Wednesday night's game in Flushing drew many Dodgers fans and many fans of LA's starting pitcher, Hyun-Jin Ryu, from Queens' sizeable Korean-American community. With so many cheers expended on the Dodgers' behalf, you could have closed your eyes and thought the Mets were playing at Chavez Ravine. Once you opened your eyes, though, you would realize immediately that they were actually at Citi Field. Your first clue would have been the fact that the Mets played the way they always do at home: pathetically.
Last week, Jacob deGrom pitched a gem against the Yankees in a tough-luck losing effort, a 1-0 "defeat" that coincided with the one of the Mets' periodic 50-inning scoreless streaks. Tonight, deGrom started out well again by setting down the Dodgers in order in the top of the first. In the second, however, he watched Adrian Gonzalez turn on a high inside fastball and rocket it deep into the Pepsi Porch. It was a towering blast, one that could have easily unnerved a young pitcher who'd just allowed his first home run in the bigs.
Rather than crumble, deGrom knuckled down, mixing his pitches effectively to keep the Dodgers off the board for the next few frames. A leadoff walk in the third was negated when Ryu failed to bunt the runner over, then Dee Gordon lined into an inning-ending double play. In the fourth, a one-out walk to Hanley Ramirez was erased when the runner was caught stealing. Matt Kemp belted a leadoff double in the fifth, but deGrom stranded him at second by inducing two grounders and, following an intentional walk, getting Ryu to line out to third.
Ryu was recently reactivated after hitting the DL with shoulder issues, and didn't make any rehab starts before his return. My theory is this was really a long con to lure opposing batters into a false sense of security, because for most of the evening Ryu certainly didn't look like a pitcher who'd been suffering from anything. Then again, he was also facing the Mets lineup, which has proven good for what ails any pitcher.
On the evening, the Mets collected 13 hits, only to strand runners as if that was the point of baseball. Maybe they think that is the point of baseball. Has anyone told them it isn't?
The early innings proved a master class in offensive ineptitude. Daniel Murphy hit a one-out single in the bottom of the first off of Hyun-Jin Ryu, but the Mets could manage no more against the recently activated lefty. Wilmer Flores collected a two-out hit in the second, but the inning ended when home plate ump Angel Hernandez deemed a pitch that appeared to be high and outside a strike three for Anthony Recker. Granted, grumbling about strike calls is the lowest form of baseball criticism, but I think it's important to remind people that Angel Hernandez is a terrible, terrible umpire.
In the bottom of the third, the Mets loaded the bases on with two outs before Curtis Granderson struck out to end the inning, giving Ryu his sixth K of the night. The lefty added two more Ks in the fourth while recording his first 1-2-3 inning. In the fifth, deGrom delighted the crowd by hitting a leadoff single, giving him a hit in each of his first two big league starts. This enthusiasm was quickly dampened when Lagares hit a hard grounder to first that translated into a double play, and once again the Mets were turned aside.
After Gonzalez's second-inning homer, deGrom had cruised, but the Dodgers abused him with the longball again in the sixth. First, Yasiel Puig took him deep for a one-out solo shot to left center. (For you Brian McCann types, Puig did flip the bat a bit, but wasn't all that flashy in his trot, at least by his own standards.) Then, Hanley Ramirez followed with a dinger of his own to left. deGrom ended the inning with 97 pitches under his belt and no further damage, but the Dodgers now led by the seemingly insurmountable advantage of 3-0.
Down by a thrice, the Mets' half of the sixth began like the previous five, with a David Wright single negated when Chris Young GIDP'ed. But then Granderson blooped a single into shallow left. Eric Campbell followed by also going to left, only much deeper, hitting a ball into Party City territory for a two-run shot. Campbell's blast ended Ryu's scoreless streak on the road (33 IP) and brought the Mets back to within a run.
Things appeared to be looking up for once, especially when Ryu departed after his rough sixth, giving the Mets a chance to take advantage of a reportedly weak Dodgers' bullpen in the seventh. The SNY booth and the stats told us that LA's relievers aren't very good, but the Mets' bats showed they believed otherwise. In the bottom of the seventh, a one-out bunt single by Lagares and a two-out David Wright hit that Puig misplayed into a double put them in a spot to take the lead with a hit, but Chris Young grounded out to third to end the threat.
Carlos Torres was the first line of defense out of the Mets' bullpen, and he set down the Dodgers in order in the seventh. In the eighth, Jeurys Familia put himself in hot water immediately by allowing a leadoff double to pinch hitter Chone Figgins. After Dee Gordon bunted him to third, Puig was unintentionally-intentionally walked to set up a double play. The DP worked wonders for the Dodgers, transforming many a Met single into mere dust. Perhaps it would do the same for the home team. It was so crazy, it almost worked.
Here's the thing about double plays, though: You should probably know how to turn them before you set one up. For insannce, your middle infielders should work out which one of them will cover the second base bag. I've never played professional baseball, but I feel confident in saying this.
The Mets' middle infielders (Murphy and Wilmer Flores) did not do this, despite being given an opportunity to do so by a mound conference that was summoned prior to the next batter. So when Hanley Ramirez hit a comebacker to the mound, Familia wheeled around hoping to start a double play, only to see both Murphy and Flores racing toward second base at the same time. If ever there was a clinic in how to turn an inning-ending double play into an RBI groundout, this was it. Maybe Murph and Flores can turn it into a TED talk in the offseason.
Now down by two runs, the Mets managed a two-out single from Flores in the bottom of the eighth but nothing else against Brian Wilson, whose dyed bearditude has become now the baseball equivalent of posting Keyboard Cat in the year 2014. Jenrry Mejia tossed a 1-2-3 top of the ninth to keep the deficit at two, and a bid was made in the bottom of half when Lagares belted a one-out triple against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. Lagares scored on a Murphy grounder, but LA was happy to trade the run to bring the Mets down to their final out, which was recorded shortly thereafter on a Wright K.
If the games at Citi Field continue to draw paying customers who root for the visitors, maybe the Mets can trick themselves into believing they're actually on the road, where they tend to have a far easier time of things. It'd be a difficult trick to pull off, but seeing as how they've had no luck with the whole hitting and fielding baseballs thing, this might be their only path toward success at home.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Eric Campbell, 12.5%, David Wright, 9.0%
Big losers: Chris Young, -19.2%, Curtis Granderson, -14.0%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Eric Campbell two-run homer, bottom sixth, 19.3%
Teh sux0rest play: Yasiel Puig homer, top sixth, -13.3%
Total pitcher WPA: -13.4%
Total batter WPA: -36.6%
GWRBI!: Hanley Ramirez RBI fielder's choice, top eighth