Juan Lagares

Mets Defense Blows Another Game

The story of this game should have been Noah Syndergaard returning to form.  Like on Opening Day, he was mowing down the Cardinals, but this time, he was much more efficient in doing so.  Through six, he kept the Cardinals scoreless striking out six and allowing just two hits, and it looked like the Mets were going to cruise to a 2-0 victory at that point.

Both RBI came from Yoenis Cespedes, who snapped out of his funk going 2-5 with a double and two RBI.  The first RBI was a first inning off Carlos Martinez scoring Brandon Nimmo from first.  In the seventh, in what looked like window dressing at the plate, he plated Amed Rosario with a sacrifice fly.

However, as we have learned with Cespedes, sometimes he will giveth and sometimes he will taketh.

That was evident with Tommy Pham “doubled” on a ball that hit off of Cespedes’ glove.  Pham would then come home to score on a Marcell Ozuna single to cut the lead to 2-1.  With the way Paul DeJong kills the Mets, really it was a miracle he didn’t tie the score on his double.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter as the Mets gave up the lead in the eighth with some more poor defense.

What was interesting was Mickey Callaway let Syndergaard start the eighth while holding back Robert Gsellman.  Really, you wonder why not just go to the fresh arm after an inning in which Syndergaard faced some trouble.  Really, this is a bit nitpicky because this is Syndergaard we are talking about here.

In any event, Rosario threw a ball away on a Greg Garcia grounder starting off the inning with a runner on first instead of one out and the pitcher’s spot coming up.  Syndergaard struck out Yadier Molina before allowing a single to Matt Carpenter leading to his getting pulled from the game.

Gsellman was in a tough spot, and he didn’t deliver immediately.  The first batter he faced, Pham, singled to tie the score.  To his credit, with the go-ahead run in scoring position and just one out, Gsellman got Jose Martinez to ground into the inning ending 6-4-3 double play.

After a rusty Seth Lugo battled through a hit batter and walk to get through a scoreless ninth, the Mets would get an absolute gift run in the 10th.

After two quick outs, Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier hit back-to-back singles putting the game into Adrian Gonzalez‘s hands.  Somehow, not only would Luke Gregerson walk Gonzalez, but he would also walk Jose Lobaton to force in a run. With Jeurys Familia coming into the game, it seemed like the Mets would win a series after losing two straight.

Didn’t happen.

After two quick outs, Pham hit a ball up the middle most second baseman make fairly routinely.  The problem is Asdrubal Cabrera, even at full strength, doesn’t have much range.  With his current leg injury, he has almost no range.  Cabrera did all he could do, but he really had no shot at Pham.

Oddly enough, Juan Lagares wouldn’t have a shot at the subsequent Martinez double.  Oddly enough, Callaway went against his recent trends, and he put in Lagares for defense.  Martinez’s ball to deep center was a play almost no center fielder makes, but we have all become so spoiled by Lagares, he almost makes the impossible seem routine.  He ran back to dead center, leaped, and missed.  Instead of another highlight reel defensive play, it was a game tying double.

AJ Ramos pitched a perfect 11th, and Paul Sewald pitched a perfect 12th.  Unfortunately, the hottest pitcher in the Mets bullpen couldn’t keep the Cardinals off the board.  A Martinez walk followed by consecutive singles to Ozuna and Dexter Fowler was the ballgame.

With that, the Mets have lost three straight series, and the vibes from their amazing start have faded.  They have faded because the bottom of the lineup is black hole, but mostly, it is because this defense is bad and plays bad.

Game Notes: With the Mets out of position players, Sewald hit for himself in the top of the 13th.  Jose Reyes grounded out in the 10th to end that rally.

