If you missed tonight's game because you were still brooding about the US losing to Belgium or because you knocked off early this week for the 4th of July or because you just don't feel like watching the Mets (all legit excuses), then allow me to assure you that the Mets did not throw away the game like they did on Monday night. They chose instead to allow a mystifying series of run-scoring two-out hits, and to do absolutely nothing against some of the lesser lights of the Braves' bullpen.
The game begain inauspiciously, as the Mets' bats stayed quiet against Braves southpaw Mike Minor. After Curtis Granderson hit a leadoff single, Minor retired the following three batters, striking out two of them. He set down the Mets in order in the top of the second second while adding another K to his line.
Daisuke Matsuzaka retired the first five batters he faced before Chris Johnson zipped a two-out single past Lucas Duda in the bottom of the third. After Johnson stole second (thanks in part to a Travis d'Arnaud throw that was airmailed into the outfield), Dice-K nailed Tommy La Stella in the ankle to put two men on. Christian Bethancourt then lined Matsuzaka's next pitch into center field. Juan Lagares came up firing and it appeared there might be a play at the plate, but the pitcher cut off the throw and chose to catch a hobbled La Stella in a rundown. La Stella was tagged for the final out, but only after Johnson scored the game's first run.
Bethancourt's single was the very fist hit Dice-K gave up all season with two outs and a runner in scoring position. Unfortunately for the Mets, it woudn't be the last. Having broken the streak, Matsuzaka seemed determined to start another, less enviable one.
You could say this for the Mets tonight: They had counterpunches for the Braves' assaults. Not enough to matter, ultimately, but as someone once said, they battled. Lagares began the top of the third with a bunt toward the third base side of the infield that Minor fielded a bit too nonchalantly, allowing the runner to beat the throw to first. After a sac bunt from Dice-K, Granderson crushed a Minor slider over the fence in right-center for a two-run homer, the first longball Minor had given up to lefty this season. This, and Granderson's leadoff homer from last night, prove there's at least one Met who likes Turner Field.
Though Ruben Tejada and Eric Campbell singled after Gradnerson's shot, both were stranded, and in the bottom half of the inning Dice-K once again found two-out trouble. After he recorded the first two outs with little trouble, Andrelton Simmons smashed a line drive toward third that banked off of Campbell's glove for a single. That brought Freddie Freeman to the plate. Every Freeman at bat against the Mets is like The Monster At The End of This Book, with a chorus of Mets fans playing the part of Grover, begging the pitcher please, please, pleeeeease don't turn that page. In this case, Freeman belted a double off the wall in left-center to drive in Simmons and tie the game at 2. Also, did you know that you are very strong?
The top of the fourth brought a two-out single by Tejada but nothing else, while the bottom half brought yet more two-out damage. After Johnson worked a leadoff walk, he advanced to second on a groundout to first. Dice-K struck out Bethancourt for the second out, and with the pitcher Minor up next, it looked like he would escape unscathed. But Minor swung at his first pitch and laced it up the middle. Johnson easily beat the throw home to put the Braves ahead. Even more two-out poison followed shortly as B.J. Upton singled as Minor ran first to third, Upton stole second, and Simmons drove both of them in by singling past Campbell. Soup is a decent sub, but some ugly plays last night and tonight reminded us that his range at the hot corner makes Derek Jeter look like Brooks Robinson.
The Mets battled just enough in the top of the fifth to tease anyone with a sliver of hope left in their cold, damaged Mets fan heart. With one out, Tejada earned a free pass (Minor's first walk of the evening), then Daniel Murphy cracked a two-run homer to right, almost in the same spot as Granderson's. A pair of singles by Campbell and Duda put runners on the corners with one out, putting the Mets in prime position to tie the game and bringing down the curtain on Minor's night.
Chris Young hit a flyball against Atlanta reliever Shae Simmons, but not deep enough for Campbell to tag up, and whatever two-out magic the Braves proved not contagious as Travis d'Arnaud struck out on three pitches. That would prove to be as close as they Mets would get to clawing out of the hole dug by Dice-K. Simmons returned for the sixth inning and proceeded to the set down the Mets in order, and Luis Avilan did the same in the seventh. The Mets finally found their way on the basepaths again when Travis d'Arnaud hit a two-out single against Jordan Walden in the eighth, but Lagares struck out to end this quote-unquote rally.
Mets pitchers were just as good over this stretch, though it would ultimately do them little good. Dice-K began his half of the fifth with another struggle, issuing a leadoff walk to Justin Upton, but recovered to fan the next three batters in a row. Carlos Torres took his place in the sixth and continued the trend by striking out the side, then set down the Braves in order in the seventh (with some help from a great running catch by Lagares on the final out of the inning). Torres nearly added another perfect inning in the eighth, but hurt his own cause by making a bad throw to first on a two-out comebacker.
Craig Kimbrel took the mound for the ninth and, per usual, made Mets batters look hopelessly overmatched. By this point you were no doubt doing something much better with your evening. Don't worry, you missed nothing, as opposed to Mets batters, who missed everything Kimbrel threw as he earned the save. The Mets have now lost an MLB-worst 20 one-run games, which actually feels like a low tally to me. If only the Mets would work a few more blowout losses into their pathetic showings, then we could all safely look away for a while.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Curtis Granderson, 16.7%; Daniel Murphy, 8.9%
Big losers: Daisuke Matsuzaka, -38.8%; Chris Young, -17.7%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Curtis Granderson two-run homer, top third, 21.1%
Teh sux0rest play: Andrelton Simmons two-run single, bottom fourth, -16.7%
Total pitcher WPA: -28.8%
Total batter WPA: -21.2%
GWRBI!:Andrelton Simmons two-run single, bottom fourth