Three years after his Major League debut, it’s still difficult to make heads or tails with Steven Matz. There are days he looks absolutely terrible, and then there are days like today.
In seven innings, he completely dominated the Giants with a career high 11 strikeouts. It was the first double digit strikeout game of his career.
Unfortunately for him, what was arguably the best start of his career was just a no decision as the Mets bats are ice cold and Evan Longoria hit a fourth inning solo homer off Matz. It was just one of three hits off Matz all day.
On the other side, Derek Holland was shutting down the Mets. He was not as dominant as Matz, but he was in control all game.
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 1, 2018
In the sixth, the Mets had a chance to take the lead, but Todd Frazier had some really poor base running.
Worse yet, on a Michael Conforto infield single, Hanson picked Frazier off third base:
— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) September 1, 2018
Finally, in the top of the 11th, one of these two teams would get a hit with Wilmer Flores leading off the inning with a double off Hunter Strickland. He’d move over on a Jay Bruce groundout, and he scored on a go-ahead Frazier sacrifice fly.
Robert Gsellman, who has been struggling of late, pitched a perfect ninth with some help from Nimmo:
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 1, 2018
That Nimmo catch sealed the Mets win in a game completely dominated by pitching. That domination was headlined by Matz, who we can only hope has turned the corner much in the same way we have seen Zack Wheeler do this year.
Game Notes: With the Giants starting Holland, the Mets sat Jeff McNeil in favor of Flores at second. Bruce played first.
Zack Wheeler was back in San Francisco to pitch against the team who made him the sixth overall pick of the 2009 draft. Like he has to most teams in baseball this year, especially in the second half of the season, Wheeler showed the Giants why he was drafted that high.
Even with him yielding two doubles over the first six innings, the Giants never truly threatened Wheeler. Really, it wasn’t until the third triple of the game that Wheeler faced any real danger.
Brandon Belt would lead off the seventh with a double, and he would move to third on a ground out to shortstop. It was a slow hit ball off the bat of Austin Slater, one which shortstop Jose Reyes made zero attempt to charge. Therefore, even with the ball being hit to Reyes’ right, Belt would be able to advance. This was important as Chris Shaw would hit a fly ball to center that easily scored Belt.
That run caused partially by a lackadaisical play by Reyes would be the dagger in this game despite Wheeler pitching seven innings allowing just the one run on four hits with no walks and nine strikeouts.
The reason why this was a dagger was that no Met other than Jeff McNeil could do anything against Giants starter Andrew Suarez. For his part, Suarez allowed no runs with just two hits, no walks, and five strikeouts.
Of course, it didn’t help that Reyes was starting for the red hot Amed Rosario because Rosario needed an emergency root canal. It also didn’t help Michael Conforto was sitting and Devin Mesoraco was in the lineup as Kevin Plawecki went on paternity leave.
In the top of the eighth, the Mets would get their chance with Brandon Nimmo, who was once again curiously hitting in the bottom of the lineup again, hit a one out double. Slater would have a difficult time fielding the ball in right, but Nimmo was unable to take advantage and get to third as he was already decelerating as he approached second. It wouldn’t matter much as Reyes popped out, and Conforto would ground out to end the inning.
If there was any hopes the Mets would get back into the game, it was all dashed in a horrific bottom of the eighth with the Mets needing four relievers to record three outs. Robert Gsellman did not record an out while allowing a homer and another hit. Daniel Zamora relieved him striking out Joe Panik and Alen Hanson.
Rather than go to the bullpen to face Evan Longoria, Mickey Callaway ordered him intentionally walked to allow Zamora to face Belt. Belt would crush a pitch off the right center field wall which would have been a homer in any other park. At AT&T, it was a triple.
All told, the Mets went from a 1-0 deficit to a 7-0 loss. It was an ugly loss in every way, shape, and form.
The Mets had one of those odd not quite a doubleheader type of days with the Mets and Cubs needing to complete yesterday’s suspended game. The Mets would pick up where they left off by shouting themselves in the foot.