Resilient Mets Win Behind Resurgent Cespedes, Bruce

If you were paying attention before the game, there was a stir over a contrived controversy featuring Yoenis Cespedes.  No, it was not the typical contrived Cespedes controversies with his golf, cars, or his hat being backwards.  No, this one was the utterly false claim that somehow Mets fans are irritated with or hate Cespedes.  Today, Cespedes set out and showed why such claims are utterly preposterous:

If you think he took out a month’s worth of frustrations and completely demolished that ball, you would be right:

The Mets really needed that homer too because the Mets have not been playing their best baseball of late, and they were not really getting anything going against Cardinals starter Luke Weaver to that point, and Zack Wheeler was struggling.

Wheeler’s day started with his allowing a Tommy Pham two run homer in the first.  He would never quite settle in with his not registering one 1-2-3 inning in the game.  While he dodged troubled in the second and third, the Cardinals got to him again in the fourth with Kolten Wong‘s second double the day scoring a run, and Weaver delivering an RBI single of his own to give the Cardinals a 4-1 lead.

The Mets lone run had come off a complete Marcell Ozuna misplay in left on what was scored a Jay Bruce RBI triple.  The Mets continued rallying from there, but they were not able to score another run in that second inning.  The seminal play was an Adrian Gonzalez hot shot Wong made a great play on which kept the slow and injured Bruce at third.

Really, the Mets looked dead in the water until there were two outs in the top of the fifth, and Weaver lost the strike zone.  He walked Wilmer Flores and Michael Conforto on eight straight balls until the aforementioned Cespedes homer.

With Wheeler lifted after four uninspiring innings, this put the game in new reliever Matt Harvey‘s hands.

In the fifth, he was victimized a bit by Bruce’s complete and utterly lack of speed.  Dexter Fowler hit what should have been a single, but with Bruce’s speed, he made it an easy double.  That allowed Fowler to score easily on the subsequent Paul DeJong double. Likely, Fowler doesn’t score from first on the De Jong double.  Still, Harvey did allow back-to-back well struck balls which broke the 4-4 tie.

Overall, Harvey pitched fairly well out of the bullpen.  In his two innings, he allowed one earned on two hits with one walk while striking out two.  Tomas Nido was helping him get those extra calls, and Harvey had better velocity than we have seen of late:

All in all, it was a positive outing for Harvey was in line for the loss partially because Mickey Callaway has been making some odd decisions of late and because of Bruce’s speed.  Really, Bruce’s speed cost the Mets at least two runs tonight – when he couldn’t even score on the Wong play and his allowing Fowler to get into scoring position.

As for Callaway, in the top of the 7th, Callaway used Juan Lagares instead of Brandon Nimmo as a pinch hitter.  Considering Nimmo’s OBP and Jordan Hicks‘ 6.2 BB/9 this year, you might as well of put Nimmo on first to start the inning.  Instead Callaway went with his best defensive outfielder who struggles historically against right-handed pitching.

Still, even with the Bruce speed issues and Callaway’s curious decision making, this is a resilient Mets team.

Paul Sewald kept the Mets in the game with a scoreless seventh, and the Mets offense went to work against Hicks in the eighth.

Todd Frazier started the inning with a four pitch walk, and he went first to third on a Bruce single which snuck just past Jose Martinez.  A Gonzalez sacrifice fly would tie the game up at 5-5.  Unfortunately, that was where the rally would end.  Luke Gregerson came on and struck out Amed Rosario and got Nido to fly out to get out of the jam.

This would be the second time the weak bottom of the lineup prevented the Mets from cashing in on an opportunity, and it was another instance where you were left wondering why Callaway didn’t bring Nimmo into the game to take full advantage of a key opportunity.

Again, even with that, Sewald was great out of the Mets bullpen again.  He had two scoreless innings keeping the Mets in the game.

Robert Gsellman would make things really interesting in the ninth by first walking Matt Carpenter, and then allowing a bloop single to Pham.  However, he would send the game into extras by first striking out Martinez and then inducing Ozuna to hit into the inning ending 5-4-3 double play.

