Back on April 11th, which was the last day the Mets would have either Travis d’Arnaud or Kevin Plawecki, the Mets would beat the Miami Marlins to improve to a National League best 10-1. At that time, one of the driving forces for the Mets incredible start was their pitching.
In the ensuing 21 games with Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido behind the plate, the Mets have gone 7-14. In that time, one of the main culprits has been how poorly the Mets pitching staff has performed. In fact, the Mets team ERA has ballooned from 2.47 to 4.21. The once dominant bullpen now has a 3.89 ERA.
There are many possible causes for this. Certainly, you could expect some regression to the mean after a fast start. Moreover, there is something to be said about how Mickey Callaway has used his bullpen. There are many reasons you can cite, but one which should not be overlooked is pitch framing, especially with the drop-off we have seen since the injuries. Here are the catchers’ respective RAAs:
Really, Lobaton is the worst of the group, and yet, somehow, in the absence of Plawecki and d’Arnaud, he is getting the bulk of the playing time. You could almost understand it if he was hitting, but Lobaton is hitting .163/.265/.256, and no, there’s not much upside with him as he is coming off a .170/.248/.277 year and is a .216/.294/.321 hitter.
Whatever it is too, Lobaton is just not working well with this Mets pitching staff. Remember, he was the catcher when the Mets bullpen completely collapsed against the Washington Nationals. During his time, we have seen the ERAs of almost every Mets pitcher rise.
For example, Steven Matz struggled mightily in his three starts with Lobaton. In those three starts, Matz averaged 4.0 innings per start, had a 6.39 ERA, and opposing batters hit .239/.333/.478 off of him. Short sample size for sure, and it may be a coincidence Matz had his best start since July of last year with Nido behind the plate.
It could also be the result of pitch framing. Certainly, the ability to get the extra strike and/or make sure a strike is called a strike is of vital importance. It is the difference between getting ahead in the count to set the batter up to make an out and making sure you get your pitches more over the plate so you don’t walk batters. The more you have to pitch over the plate, the worse a pitcher is going to fare.
Ultimately, with Lobaton behind the plate, nearly all of the Mets pitchers are struggling. There are many reasons why with his pitch framing chief among them. Until Plawecki is ready to return, at a minimum, Nido has to become the primary catcher. Ideally, Sandy Alderson is trying to make a move for a catcher even if if means grabbing Miguel Montero off the scrap heap.
No matter what, the only thing that is clear is Lobaton cannot be the starting catcher anymore.
The Mets started 12-2, and it seemed like they could do no wrong. That was until a complete bullpen eighth inning meltdown against the Nationals. Since that point, the Mets have gone 5-9, and they have fallen to second place in the division. With that as the backdrop, we turned to the Mets Blogger Roundtable to ask if Mickey Callaway‘s Mets team is for real:
We’re already seeing the Mets falling back to earth, and there was never any question that they would lose more than 15 games this year. The positive is that they have a core that’s skilled, and a new manager who will hopefully find ways to adapt and keep the room positive throughout the highs and lows of a season.
What *is* reality anyway? We are all one big consciousness agreeing upon a never ending list of rules and quibbling over interpretations of shared perceptions, right? That’s what I learned in third grade from the bus driver who smelled weird. If the reality of the situation is I am being asked if the Mets are as good as they were when they started 11-1, then no, they are not “for real.” They have been the fourth-luckiest team in all of baseball while the Nationals have been the most unlucky. We aren’t going to cry over Bryce Harper‘s misfortune (the Vegas native should be aware of streaks of bad luck at the very least anecdotally). We will cry over the Mets though. Yet we shouldn’t; they just have to play .500 ball from their 13th to 162nd game to hit lucky number 86 wins. They uh, haven’t played over .500 ball since that time but I guessed they would make the wild card game five weeks ago, so I might as well keep my chips on 86.
Right now I want to jump off of my seat in section 509.
Editor’s Note: this response was sent during the game after we learned about deGrom’s elbow.
Yes, but they have holes to fix and this passive approach to every situation is part of the problem.
Are the Mets for real in the sense that they have a genuine chance to end the season where they ended April, in first place? Based on what we’ve seen…sure, why not? I’d hate to think they’re pulling the cap down over our eyes.
Are the Mets for real in the sense that I’m supremely confident they won’t fall out of the race altogether after a while? That’s what the rest of the schedule is for: to find out.
But overall I feel pretty good about this team. The next 130+ games are always the hardest.
Caveat: All of the above is up for grabs in light of the uncertainty surrounding Jacob deGrom.
