Mets vs. Nationals Recap: The bullpen blows two leads, Mets lose opener

Elsa

The Mets' bullpen is in mid-season form!

Mets baseball returned this afternoon. Unfortunately, the Mets’ bullpen returned, too.

Opening Day got off to a promising start for the team, as Dillon Gee threw a scoreless top of the first inning and the Mets put runners on first and third in the bottom of the frame on a pair of singles by Juan Lagares and David Wright. Andrew Brown—who was only in the starting lineup because Daniel Murphy was in Florida for the birth of his child and Chris Young was held out with a mild quad strain—hit a long three-run home run against Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg.

With a three-run lead, Gee walked Bryce Harper to begin the second inning. Ian Desmond grounded into a 6-4 fielder’s choice, a play that would have mostly gone unnoticed if Bryce Harper hadn’t smacked his head into Eric Young Jr.’s leg as he slid to break up the double play. Harper got the worst of the collision, though he remained in the game.

Unfortunately for the Mets, a double play would have really come in handy, as Gee then served up a very long home run to Adam LaRoche. He got through the rest of the second unscathed, though, and retired fifteen straight Nationals from there.

Travis d’Arnaud walked, and Ruben Tejada singled to begin the bottom of the second. Gee bunted them over, and Eric Young plated d’Arnaud with a sacrifice fly to put the Mets ahead 4-2. Strasburg didn’t retire fifteen in a row like Gee after that, but he did prevent the Mets from scoring through the sixth inning.

Gee began the top of the seventh by striking out Wilson Ramos—the fifteenth of his fifteen straight outs—but yielded an infield single to Harper to break the streak. After another Ian Desmond fielder’s choice retired Harper at second, a tired-looking Gee walked Adam LaRoche. Terry Collins stuck with him, though, and Gee gave up a double to Anthony Rendon. The Nationals scored just one run on the play, but they had runners on second and third.

That was all for Gee, and Terry Collins brought in Carlos Torres. Last year, Torres rarely walked anyone, especially as a relief pitcher, but he issued a four-pitch walk to Nate McLouth. That was the end of his day, as Collins called upon Scott Rice to face the left-handed Denard Span with the bases loaded. Rice, of course, issued a game-tying four-pitch walk. That was it for him, too.

With the bases still loaded, Jose Valverde came in and struck out Ryan Zimmerman. A complete bullpen meltdown had been averted, at least temporarily. The Mets—Tejada, Lucas Duda, and Eric Young, specifically—were retired in order in the bottom of the inning, but Valverde came back out and threw a 1-2-3 eighth.

Juan Lagares led off the bottom of the eight with a solo home run against Tyler Clippard. It was the only run the Mets scored that inning, but for a minute there, it felt like the Mets were going to pull off a win after nearly completely blowing it.

Bobby Parnell made his first appearance of the season in the ninth. While he threw an 89 mile-per-hour fastball out of the gate, he was throwing in the low-to-mid 90s by the time the inning ended. But it ended with the game tied. Ian Desmond led off with a single, but Parnell got LaRoche to pop out and struck out Rendon. He very nearly struck out Danny Espinosa to end the game, but home plate umpire Tim Welke called ball four on a pitch that very well could have been strike three. It wasn’t Welke’s worst strike zone call of the day, either. Denard Span followed up with a double, Desmond scored, and the Nationals had tied the game.

The Mets didn’t score in the bottom of the ninth, and they really struggled in the top of the tenth. Jeurys Familia came into the game and gave up a bloop single to Jayson Werth. The Mets’ outfield had been playing very deep, and neither Eric Young nor Juan Lagares was anywhere near the ball by the time it landed. Jose Lobaton then hit a broken bat through the right side of the infield that Omar Quintanilla, then the second baseman, couldn’t reach. And a passed ball by Travis d’Arnaud allowed both baserunners to advance.

So with runners at second and third and nobody out, Familia struck out Harper. He gave up a sacrifice fly to Ian Desmond, though, giving the Nationals the lead and bringing Terry Collins back out to the mound. John Lannan took over to face the left-handed LaRoche, but he walked him and gave up a three-run home run to Anthony Rendon. The Nationals were up 9-5.

After Jeremy Blevins struck out Lucas Duda and Eric Young to begin the bottom of the tenth, Juan Lagares drew a walk and David Wright hit a two-run home run to bring the Mets within two. Curtis Granderson then struck out for the third time in the game, and the Mets had lost.

All in all, it wasn’t a great way to begin a baseball season. The unexpected offense against Stephen Strasburg made for a pleasant surprise, and Dillon Gee was pretty good, even though things went a little haywire for him in the seventh. The Mets’ bullpen, however, picked up right where it left off the past few years, and had a dreadful afternoon.

SB Nation Coverage

* Amazin' Avenue GameThread
* Federal Baseball GameThread

Win Probability Added

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Big winners: Juan Lagares, +28.5% WPA, Andrew Brown, +23.7%, Jose Valverde, +21.3% WPA
Big losers: Jeurys Familia, -35.9% WPA, Bobby Parnell, -24.5% WPA, Scott Rice, -20.6% WPA, John Lannan, -12.8% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Lagares’s go-ahead home run in the eighth, +29.0% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Span’s game-tying double in the ninth, -38.9% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -80.0% WPA
Total batter WPA: +30.0% WPA
GWRBI!: Anthony Rendon

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