That play loomed large as Bruce would hit a go-ahead homer in the top of the 10th off Matthew Bowman.  Inexplicably, Mike Matheny challenged whether Bruce touched first base, which only served to give Jeurys Familia more time to warm up in the bullpen.  The well warmed up Familia came on to blow through the Cardinals for his ninth save of the year.

With some questionable decisions and calls, the Mets are back to their winning ways.  They won mostly because this is a resilient club with every member of this team summoning something each night to help deliver a win.

GAME NOTES: This was the first time all season the Mets wore a blue alternate jersey.  Mets are now 3-0 in extra inning games.

This Time, The Mets Own The Eighth Inning

Considering what happened the last two nights, the Mets really could have used a fast start to this game.  Instead, they got Steven Matz threw a 3-2 changeup that Ryan Zimmerman hit for a three run home run to give the Nationals an early 3-0 lead.

After the Zimmerman homer, Matz would allow a Moises Sierra single before going on a tear where he retired the next 11 Nationals in a row.  That stretch included a pick-off (scored a caught stealing), no walks, and five strikeouts.  He was at 74 pitches, and he looked good to go for a few more innings.

Essentially, Matz settled into the game.  However, where Matz settled in, his manager Mickey Callaway, did not.

With Tanner Roark starting to bark at the home plate umpire over some borderline calls, the Mets began to rally in the bottom of the fourth.

Asdrubal Cabrera led off the inning with a double, and Todd Frazier would follow with a one out walk.  Once again, it was Adrian Gonzalez delivering a key and unexpected RBI single.  The single scored Cabrera and allowed Frazier to go to third.

Jose Lobaton followed with what should have been an inning ending double play.  The only problem for the Nationals is Zimmerman can’t throw anymore, and he pulled Trea Turner off the bag not only preventing the Nationals from getting the double play, but also them getting even just one out.

On the play Frazier scored pulling the Mets to within 3-2 with runners on first and second and just one out and Matz due up.  Instead of using Matz in an obvious sacrifice bunt situation, Callaway pinch hit Brandon Nimmo.

Considering the events of the past two days, this reeked of a panic move.  You could only hope it would work out.  Initially, it looked like it would with Roark hitting Nimmo, who smiled and cheered all his way to first base.  Still, the move blew up as Amed Rosario hit into the inning ending 6-4-3 double play.

Considering how the Mets left a small island nation on the bases yesterday, and the team going all-in on the fourth inning, there was legitimate concern the Mets blew their shot.

That’s where Paul Sewald came in, and he gave the Mets another incredible three inning relief appearance.  If not for an extremely ill advised Jay Bruce dive, it’s likely all three innings would have been scoreless.  Instead, his final line would be 3.0 innings, one run, one earned, one hit, no walks, and five strikeouts.

Sewald both saved a taxed bullpen, and he gave the Mets a chance to win.  For once this series, the Mets took advantage of that chance.

With Ryan Madson working a third day in a row, the Mets offense would immediately go to work starting with back-to-back-to-back singles from Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, and Cabrera to load the bases.  After an injured and struggled Bruce popped out, Frazier delivered with the game tying RBI single. On the single up the middle, Cespedes would get his hand in just ahead of the Severino tag.

The Mets weren’t done either.  Gonzalez was intentionally walked to re-load the bases, Madson struck out Wilmer Flores leaving the game in the hands of Juan Lagares.  Historically, Lagares has struggled against right-handed pitching, but this season he can do no wrong, and he did no wrong in this at-bat hitting a go-ahead two RBI double.

As the inning continued, and the Mets batted around, Sammy Solis would issue a bases loaded walk to Conforto giving the Mets a 7-4 lead.  The capper would be Cespedes hitting a grand slam to give the Mets an 11-4 lead.

No, it wasn’t quite the Nationals coming from down 6-1, but it still felt good and nearly as important.  Also, it might have demoralized a Nationals team who thought they were going to return the favor to the Mets for them sweeping them at home last week.