I think the Mets’ start is most-definitely indicative of the potential of this team moving forward through the season.
The inevitably-oncoming adage of “Jake and Thor, then pray for it to pour” that was true for most of the first month of the season seems to be slowly fading away.
After the inconsistencies of Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler over their first few starts, as well as the banishing of Matt Harvey to the bullpen and the alarming start to Jason Vargas’ second stint with the Mets, things have started to look up lately.
If Wheeler can be effective (read: keep his pitches low), his stuff alone places him among the upper-crust of middle-of-the-rotation starting pitchers in the NL, and the same goes for Matz.
If Vargas has shown anything over his career, he’s proven to be the model of mediocre-but-efficient consistency, and that’s all the team really needs out of him.
I think this offense is truly one of the more-dangerous groups we’ve seen here since the days of Carlos Beltran/David Wright/Carlos Delgado, and I mean that. The recent upticks in production for Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez are promising.
The Mets’ bullpen has, for the most part, been the strength of this team and will continue to be, in my opinion. AJ Ramos looks to have found his groove and Robert Gsellman is absolutely thriving in his new role. Even Seth Lugo, who may not be adapting as easily as Gsellman has, has had some success and only figures to get more comfortable as time goes on. And, to be honest, Harvey could come to be a key cog in the relief corps once he gets a feel for things.
Are the Mets for real? It’s hard to say, but what’s becoming clear is that this season certainly won’t be easy. We got off to a hot start with Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, and Bruce all slumping, and you have to think we’ll get more from all of them going forward — but we’ll also presumably see regression from Todd Frazier and Asdrubal Cabrera, and the pitching has gone downhill fast since the first few turns through the rotation. Now deGrom is hurt too…if our starters besides Thor are a failed Harvey, a failed Matz, an inconsistent Wheeler, and an unimpressive Jason Vargas, there’s only so much room to get wins with that kind of rotation. Sure, things could turn out well — anything can happen. But as I said, the only thing that’s clear is that it certainly won’t be easy.
Initially, I had a long piece detailing how much the lineup and the pitching staff could benefit from Kevin Plawecki‘s return. How even with the inability to hit for power right now, Conforto is playing a good outfield and getting on base. How when you look deeper into the farm, you see Gavin Cecchini and Peter Alonso getting off to terrific starts making you wonder “What if . . . .”
None of that matters if deGrom is injured like he was in 2016 or Syndergaard was in 2017.
This is not to say his having a serious injury ends the Mets season. Rather, it means the season needs a miracle. In 2016, the Mets got that out of Lugo and Gsellman. Maybe the Mets get that this year out of some group that includes Harvey, Matz, Corey Oswalt, or Chris Flexen.
Maybe . . . .
Personally, I’d like to thank everyone for being able to respond to this roundtable. It was all the more impressive when you consider how panic striken we were collectively as a fanbase when deGrom left the game last night. We do know when that news finally breaks, there will be some terrific things written about deGrom and the Mets. Some of the best things will be written by the people in this roundtable, and I hope you will visit their sites.
That is except for Becky. She is currently a free agent and needs a home to write about the Mets. Hopefully, someone will soon jump in and find a home for her terrific work.
Up until that point, the Mets catching situation was actually one of the bright spots to what was a great start to the season. The combination of Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud combined to hit .229/.341/.343 with six runs, a double, a homer, and four RBI. While they were catching, the Mets pitching staff had a 2.47 ERA, 3.2 BB/9, and a 9.9 K/9.
Since d’Arnaud opted to have Tommy John surgery and Plawecki’s hand has taken longer to heal than expected, things have gone quite differently for this Mets team with the new catching tandem of Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido.
Whereas the Plawecki/d’Arnaud tandem was at least passable offensively, Lobaton/Nido have not. Combined, Lobaton and Nido have hit .164/.269/.218 with a double, triple, and four RBI.
While we should be cautioned not to rely upon things like catcher ERA or results in small sample sizes, the Mets pitching staff has had a 5.30 ERA. Surprisingly, the walks have come slightly down to a 3.0 BB/9 while the strikeouts have remained at a 9.9 K/9.
More troubling, the Mets who got off to a 10-1 start have gone 7-9 with their new catching duo.
There are many reasons for the difference in records including a natural regression from a team that started the season 10-1. Really, no one believed the Mets were going to go 147-15 for the full season.
And the catching situation has nothing to do with Amed Rosario regressing, Michael Conforto not hitting for power, or Adrian Gonzalez not contributing anywhere near what the Mets expected. Still, these catchers are part of a black hole the Mets have in the bottom of their lineup.
