed time, but Thor is not Thor right now.
When he departed, he was in line for the loss. That was until Plawecki got the run back he allowed with a game tying homer in the seventh:
Outta here. Tied up. ? pic.twitter.com/ltVD463vJt
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 28, 2018
With the much improved Mets bullpen, it seemed like the Mets were going to actually have a chance to pull this one out. Unfortunately, Jerry Blevins would have his first poor outing on over a month.
Rizzo led off the top of the seventh with a ground rule double which bounced off the tape:
Smith was able to navigate his way out of that jam by yielding just an RBI groundout to Contreras.
Daniel Zamora pitched the eighth, and he blew through the first two hitters he faced. Then his seemingly unhittable slider was hit by Rizzo for a home run giving the Cubs a 7-4 lead heading into the ninth.
Despite going 0-for-3 after being put in the lineup for his great numbers against Lester, Bautista would draw a leadoff walk off Pedro Strop.
Predictably, Jose Reyes didn’t come through instead hitting into a fielder’s choice.
That didn’t stop the Mets from loading the bases with one out. With the bases loaded, the Cubs went to Jesse Chavez for the save.
He dominated Rosario getting him to strike out. Chavez would then strike out Jackson on a couple of dubious strike calls, especially strike three, to end the game.
At the end of the day, Syndergaard looked less god than human, and Bautista went hitless in a game he played due to his bat.
Game Notes: Rosario was picked off by Lester for venturing way off first. Jeff McNeil‘s 11 game hitting streak ended with him popping out in a pinch hitting appearance.