Thanks to the heroics of Sewald and a revitalized Mets offense, the Mets won 11-5, and they are well back on track as they go on the road to make a statement against the Braves.

Game Notes: Jose Reyes grounded out to the pitcher in a seventh inning.  He’s now 0-18 on the season.

Mets Don’t Execute, Callaway Makes Another Mistake, Mets Lose

In the top of the first, the Nationals quickly loaded the bases against Zack Wheeler with one out.  This is normally where Wheeler would implode, and based off of what happened last night, you’d think this was a spot where the Nationals would jump right out and put up a crooked number on the board.

Instead, Wheeler induced Moises Sierra to hit into the inning ending 6-4-3 double play.

What this told us about the Mets was this was not a completed deflated team.  They still had fight in them despite last night’s horrendous loss.  So, yes the fight was there.  The question was if the execution would be there to pull out a win.

As far as the Nationals were concerned the theme of the nights would be soft hits.  They’d use them to set up a Bryce Harper sacrifice fly in the third, and they’d use them to score two runs off Wheeler in the fourth to give the Nationals a 3-0 lead.

By that time, you were left wondering if the Mets had a rally in them.  They would in the bottom of the fifth with a leadoff single from Wheeler of all people.

Wheeler quickly found himself on third after an Amed Rosario double, which might have been a triple had Wheeler not been ahead of him on the basepaths.  Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a sacrifice fly.  With Michael Taylor overthrowing the cutoff man, Rosario moved to third allowing him to score on the subsequent Yoenis Cespedes RBI groundout.

That pulled the Mets to within 3-2.  The Mets would have their chances to take the lead, but they couldn’t get out of their own way.

In the sixth, the Mets had runners at the corners after back-to-back one out singles from Juan Lagares and Tomas Nido.  For reasons that defy all logic, Mickey Callaway decided to pinch hit Jose Reyes instead of using Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Adrian Gonzalez, or even the newly called-up reliever Gerson Bautista.  If you thought Callaway had a rough night last night, he showed he learned nothing.

Reyes struck out in an ugly at-bat against Gio Gonzalez, and Rosario followed with a weak pop out in foul territory to end the inning.

In the seventh, runners were once again on the corners with one out.  This time it was due to a Wilmer Flores and Cespedes single.  They’d be stranded when Todd Frazier had an ugly strikeout, and Jay Bruce got rung up on a pitch on what the umpire believed was the inside corner.  Bruce disagreed.

In the eighth, it was a two out rally that sputtered out after a Conforto walk and Rosario single.  Brandon Kintzler would completely overmatch Cabrera to strike him out for the final out of the inning.

While the Mets were failing to cash in on rallies going 0-9 with RISP, the Nationals were tacking on runs to give themselves some breathing room.  They’d push a run across in the seventh and eighth, both against Robert Gsellman expanding their lead to 5-2.

The run in the eighth was a little troubling.  Michael Taylor singled and stole second.  On the stolen base, Nido’s throw was there by Rosario whiffed on the tag.  Later in the inning, Pedro Severino hit the ball directly to the drawn in Rosario, who froze thereby allowing Taylor to score easily.

In the end, the Mets lost this game not because they didn’t have fight after last night’s loss.  No, they lost it because they didn’t execute against a Nationals team they breathed new life into.  As a result, the Mets have now lost their first series of the year and are now looking to prevent getting swept.

Game Notes: Bautista made his MLB debut in the ninth walking one, allowing a hit, and striking out on in a scoreless inning.

Mickey Callaway’s Eighth Inning

Look, it was bound to happen.  The revamped and praised bullpen was finally going to have a meltdown.  Mickey Callaway was going to have a game leaving fans scratching their heads a bit leading up to him getting criticized.  The fact it came against the Nationals was tough.  The fact it was a blown 6-1 lead was tougher.  The combination of the two left a really sour taste in your mouth despite the Mets 12-3 start.

