This was supposed to be Jacob deGrom's day.
When he took the mound yesterday at Citi Field against the White Sox, the answer was a resounding yes. He finished his seven innings of work with 10 strikeouts—his first double-digit strikeout game of the season—and only two walks.
It wasn't enough, however, as one bad pitch, an absentee Mets offense, and a journeyman reliever sought to bring down the Mets in the rubber game of this interleague series. After 13 innings, four hours and 41 minutes, and more missed opportunities than you can count, the White Sox skipped town with a 2-1 victory and the series win.
There were times when Chicago seemingly wanted to gift the Mets a win. White Sox pitchers issued a staggering 13 walks in the game. The last time a team earned that many free passes and lost was a 1953 contest between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Reds.
White Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez was there for the taking, giving up five free passes alone. Besides the Rene Rivera single in the second inning to plate newcomer James Loney, the Mets couldn't get runners across the plate.
The Mets' best chance came to open up the game arrived in the bottom of the sixth inning. White Sox reliever Dan Jennings had come on to take the ball from Gonzalez, and after giving up a walk and a single to Neil Walker and Juan Lagares, he walked Ty Kelly to load the bases. The left-handed Jennings was yanked in favor of Zach Putnam. With the bases loaded and two outs, all Rene Rivera had to do was get the ball to land somewhere in the outfield. He worked a full count and promptly struck out swinging.
The Mets were hanging onto a 1-0 lead in the top of the seventh when Todd Frazier stepped up to bat. Frazier lives and dies by his power when he's at the plate, and that's what deGrom fell victim to. Having fallen behind 1-0, deGrom left a changeup hanging, and Frazier smacked it 411 feet to left-center field.
With the score tied, the White Sox bullpen went to work sitting Mets hitters down. The Sox relievers had struggled during Chicago's recent losing streak but found their footing against the Mets throughout the series. Wednesday was no different. Zach Duke logged three strikeouts in the seventh. Nate Jones forced a double play to close the eighth. Jones went 1-2-3 in the ninth. The Mets failed to capitalize on a walk and a single off of David Robertson in the eleventh. Michael Conforto epitomized the Mets' offensive struggles, going 0-for-6 with four strikeouts.
The game's unlikely hero was a man probably best known for something he hasn't done rather than something he has. When Matt Albers took the mound in the twelfth inning, he had at one point held the record for most consecutive games finished without logging a save. He added to his tally on Wednesday, pitching the final two innings for the Sox, striking out one, walking two, and stranding two.
But the reason Albers became the hero on Wednesday was because of that rarest of flowers: The AL reliever hit. You normally expect any AL pitcher in an NL park to just stand there and not make too much of an embarrassment of themselves. Indeed, if the pitcher's spot comes up after the starter's been removed, the natural move is to put in a pinch hitter. This was an extra-innings scenario, however, and manager Robin Ventura was running out of options in his bullpen. He had to keep Albers in.
What's more, Albers was leading off. They couldn't afford a three-pitch looking strikeout. The team had to score. So Albers did what any AL reliever would do: He worked a 2-2 count and promptly smacked a double to center field. A wild pitch and a Jose Abreu sacrifice fly later, Albers crossed home plate. Baseball is weird sometimes.
The Mets fly to Miami knowing that the offense needs to get back on track. They can be encouraged, however, that aces deGrom and Matt Harvey may already be back on track. The team's lifeblood is its starting rotation, and if the five-headed monster rears itself every day, the Mets have a chance to stay in the hunt for the NL East.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Jim Henderson (22.4%)
Big losers: Logan Verrett (-26.3)
Teh aw3s0mest play: Rene Rivera RBI single in 2nd
Teh sux0rest play: Matt Albers double in 13th
Total pitcher WPA: 44.9%
Total batter WPA: -94.9%
GWRBI!: Jose Abreu