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Throw a damn strike

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Not many losses are uglier than that.

MLB: Washington Nationals at New York Mets Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

In their first meltdown of the season, the Mets blew a five-run lead to the Nats in an 8-6 loss. Jacob deGrom’s brilliant start was wasted by the bullpen’s total inability to throw a strike, and the offense had nothing left to give after the Nats rallied to take the lead in the eighth.

Jacob deGrom started the game fast, inducing a pop-up from Trea Turner and striking out Howie Kendrick on a great changeup. Bryce Harper spoiled things a bit with one of the most ridiculous home runs you’ll ever see, breaking his bat but hitting the ball 406 feet anyway. deGrom bounced back with a quick strikeout of Ryan Zimmerman, but the Nats had a 1-0 lead.

No matter, the Mets have made a habit of responding to opponent’s runs immediately and they did the same tonight. Michael Conforto doubled off the left field wall (with an assist to Matt Adams, left fielder), and Todd Frazier followed that up with an RBI single to tie the game at one. It was the 15th time in 32 chances that the Mets have answered an opponent’s score with one of their own in the next half inning.

Frazier came through again in the third. Asdrubal Cabrera beat out an infield single, and Michael Conforto followed with a walk to put runners on first and second with one out. Jeremy Hellickson left a fastball over the middle of the plate, and the Todd Father promptly bounced it off the left field wall. Cabrera scored, but Conforto was thrown out at the plate on what was a really terrible send by Glenn Sherlock. Regardless, the Mets had a 2-0 lead.

That seemed like more than enough support for deGrom, as he cruised through the first five innings. Basically every batter looked lost, as deGrom blew them away with high heat or got them to chase off-speed stuff out of the zone. It was easily the best we’ve seen deGrom so far this season.

In the top of the sixth, things got a little dicey, when Trea Turner singled with one out. Howie Kendrick struck out, but Turner then made the mistake of stealing second, which gave the Mets an excuse to intentionally walk Bryce Harper. That brought the struggling Ryan Zimmerman to the plate with two on and two out, and deGrom only needed two pitches to induce a weak comebacker to end the threat.

Aggressive baserunning from Juan Lagares (steals of second and third) and a safety squeeze from deGrom added another run in the bottom of the sixth. Amed Rosario had an RBI groundout to make it 4-1. Brandon Nimmo lined a triple and Asdrubal Cabrera launched a two-run home run to make it 6-1 in the bottom of the seventh, and it seemed like the game was on ice.

The game was not on ice. deGrom came back out for the start of the eighth and got one out before putting runners on first and second. He finished his night after 7.1 innings, striking out twelve and giving up six hits to go with an intentional walk. The win should have been his, as a Met starter finally went deep into a game to give the bullpen a break.

Instead, every Met pitcher forgot how to throw strikes. Seth Lugo came in and walked Howie Kendrick on four pitches to load the bases. Jerry Blevins beat Bryce Harper inside with a fastball that broke his bat, but the ball trickled into right field for a two-run single. AJ Ramos struck out Ryan Zimmeman on a generous third strike call, then gave up a single to Pedro Severino to re-load the bases. He then walked Matt Reynolds, owner of a career 73 wRC+, on four pitches to push in another run. The score was now 6-4.

Jeurys Familia entered and gave up a soft ground ball single to Wilmer Difo. Bryce Harper and Pedro Severino scored to tie the game. Familia then plunked Moises Sierra and walked Michel A. Taylor to push in another run, and the Nationals now lead 7-6. Four Met relievers combined to throw 21 balls in 34 pitches, retire only two of the nine batters to face them, and allow six runs to score en route to blowing a five run lead.

The Mets emptied their bench in the top of the ninth and came up empty, as Yoenis Cespedes, Wilmer Flores, and Jay Bruce all hit the ball hard and got nothing. Hansel Robles gave up a home run to Howie Kendrick in the top of the ninth to put things even further out of reach, and Asdrubal Cabrera ran the Mets out of a potential threat in the bottom of the ninth with a boneheaded attempt to advance to third on a ball in the dirt. Michael Conforto grounded out, and the Mets had their first loss to the Nats of the season.

This loss, for lack of a better word, sucks. I’d say it’s unbelievable, but the problems with the Mets bullpen were evident even before tonight. This organization has a hardline philosophy of not giving out major deals to relief pitchers, and that led to them trading for the one year contract of AJ Ramos instead of signing one of the better arms on the market this offseason. That issue is exacerbated by Anthony Swarzak being on the shelf, likely for a couple more weeks.

Regardless, it’s one game. The Mets are still 12-3, and there are more positives than negatives in the early season. No, this will not ‘spark’ the Nationals and no, this will not start a spiral that sends the Mets to the bottom of the division. This is a flawed team, but one that has shown it can give us some fun moments and be a competitor, at least most nights. Zack Wheeler takes the mound opposite Gio Gonzalez tonight night as the Mets look to wash the taste of this ugly, ugly game out of our mouths.

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Win Probability Added

What’s WPA?

Big winners: Jacob deGrom, +28.0% WPA; Todd Frazier, +14.1% WPA
Big losers: Jeurys Familia, -52.4% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Todd Frazier singles to drive in MIchael Conforto in the first, +10.9% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Wilmer Difo hits a two-run single to right to tie the game in the eighth, -30.0% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -47.2% WPA
Total batter WPA: -2.8% WPA
GWRBI!: Michael A. Taylor is walked by Jeurys Familia with the bases loaded in the eighth