In that eighth inning, the Mets would use five pitchers who allowed six runs on five hits, three walks, and a hit batter.  Two of those walks were bases loaded walks.  With the exception of Jacob deGrom, each and every pitcher who appeared that inning has some explaining to do.

Naturally, when you have a complete bullpen meltdown like that, much like we saw cause the 2008 Mets collapse, there are going to be some questions about how Callaway handled the inning.  Let’s take a look.

Questionable Decision No. 1 – Lifting deGrom

At the time Callaway lifted deGrom, the Mets had a 6-1 lead in the top of the eighth.  A Michael Taylor strikeout was book-ended by a pair of singles by Moises Sierra and Trea Turner.  At that point, deGrom had thrown 103 pitches, and he was about to go to the Nationals lineup a fourth time.

Before moving on, some key stats should be considered.  In his career, batters hit .277/.300/.447 when facing deGrom for a fourth time.  However, that stat should be mitigated by the batter Howie Kendrick.

For his career, Kendrick is hitting .087 with no walks or extra base hits against deGrom.  Last night, Kendrick was 0-3 with three strikeouts against deGrom.

Considering Bryce Harper is hitting behind him, and you have Jerry Blevins warming in the pen to face him, there’s no way you second guess Callaway for leaving deGrom in the game.

By removing deGrom, Callaway opened himself up to second guessing.  That second guessing grew louder when Seth Lugo, who had been excellent this year, walked Kendrick on four straight pitches.

Question Decision No. 2 – Using Lugo for One Batter

As noted above, with Harper on deck and Blevins warming, whoever you brought into the game to face Kendrick was only going to be in for one batter, so why Lugo?

There is a time to experiment with your bullpen guys to give them a different taste of different moments, but a game against the Nationals just isn’t that moment.  Not when there was something brewing that caused you to go out there and bring in a reliever to nip a potential rally in the bud.

Since you are bringing Blevins into the game to face Harper anyway, you could have used him to pitch to Kendrick.  After all, Kendrick is just 1-8 off Blevins.  Even if Kendrick hits an unlikely homer, you are still up 6-4 at that point, and you have Blevins to face Harper.

Instead, Lugo was put in an unfamiliar situation, and he struggled.  That doesn’t excuse Lugo’s performance in the least.  He should have gone out there and recorded the out, or at least forced Kendrick to put the ball in play.  Really, this at-bat was a seminal moment as this is where the rally really began to build momentum and begin to spiral out of control.

Questionable Decision No. 3 – Using Ramos

Iseemed odd Callaway would go to AJ Ramos over getting Jeurys Familia into the game at that spot.  Heading into this season, Callaway spoke about getting his best relievers into the biggest spots of the game regardless of whether there was a save situation or not.  That’s not what happened.

Instead of using Familia to nip the rally in the bud and let Ramos start a clean ninth, Callaway took a page out of Terry Collins book and saved his closer.  He also used Ramos, who has allowed 24.5% of inherited runners to score in his career.  Now, to be fair, Callaway may have wanted to shy away from Familia who has had a fairly high workload this season. Still, you have to wonder why Ramos there.

Out of anyone in the Mets bullpen, Ramos has the highest walk rate with a scary 4.9 BB/9 for his career.  That included his walking six batters in the 6.1 innings he had pitched entering last night’s game.  Bringing Ramos into this game into a powder keg of a situation could potentially light a fuse and blow the game.

It started out well with Ramos over powering Ryan Zimmerman to get the second out, and the Nationals sent up Matt Reynolds to the plate.  Right here was why the Mets should have never lost this game.  It’s also why using a walk prone Ramos is dangerous.

Reynolds, who is a career .224/.294/.393 hitter with an 8.1% walk rate, walked on four straight pitches to make it 6-4.

Questionable Decision No. 4 – Double Switching Flores into the Game

When Callaway brought Familia into the game, he obviously had the intention of using him for the four out save.  With the pitcher’s spot due up second in the bottom of the inning, Callaway understandably double switched him into the game.