The Mets have also had two bad bullpen meltdowns with Lobaton behind the plate. The first one was the Nationals six run 8th inning. It was a complete meltdown, and no one quite knew how to stop it from happening. Not Mickey Callaway. Not Dave Eiland. Not Lobaton.
The second one, much smaller in scale was the Mets blowing a 3-0 lead to the Braves. Lobaton was on for the two run eighth, and Nido was there for the two run ninth.
Maybe these meltdowns were coincidences. It’s possible Matt Harvey would have regressed the way he has anyway. We’ve seen enough of Steven Matz to know we don’t know what he’s going to provide. AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins always had difficulty with walks. The list goes on and on.
Whatever the case, the one thing that is apparent, even if this stretch is not completely the fault of either Lobaton or Nido, the Mets miss their catchers. Unfortunately, d’Arnaud is gone for the season, and he may never suit up for the Mets again. As for Plawecki, he’s still a few weeks away. Seeing how the Mets are performing in his absence, he cannot get back here soon enough.
With the Braves sending to the mound RHP Mike Soroka for his Major League debut, you knew this was going to be a rough game for the Mets. The players change. The managers change. Even the uniforms have changed. And yet, somehow, whenever a pitcher makes his Major League debut against the Mets, you know he is going to shut the Mets down.
For a brief second, it seemed like Soroka would be the exception. The Mets had two on and two out, but Todd Frazier would ground out to end the threat. From there, it was pretty smooth coasting for Soroka. Even with he was in trouble, he would be aided by an Adrian Gonzalez double play grounder in the third and a Mets team who was 0-4 with RISP.
Really, the only blip from Soroka on the night was one pitch he threw to Yoenis Cespedes:
Yo seems fine to us.
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 2, 2018
Even in this frustrating loss, the good news was Cespedes was still sizzling hot even after his thumb injury which forced him to leave Sunday’s game. On the night, he was 3-4 with a run, homer, and an RBI. In the field, he made a couple of nice plays, and he had one of those trademark Cespedes throws:
The throw. 💪
The tag. 💰
The celebration. 😃 pic.twitter.com/bu5K4OkkKQ
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 2, 2018
The problem with the Mets tonight was they needed more than just Cespedes. Ideally, that would have come in the form of Noah Syndergaard.
It wasn’t to be as the Braves were very aggressive against Syndergaard with many attacking the first pitch. To start the game, the Braves got consecutive hits from Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna, Freddie Freeman, and Nick Markakis. After that Syndergaard settled in a bit, and he gutted through six innings. That’s what a true ace does. Even when he doesn’t have his best stuff, he finds a way.
Unfortunately, even with him figuring a way to get a quality start, the Mets just didn’t have it. After Soroka, Dan Winkler, who was pressed into action after a Shane Carle injury got through the seventh. In the eighth, Michael Conforto, Cespedes, and Jay Bruce failed to plate Asdrubal Cabrera, who had led off the inning with a single off A.J. Minter.
In the ninth, the Braves turned to Arodys Vizcaino for the save, and Frazier got it all started with a single that bounced just in front of the diving Markakis. Then, the Braves did their best Luis Castillo impersonation with seemingly their entire 25 man roster incapable of fielding a pop up to right before second base.
Amed Rosario twice tried to butcher boy it, and he swung and missed both times. He then just fanned on the third pitch of the at-bat. Still, the runners would advance on a Vizcaino wild pitch thereby allowing Frazier to score on a Wilmer Flores RBI groundout. With the Mets down 3-2, the game was then in Jose Reyes‘ hands.
In a surprise to no one, Reyes failed to deliver.
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.
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.
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 Nido, who 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.
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.
After a huge sweep of the Nationals, Mickey Callaway put it to his veterans to see if the veterans wanted the day off after landing in Miami at 5 A.M. In a promising sign for the season, the Mets players were not overlooking the Marlins, and they all wanted to get right back out there.
Certainly, after all the excitement in Washington, this series was going to be a bit of a let-down. The real challenge was not letting this become a trap series. Fortunately for the Mets, they had Noah Syndergaard on the mound, which always gives the Mets a big advantage.
The one issue is Thor hasn’t quite been Thor this season. Even in his Opening Day start when he struck out 10, he allowed four runs. He didn’t see the fifth inning in his second start, and the early season troubles carried forward into tonight.