In the 11th, Wilmer Flores lined into a double play.
After two close and heart wrenching losses in a row, the Mets set out to ensure there would be no room for late game heroics. They immediately put up a four spot courtesy of a Todd Frazier grand slam:
🎶 Chicago, Chicago, that TODDlin' town.
Chicago, Chicago, Frazier will show you around. 🎶 pic.twitter.com/Qhy19b8E56
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 29, 2018
What was interesting was Vargas actually let those four runs hold up even if he was a little shaky.
From there, Vargas really settled in, and he was surprisingly keeping the Cubs at bay. Vargas’ final line would be 5.1 innings, four hits, run, one earned, two walks, and six strikeouts.
With his four straight good start in a row, he’s lowered his ERA from 8.75 to 6.56. Perhaps more impressive than that was his retiring a batter the third time through the lineup for the first time all season.
Vargas got the win because not only did the bullpen make those runs hold up, but the Mets offense exploded in the seventh. Amazingly, it was all with two outs.
The Mets plated two more runs in the ninth on a rally started when Tomas Nido reached on a fielding error by Cubs reliever James Norwood. The rally culminated with Frazier and Brandon Nimmo hitting RBI singles to make it 10-1 Mets.
In the bottom of the ninth, 26th man Jacob Rhame who was called up for the ninth time this season allowed two runs before finally closing the door on the Mets 10-3 victory.
Overall, the Mets played 11 innings, scored 10 runs, and went 1-1. It’s been one of those seasons.
Game Notes: With the loss, Sewald is now 0-11 in his career with one save.
— Bleacher Report MLB (@BR_MLB) 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:
.@Cubs challenge call that Anthony Rizzo hit a foul ball in the 7th; call overturned, fair ball.
— MLB Replay (@MLBReplays) August 28, 2018
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.
The Mets are so far under .500 that they can’t even get in the mix for what is a wide open National League Wild Card. They’re not even following the Nationals lead who traded off Daniel Murphy and Matt Adams at the same time the Mets are playing Jose Bautista and Austin Jackson everyday. Given the record and the poor direction of this organization, it becomes increasingly difficult to find reasons to watch.
With that in mind, here are reasons to watch the Mets other than you love the Mets or you hate yourself:
- Will Jacob deGrom finish the season strong enough to the point where he overcomes everything to become the Cy Young winner with the fewest wins from a starting pitcher?
- How will the Mets handle first base with Jay Bruce, Wilmer Flores, and Dominic Smith? Will the team actually call up Peter Alonso?
- Is Zack Wheeler for real, or is the guy we have known him to be during his Mets career ever going to show up again?
- Can Kevin Plawecki be an everyday catcher? With the Devin Mesoraco neck injury we should finally find out.
- Which one of the young relievers are for real? So far, the answer appears to be Drew Smith and Daniel Zamora, but maybe just maybe Tyler Bashlor can enter the mix as well.
- How much progress can Amed Rosario make on both sides of the ball?
- Will Michael Conforto continue this second half surge, or will he regress as his shoulder presumably tires?
- Is Jeff McNeil really the next Daniel Murphy?
More than any of this, we wait for baited breath to see if David Wright will actually take the field for the Mets again. If he does, that will be the greatest reason of all to watch the Mets again this year.
Seeing how the Nationals have performed recently, including how they performed yesterday against Jason Vargas, it’s difficult to get excited about any pitcher dominating them.
That said, Zack Wheeler has been great recently and today was another one of his terrific outings.
Wheeler pitched seven scoreless allowing six hits and three walks while striking out four.
This was the eighth time over his last 12 starts where he has gone at least seven innings. It is also the sixth straight start he’s allowed two runs or fewer.
For a while, it looked like Wheeler would walk away with the no decision as Tanner Roark was matching zeros with him over the first five innings.
Up until that point, the Mets just had three hits and no one reached third.
Finally, with one out in the sixth, Amed Rosario would hit a solo homer to give the Mets a 1-0 lead.