What is interesting is Juan Lagares had made the last out of the bottom of the seventh.  By the book, you swap him out.  Being smarter than that, Callaway didn’t do that instead opting to keep his best fielder in the game in a crucial spot.  Instead, he went back and pulled Adrian Gonzalez.

Now, Gonzalez isn’t the four Gold Glove Gonzalez anymore.  In 92.1 innings this season, he has a -1 DRS and 0.1 UZR.  It’s a small sample size, but it is in line with what he’s been the past few seasons.  His dimished skill and range were prevalent when Harper had hit an RBI single earlier that inning between him and Asdrubal Cabrera.  That was more on Cabrera’s range, but it did speak to the limited range on the right side of the Mets infield.

Now, Flores arguably has more range than Gonzalez with a 0.2 UZR at first this year and a 2.3 UZR over the past three seasons.  However, he’s not yet good enough to consider using him for defense late in games at any position.  In fact, he also has a -1 DRS at first this year but in just 45.2 innings.  Flores’ poor defense and relative inexperience MIGHT have been at play when Wilmer Difo hit a single by him.  Whether Gonzalez gets to that or not, we’ll never know.

Another important point here is with Flores being double switched into the game, you do not get to deploy him against a left-handed pitcher.  Instead, you have to use him against a right-handed one.  Flores has improved against right-handed pitching, but not to the point where he’s your first option over Yoenis Cespedes or Jay Bruce.

As an aside, what would have been so wrong if Familia batted?  If he immediately gets out of the inning, you have a two run lead.  Let him go up there and take his strikeout, and you have your optimal defense for the eighth and ninth innings.  Instead, you weakened your infield defense with a power sinker pitcher, and you didn’t try to get a platoon advantage with Flores coming off the bench.

Questionable Decision No. 5 – No Gsellman At All

Arguably, Robert Gsellman has either been the Mets best or second best reliever this season.  In a pressure filled spot, you would think you would’ve found a spot for him, especially at a time when you were looking to get a ground ball double play to get out of the inning.  Instead, Callaway decided to go with Ramos and an obviously fatigued Familia.

Synopsis

When you have a complete meltdown like the Mets had, there is little a manager can do but pray.  Really, Callaway is getting second guessed because the Mets lost a game where they had a five run lead with one out in the eighth inning.  You should never lose those games.

Lugo can’t walk Kendrick on four pitches.  Blevins has to get Harper out in that situation.  Ramos can’t walk and hit batters.  Familia needs to dig just a little deeper and not hit a batter or walk in the go-ahead run.

Also, someone needed to make a play.  Two balls where hit between the first and second baseman.  Cabrera couldn’t make a play on either.  Certainly, you could argue an infielder with even average range gets to the Harper single.  Cabrera would then exacerbate his inability to make a play in the field by getting bizarrely aggressive on the base paths getting thrown out at third with one out in the ninth inning.  That was inexcusable.

Really, this game was your typical Callaway game.  When it comes to his bullpen, he’s going to be a little more aggressive than most in what is typically his attempt to put his players in the best position to succeed.  In his first 15 games, it seems he’d rather put players in a position to succeed than leave them out there and let them  make a play.

Until last night, that made Callaway look like a genius.  Last night?  Well, it made him look like a meddling over-manager.  Ultimately, that’s the way it goes with not just managing, but managing in New York.

Whatever the case, after that brutal loss, we are really going to find out something about both Callaway and this Mets team.  Do they get off the mat and show the Nationals they’re the better team?  Do they come out shell-shocked and lose this game?

Right now, we don’t know, but we are soon going to find out just how special both this team and this manager is and can be.

 

 

 

Mets Lose On Ugly Eighth Inning Meltdown

With two outs in the top of the first inning, Bryce Harper would hit one of the most incredible home runs you will ever see off of Jacob deGrom:

Harper was sawed off, and he still hit a no doubt home run.  Because of who the Mets are this season, they would immediately respond.

