It was Jerad Eickhoff facing off against Ian Anderson, so naturally, this was a pitcher’s duel. That’s nothing to say against Anderson, who has been very good in his brief career. Rather, it’s noteworthy when Eickhoff hasn’t pitched in the majors in two years.
While not flawless, it was a good start for Eickhoff. He’d pitch four scoreless innings allowing three hits and three walks while striking out three. Understandably, Luis Rojas and the Mets didn’t have him face the order a third time.
That’s all the Braves needed entering the seventh because of the Mets poor base running. It was almost indescribably bad.
In the second, Pete Alonso was running on the 3-2 pitch, and he thought he could beat Acuña’s arm. He couldn’t as Acuña’s throw was perfect and nailed Alonso at third.
With the Mets offense sputtering, they didn’t get another rally going until the sixth. That started with a Jonathan Villar one out double against Anderson. Of course, because this is the Mets, Villar came out of the game with an injury.
Jose Peraza pinch ran for Villar and for reasons that defy logic he took off for third on a Francisco Lindor grounder to his right. After Swanson easily nailed Peraza, Lindor would make matters worse. With Jeff McNeil up, Lindor broke for second. Anderson threw over leading to Lindor getting caught stealing easily.
Then, Luis Rojas made a monumentally dumb move. The slow footed Alonso was the tying run, and yet, somehow, Rojas opts to pinch run Albert Almora for Smith. There’s no good explanation why you don’t look to do all you can do to try to ensure you get the tying run.
After James McCann was plunked the bases were loaded, and Kevin Pillar was up. Pillar ripped a liner, but it was right at Riley. Riley snagged it, and he was initially ruled to beat Alonso back to the bag for a game ending double play.
As it turned out, it was a blown call overturned on replay. That’s fortunate as Rojas’ mistake didn’t cost him and the Mets there.
Whatever the case, it didn’t matter as Brandon Drury popped out to end the inning. With that, the Mets ran themselves out of innings and the game. That’s the biggest reason for this split doubleheader.
Game Notes: Joey Lucchesi has a torn UCL. Jeurys Familia was placed on the IL with a hip impingement. Robert Gsellman is on the IL with a lat injury. Stephen Tarpley was the 27th man for the doubleheader. Yennsy Diaz was recalled. Mason Williams was designated for assignment.
Honestly, the New York Mets lost this game when the front office made a baffling decision. The St. Louis Cardinals are dangerous against left-handed pitching, and they relatively struggle against right-handed pitching.
Knowing that, the Mets decided to call-up Joey Lucchesi to make the start. Not Jordan Yamamoto, who has good numbers against the Cardinals. They didn’t even look to pitch Robert Gsellman or Sean Reid-Foley.
No, they went with Lucchesi, and it backfired spectacularly. Keep in mind, the Mets offense handed Lucchesi a 5-2 lead heading into the third.
The rally ended there as Francisco Lindor struck out to end the inning. Again, Lindor’s struggles at the plate continue. However, his defense remains as magnificent as ever:
Smooth. ? pic.twitter.com/dhAakgswi5
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 4, 2021
The Mets would get back at it in the third starting with a Michael Conforto lead-off walk. After Pete Alonso hit his second double of the game, Dominic Smith drove home a run with an RBI groundout. Kevin Pillar followed with his second homer in as many days:
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 4, 2021
With a 5-2 lead, Lucchesi retired the first two batters he faced in the third. He then completely fell apart.
After allowing back-to-back singles to Dylan Carlson and Paul Goldschmidt, Lucchesi would surrender a game tying three run homer to Nolan Arenado. For some odd reason, Luis Rojas didn’t have anyone ready to relieve him.
The real shame is Gsellman (2.1 IP) and Reid-Foley were terrific (2.0) over 4.1 scoreless innings. They’d combine to allow just two hits while walking none and striking out four.
When you throw in Jacob Barnes, the bullpen pitched 5.1 scoreless. Converse that with Lucchesi who allowed at least one run over each of the first three innings.
Both bullpens did their job not allowing any runs after that third inning. Of course, that meant the decision to start Lucchesi was the big factor which cost the Mets this game.
It’s a shame because the Mets scored five runs, played good defense, and pitched well in the pen. Someone should be accountable for that, but instead, Rojas will have to face the criticism for it.
It was just one of those days for Marcus Stroman. You got that sense from the jump.
Josh Harrison singled to start the game, and he’d go to third on a Michael Conforto error. Yes, the ball took a strange almost non-hop, but you have to keep that ball in front of you. Instead, Harrison was on third, and he’d score on a Yadiel Hernandez sacrifice fly.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last Conforto misstep. In the second, Stroman got himself into some trouble. He issued a pair of one out walks before striking out Andrew Stevenson. To get out of the inning, he needed to retire Joe Ross.
Ross singled, and there could have been a play at the plate. However, in what is a dangerous pattern early in the season, Conforto made a really poor throw home. As a result, the Nationals led 2-0.
The issue with Stroman on the day was he was leaving the pitches over the plate, and as a result, he was getting hit fairly hard. The movement was there, but the location wasn’t. When all was said and done, he lasted just four innings after allowing five runs (four earned) on eight hits and two walks.
The Mets should’ve had a chance to get Stroman off the hook, but it was more of the same. Conforto had the two defensive miscues, and he lined out hard to end the first with runners on first and second.