El Niño looking more like El Hombre right now. 💪 pic.twitter.com/BXeRgB2wlt
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 25, 2018
The Mets would tack on runs in the ensuing two innings.
In the seventh, Todd Frazier would continue his hot hitting with a homer of his own.
In the eighth, Rosario beat out a potential double play ball extending the inning. He would then score as both Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto would hit singles off Nationals left-handed reliever Matt Grace.
That 3-0 lead was more than enough for Wheeler and what has been a terrific Mets bullpen this month.
Just like that, it appears the Mets are trending in an upward trajectory while the Nationals are struggling to find themselves. Hopefully, that will last longer than just the final two months of this season.
Game Notes: This is the first time the Mets recorded consecutive shutouts since 2015. Conforto started the game in center for the first time since June 26th.
Well, today was a day the Mets pretended they were 15 games over instead of 15 games under .500.
With Jay Bruce having a bobble head day on Saturday and his finally eligible to come off the disabled list, this meant the Mets needed to either demote or DFA two players.
The other player was Dominic Smith, who had gone 2-for-6 with a double, homer, and two RBI in the bizarrely limited playing time he had been given during this all too brief call-up.
Remember Jackson and Bautista are Mets because no one else wanted them. The Mets called these 30+ year old impending free agents from their homes because other teams were paying them not to play for them.
Naturally, the Mets decided to play all three of them over Michael Conforto.
This is the squad the Mets opted to go with to face off against the Washington Nationals.
Basically, this set the stage for a game between two teams playing out the string, and it showed.
In the first, Amed Rosario hit a leadoff single off Gio Gonzalez, and he would steal second. Jeff McNeil pushed him over to third on a groundout to the right side, and Rosario would score on a Wilmer Flores RBI single.
Sadly, that was all the run support Vargas would need as the Nationals really didn’t show up.
Vargas pitched six shutout innings while allowing three hits, walking none, and striking out eight.
In the entire game, the Nationals would have just four hits with no one reaching third.
Those other two runs came courtesy of a Bruce two run homer. It was his first homer of the year at Citi Field.
Given how the Mets are dedicated to this 30+ year old veteran movement, we should see Bruce gets more chances to add to that home run total.
Overall, it was just astonishing to see how a Mets-Nationals game has zero juice. Both teams are very disappointing, and when they play games like this, it’s completely pointless.
Game Recap: Before the game, Mickey Callaway said Bruce could be the first baseman for the Mets next year. That would require Bruce getting time there next year, which all but eliminates the chances we see Peter Alonso this year or Smith again (at least in terms of his getting extended playing time).
With each start he makes, it becomes readily apparent if Jacob deGrom wins the Cy Young this season, he is going to do so with the lowest win total ever compiled by a starting pitcher. Looking at his stats, you really have no idea how he could be just 8-8. However, if you watched yesterday’s game, you know exactly why his record is that poor.
To no one’s surprise, deGrom began the game matching zeros with Madison Bumgarner in the first two innings. However, the Giants would break through in the third.
After Steven Duggar earned a leadoff walk, he would steal second. Devin Mesoraco would get out of his croutch slower than an old man reaching for a walker, and he would make a lollipop throw to second Travis d’Arnaud thought was bad. Duggar found himself on third after a Joe Panik groundout, and he would score when Mesoraco just missed a pitch, which would go back to the backstop.
Now, Home Plate Umpire Tony Randazzo was horrendous on the day, but despite Mesoraco’s complaints otherwise, Evan Longoria did not foul tip that ball. No, Mesoraco, who is showing himself to be a really poor catcher, flat out missed it. Mesoraco also failed to frame any number of pitches which would aid Randazzo in being a horrendous umpire.
The key call came in the fourth inning. With two outs and a runner on, deGrom threw an 0-2 pitch which led everyone in the ballpark to believe Nick Hundley just struck out looking:
Perhaps because he was frustrated, deGrom would walk Hundley, and then he would allow an RBI double to Bumgarner. At that point, it was 2-0 Giants, and with Bumgarner pitching, there was little to no hope the Mets would win this one.