In the bottom of the first, Michael Conforto hit an opposite field double off of Jeremy Hellickson that Matt Adams just could not corral. After that, Todd Frazier, who is suddenly the hottest bat in the Mets lineup followed with a two out RBI single tying the game at one.

In the third, it was Frazier again.  After an Asdrubal Cabrera single and Conforto walk, Frazier ripped a go-ahead RBI double giving the Mets a 2-1 lead.  It could have been more but the Nationals nailed Conforto at home.

 

Juan Lagares would create the first rally after drawing a walk off of Matt Grace.  During Jose Lobatons at-bat, he would steal both second and third base. That led to Mickey Callaway surprising everyone by calling a squeeze:

With the ball scooting away, this allowed Lobaton, who had reached earlier by walk, to get to third.  This put him in perfect position to score on an Amed Rosario fielder’s choice giving the Mets a 4-1 lead.

The Mets would quickly make that a 6-1 lead in the seventh.  Brandon Nimmo began the inning with a triple off the outstretched glove of Michael Taylor, and he’d score when Cabrera hit a two run homer off A.J. Cole.

At 6-1, the Mets looked to be in great shape. deGrom was pitching like the ace he is being the first Mets starter to pitch into the eighth inning.  His final line would be 7.1 innings, six hits, three runs, three earned, one walk, and 12 strikeouts.

At the time the Mets added four tack on runs, it didn’t look like deGrom needed them.  While he might not have a suddenly imploding Mets bullpen would actually need more than a five run cushion.

After allowing a pair of singles, deGrom was done with one out in the eighth.  Seth Lugo relieved him and walked Howie Kendrick to load the bases.  This led Callaway to call on Jerry Blevins, who allowed Harper to hit a two RBI single to bring the Nationals to within 6-3.

All three runs were charged to deGrom, but the last two were allowed to score by the Mets bullpen.

With Lugo and Blevins not getting the job done, Callaway summoned AJ Ramos with two on and one out in what was now a ballgame.

Ramos would strike out Ryan Zimmerman before allowing a single to Pedro Severino to load the bases.  That put the game in the hands of former Mets infielder Matt Reynolds, who pinch hit for Cole.  After a four pitch walk. the Nationals were within 6-4 and still with the bases loaded with two outs.  At this point, Callaway had little choice but to go to Jeurys Familia.

Familia would choose a bad time to blow his first save of the year as he allowed Wilmer Difo to tie the score with a two RBI single.  It got worse with him hitting Moises Sierra, a player who has not played in the majors since 2014, before issuing a bases loaded walk, the Mets second of the inning, to Taylor to give the Nationals a 7-6 lead.

In the ugliest inning of the year, the Mets bullpen would allow six runs (two inherited) off three hits, three walks, and a hit by pitch.  That really is embarrassingly bad and reminiscent of last year’s terrible Mets team.

Kendrick would homer off Hansel Robles in the ninth to ensure the entire Mets bullpen would pitch poorly on the evening.

Just to make sure this loss would sting all the more, Cabreara would hit a one out double off Ryan Madson, he would try to get to third on a pitch that got away from the catcher.  The play would be reviewed, Cabrera would appear safe, but the out call was upheld.  In the end, it doesn’t matter, Cabrera made a real bone headed decision.

The Mets came into this series with a chance to maybe bury the 2018 Nationals in April.  Instead, they may have breathed new life into a team which desperately needed a shot in the arm with this 8-6 loss.  This is really the Mets first taste of adversity this year.  Let’s see how they respond.

Game Notes: Yoenis Cespedes did not start the game for the first time this year.  He pinch hit in the eighth and flew out.  Jay Bruce didn’t start again today with his plantar fascittis flaring up again.