There was some measure of redemption for Conforto in the bottom of the fourth when he hit his first homer of the season:
Conforto hits the foul pole for his first home run of the year! ? pic.twitter.com/klrooyQJML
— SNY (@SNYtv) April 24, 2021
It was 5-1 entering the top of the fifth. No matter how much the Mets offense has struggled, that’s not an onerous lead with Ross and the Nationals bullpen.
The problem is Stephen Tarpley wasn’t great, and that’s being kind. He walked two, allowed a hit to Kyle Schwarber, and then he hit Alex Avila to force home a run. At that point, it was 6-1, and Luis Rojas went to Robert Gsellman.
Gsellman did all he could to get out of the jam, but he still allowed a run. That was on a Stevenson fielder’s choice. Still, it was impressive for Gsellman to limit the damage to one run.
This was a positive step after Gsellman’s rough appearance against the Cubs. In fact, it was a really important appearance for Gsellman. Not only did he limit the damage in the inning, but he also pitched three scoreless innings.
That was an indication as to what Gsellman could do to help this team. It also saved the bullpen, which was all the more important after Mets starters failed to pitch more than four innings in Chicago.
On the bright side, aside from Tarpley, the bullpen was really good. Gsellman (3.0), Jacob Barnes (1.0), and Jeurys Familia combined to shut out the Nationals over five innings while allowing one hit, walking one, and striking out three.
The larger issue was Conforto. After that homer, he went back to struggling again.
After Pete Alonso was hit by a pitch to start the sixth, Conforto hit into a double play. In the eighth, runners were on first and second with two outs, and Conforto struck out looking on a pitch over the middle.
Now, Conforto should not be solely blamed for the loss. The Mets had six total hits with Conforto’s homer being one of them. That said his defense continues to be a problem, and he’s leaving small villages on the basepaths.
In the end, the Mets aren’t playing well. Given all that’s happened, it’s understandable. The fact that they’re struggling, and they’re .500 is a phenomenal sign. Just imagine how much better they’ll be when Conforto picks things up again.
Like it always seems to be, the New York Mets entered the offseason with the need to rebuild their bullpen. As the Mets entered Spring Training without Seth Lugo, there seemed to be a renewed emphasis on the need to add more relievers to the bullpen. However, when you break it down, the Mets may not need to actually add another arm.
Typically speaking, we will see the Mets carry a 12 man pitching staff which means seven relievers. Right off the bat, the Mets are set at closer with Edwin Diaz. He will certainly be joined in the bullpen by recent signees Trevor May and Aaron Loup. That trio right there takes care of the Mets closer, the eighth inning, and their LOOGY.
That leaves them having to figure out the other four relievers in the bullpen. Based upon the moves of Brodie Van Wagenen, three of those spots are occupied by Dellin Betances, Miguel Castro, and Jeurys Familia. This trio could very well become the core of what might be an excellent bullpen.
As previously detailed, Betances induced very weak contact last season, and he would miss a lot of bats. Looking at Baseball Savant, there was also a lot of promise with Jeurys Familia‘s season as he also induced a lot of weak contact, and he had terrific velocity. What really hampered each of their seasons was a mixture of walks and plain old bad defense.
Betances had a 1.56 GB/FB last year, but despite the weak contact, he yielded a .353 BABIP. Familia didn’t have the same issues with ground balls turning into outs as Betances, but he did see a career worst walk rate come back to bite him. Keep in mind, in only two of the 10 appearances where he didn’t walk a batter did the opposition score off of him.
Both relievers will be helped by the improved infield defense we should see with Francisco Lindor at short. Also, while we may see J.D. Davis start at third, in all likelihood, he should be removed late in games for Luis Guillorme thereby making the Mets defense elite for these groundball pitchers who induce weak contact.
Keep in mind, while Betances and Familia have typically had higher walk numbers, neither had really posted numbers that poor in their careers. Part of that could easily be explained by them trying to regain their prior form in a disjointed offseason. Really, both pitchers needed to hone a number of things, and the pandemic really cost them the opportunity to work with Jeremy Hefner like they needed.
Given a normal offseason and Spring Training, it is reasonable to assume both could be reasonably relied upon to at least easily handle the middle innings. Perhaps, they could eventually be reasonably be able to be relied upon for the seventh and eighth. In fact, we should be able to see them close a game or two here and there.
In terms of Castro, no one throws it harder. Really, that makes him a bit of a wild card not too dissimilar to what Hansel Robles used to be for the Mets. If you can harness him, you have an elite reliever. If you don’t you have an interesting mop up reliever. Either which way, he is out of options, and he is going to get every chance for the Mets to be the team to finally unlock his abilities.
When you add Lugo to these relievers, this bullpen could be the envy of every team in the majors. The question for the Mets is what to do in his absence. In terms of that, the Mets have plenty of options.
Joey Lucchesi profiles as a potential elite reliever. We have seen Robert Gsellman be elite out of the bullpen for stretches. If nothing else, we know he can absorb innings. The same could also be true for Jordan Yamamoto. The Mets also have a number of interesting young relievers to throw at the problem with Jacob Barnes, Yennsy Diaz, Sam McWilliams, Sean Reid-Foley, Drew Smith, Stephen Tarpley, and Daniel Zamora. Of course, there is also Mets fan favorite Jerry Blevins here on a minor league deal.
The moral of the story is the Mets have the talent in the bullpen. The real challenge is going to be for Hefner to work with them to get the most out of them. Then, perhaps the even bigger challenge is for Luis Rojas to deploy them properly. Overall, if Hefner and Rojas are successful, the Mets will get the most out of what is an extremely talented group, and we will begin to wonder why exactly we were so overly concerned about adding a big name reliever in the offseason.