Overall, this was an off-day for deGrom as he needed 108 pitches to get through six innings, and he would have a season high four walks. Of course, these struggles are indicative of just how great deGrom has been all season. In fact, a struggling deGrom limited the Giants to two runs (one earned) on four hits while he striking out 10.
The Mets would not even threaten Bumgarner until the fourth. There were two and two out, and McNeil hit a hard liner, but it was right at Panik.
It seemed as if the Mets may finally break through and get deGrom off the hook in the seventh. Todd Frazier led off the inning with a homer making him the first ever Met to homer off Bumgarner at Citi Field. Jose Bautista would get hit by a pitch, and McNeil would single. The rally would sputter as Kevin Plawecki, who had come on for an injured Mesoarco in the sixth, hit into a 6-4-3 double play.
That brought up Conforto. He battled back from 1-2 to draw a full count in a nine pitch at-bat. On the ninth pitch, Bumgarner beat Conforto inside with a well placed fastball to end the rally. Given how Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling were harping on the false narrative Bumgarner ruined Conforto’s 2016 season, we should see more of the same for any poor play Conforto makes the rest of the year.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Mets had a chance to rally back from 3-1 against Tony Watson, who they had already gotten to in the series. The only problem was Tony Randazzo wasn’t going to have any of it.
It appeared Wilmer Flores drew a four pitch walk to start the ninth. Instead, Randazzo called an obvious ball a strike. Flores then went the other way as he has been doing so well lately only to line it directly at Panik. Like with deGrom earlier in the game, Flores had some choice remarks for Randazzo, who, again, was terrible.
The game would come down to McNeil, who both Randazzo and the third base umpire ruled did not check his swing leading the Mets and perhaps more importantly deGrom to a loss. Looking at this game, you really see just how much deGrom has working against him as he tries to win games. Ultimately, if he does not win the Cy Young, there should be a line of people offering apologies. On that line, we should see Mesoraco and Randazzo.
Game Notes: Dominic Smith sat against Bumgarner the day after hitting a home run. The Mets are now 19-41 in games Mesoraco has played.
Perhaps, the Mets did not give McNeil his chance because they were not sure his incredible season in the minors would translate to MLB success. So far, it has.
In tonight’s game, McNeil was at the center of both Mets rallies with him going a perfect 4-for-4 with two runs, a double, and an RBI.
Jackson would move to second on Hunter Pence‘s their home, but the Mets could not bring him home.
Still, with the two runs scored, the Mets tied the score and got Steven Matz off the hook.
Initially, things did not look good for Matz. Three batters into the game, he and the Mets were down 2-0 with Evan Longoria hitting a bomb off of him:
103 mph 🚀
— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) August 21, 2018
Fortunately, Matz would settle in, and he would not allow another hit in his five innings pitched. With this being his second start since coming off the disabled list, Matz was done after five innings and 87 pitches.
Corey Oswalt, who was recently demoted to the bullpen, relieved Matz, and he would pitch three terrific scoreless innings allowing just one hit. Not only would he pitch well, but he would also pick up his third win of the season.
Oswalt got the win because the Mets offense jumped all over Tony Watson starting with a Reyes triple off a ball Pence just could not field.
McNeil jumped on the first pitch, and much like Flores did in the previous inning, he hit an opposite field double. The double easily scored Reyes giving the Mets a 3-2 lead.
With the open base, and his historical numbers against left-handed batters, Watson intentionally walked Flores to face Conforto. That was a mistake:
Oppo. 💪💪💪 pic.twitter.com/UIUR89EpfX
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 22, 2018
The opposite field three run homer gave the Mets a 6-2 lead.
In the end, this was a game won because McNeil is a professional hitter who delivered in two big spots. It makes you wonder how different things would have been had the Mets given him a chance when they first needed him.
Game Recap: 2015 NLCS MVP Daniel Murphy was traded by the Nationals to the Cubs as the Nationals have begun selling what they can.