Can’t No-Hit Or Beat The Mets

Well, isn’t this just the Mets luck?  On a day when Mets fans and the entire organization all were celebrating the Five Aces finally making one turn through the rotation, pitching would be the story of the game.  The story wasn’t Zack Wheeler, who had the best start by a Mets pitcher this season.  No, initially the story would be Marlins rookie Jarlin Garcia would no-hit the Mets through the first six innings of the game.

In his Major League debut, Garcia stared down the entire Mets lineup, and he didn’t allow anything except two ill-timed sixth inning walks and Todd Frazier reaching on an error.  Even the walks didn’t hurt him as Jay Bruce would get thrown out trying to steal third.

Naturally, when you have a no-hitter going, you know you are out-pitching the opposing pitcher.  What was surprising was it was not by much.

After making one start in Triple-A to hone his mechanics, Wheeler was great tonight.  He would become the first Mets pitcher to pitch into the seventh inning.  The knock on Wheeler was always his walking too many people and not being able to put batters away.  Tonight, he struck out seven while only walking one.

While Garcia allowed no hits, Wheeler would allow just two.  Unfortuantely, one of those was a Miguel Rojas home run.

With the Mets getting no-hit until Frazier had a single off of Marlins reliever Drew Steckenrider, you would think the Mets lost this game.  Yeah, that wasn’t happening to the 9-1 Mets.

Before the game, it was announced Travis d’Arnaud needed to go on the disabled list with a torn UCL.  Naturally, this meant Kevin Plawecki would get plunked on his catching hand by a 100 MPH from Marlins reliever Tayron Guerrero.

Plawecki stayed in the game, and Michael Conforto, who did not start against the left-handed Garcia, came on to pinch hit for Juan Lagares.  The Marlins countered with LOOGY Chris O’Grady.  It didn’t matter as Conforto his a double to the right field corner.

That set up runners on second and third with one out.  Instead of going with the hitless switch hitting Jose Reyes to pinch hit for Wheeler, Mickey Callaway went with Adrian Gonzalez.  Callaway’s faith in Gonzalez was rewarded with him delivering a go-ahead two RBI single.

When Starlin Castro couldn’t corral an Asdrubal Cabrera pop up in shallow right field, Junichi Tazawa would be brought on to neutralize Wilmer Flores.  It didn’t work with Flores delivering an RBI ground rule double.  Frazier would follow with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-1 Mets.

To punctuate the win, Robert Gsellman struck out the side in the eighth.  He has now struck out 12 of the 27 batters he has faced this season.

Jerry Blevins and AJ Ramos would combine to pitch a scoreless ninth to secure the Mets 4-1 victory.

Really, this was a game the Mets were dead in the water.  They were unable to get a hit because of great Marlins pitching and defense.  All that ended in an epic eighth inning rally.  Really, that’s how great things are going for the 10-1 Mets right now.  Even when getting no-hit and having no catchers left from their Opening Day roster, they come back and give Wheeler the victory.

Game Notes: While Plawecki stayed in to run the bases after the HBP, he would be lifted when his turn in the order came back up.  Tomas Nidowho was called up to take d’Arnaud’s spot on the roster, pinch hit for Plawecki and hit into an inning ending double play.  Reyes remains hitless.

Cabrera Homers Part of Mets Refusal to Lose

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.

In the first, Wilmer Flores doubled off Caleb Smith to score Michael Conforto, who led the game off with a double.  In the fourth, Asdrubal Cabrera hit a monster home run:

In the fifth, Amed Rosario hit a double, and Conforto singled him home to give the Mets a 3-0 lead.  With Jacob deGrom cruising, it seemed like this was going to be an easy game for the Mets.

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.

Game Notes: Before the game, Brandon Nimmo was sent down to Vegas to make room on the roster for Corey Oswalt.  Oswalt was called up due to how taxed the bullpen has been early in the season.

Callaway’s Third Managerial Test

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.

Mets Let Nationals Know NL East Up for Grabs with Sweep of Nationals

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:

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.

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.