His troubles started in the fifth when Amed Rosario didn’t get his glove down on a Brian Anderson grounder. With Michael Conforto playing deep in an expansive ToMarlins Park outfield that became a two base error. After two quick outs, Syndergaard issued back-to-back two out walks to Bryan Holaday and Tomas Telis. This led to a Miguel Rojas RBI single.
In the sixth, Anderson got to Syndergaard again doubling home Starlin Castro, who had led off the inning with a single. Syndergaard would get out of the inning before allowing any further damage and with the Mets still having a lead.
His final line was 6.0 innings, five hits, two runs, one earned, two walks, and five strikeouts. No, there is nothing wrong with that start, and with Syndergaard pumping in 94 MPH sliders, there wasn’t anything wrong with his stuff. However, it just seems like something is just off. And yet despite, that he got the win.
The Mets would score four runs even with the offense sputtering a bit against Jose Urena and the rest of the Marlins staff. Despite getting the leadoff runner on in five of the nine innings and the team drawing five walks, they could only push four runs across home plate. Fortunately, that was plenty.
Rosario got the first rally started with a second inning with a Todd Frazier lead-off walk. He’d come home to score after ensuing singles from Asdrubal Cabrera and Adrian Gonzalez. The damage might’ve been greater, but Kevin Plawecki hit into a double play. Cabrera scored on the play giving the Mets a 2-0 lead.
That lead grew to 3-0 in the third on a rally started by a long Rosario double that nearly went out to deep center. For a moment, it appeared he wasn’t going to score after a Conforto flyout and a Yoenis Cespedes strikeout. Rosario still came to score on a Jay Bruce RBI single.
For his part, Cespedes, who is battling the flu had a tough game at the plate. He was 0-4 with three strikeouts leaving five Mets on base. Even with that, he did make a great throw in the outfield:
HOW MANY TIMES DO WE HAVE TO TEACH YOU THIS LESSON @MLB
— Dyllmonger (@HornikGSN) April 9, 2018
Really, the Mets should have blown the game open in the seventh. Gonzalez had a lead-off walk off Junichi Tazawa, and Brandon Nimmo, pinch hitting for Sydnergaard, reached on a Justin Bour throwing error. Rosario came up and brought home Gonzalez with the one out RBI single to give the Mets a 4-2 lead.
Conforto would then walk to load the bases, but no further damage would be done as Cespedes and Bruce struck out to end the inning.
There are games where the inability to tack on runs comes back to bite you. With the way the Mets bullpen is pitching this year, today wasn’t that day.
Hansel Robles flirted with trouble in the seventh, but he got out of the inning unscathed. Jerry Blevins and AJ Ramos combined for a scorless eighth, and Jeurys Familia recorded his sixth save of the season.
It wasn’t an easy save for Familia. Derek Dietrich hit a double just past the outstretched glove of Bruce to put runners on second and third with one out. With the tying runs in scoring position, Familia responded by striking out Rojas and Castro to end the game.
The Mets had a tough task ahead of them having to face a bad Marlins team. Overall, the Mets did what good teams do – they did what they needed to do to beat the bad team.
Game Notes: Juan Lagares did not enter the game for defense in the ninth. This is the third time in Mets history they started the season 8-1. In 1985, the Mets won 98 games and missed the postseason. In 2006, they won 97 games en route to winning the NL East.
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.
— 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 two games against the Washington Nationals, they have let them know this isn’t going to be a repeat of the 2017 season. The Mets are back, and they are once again a force to be reckoned with.
Really, this series has been a time warp back to August 2015. There is Yoenis Cespedes hitting a big home run. Jacob deGrom out-pitched Stephen Strasburg. Every time the Nationals seem to get ahead, it seems like their bullpen lets them down while Jeurys Familia and the Mets bullpen steps up.
We’ve seen the Mets catchers in Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki do a masterful job pitch framing. Their pitch framing has led to called third strikes directly leading to Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon getting ejected in consecutive games. Yes, the Rendon one was suspect, but when you’re so frustrated, you’re flipping the bat at home plate, you create an opportunity for an over-eager umpire to eject you.
Sure, you can say the Mets are not beating the Nationals at their best. Daniel Murphy is on the disabled list. Arguably their best player to start the season, Adam Eaton, went on the disabled list. They’re going to miss Max Scherzer in this three game set.
Name all the caveats you want, the Mets went to Washington, and so far, they have taken the first two games of this and the season series. As a result, the Mets are off to their best start since 2006. That season, the Mets were the best team in baseball, and they ran away with the division.
With Mickey Callaway at the helm, that and much more is possible. That much has been proven with the Mets taking the first two games from the Nationals.