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Mets vs Rockies Recap: Zack Wheeler dug a hole the Mets couldn’t quite climb out of

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The Mets’ offense came alive, but it wasn’t enough, as the Mets drop the series opener against the Rockies.

MLB: Colorado Rockies at New York Mets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The evening at Citi Field began on a somewhat somber note, as the Mets announced that Matt Harvey will be designated for assignment after declining to accept a minor league assignment. The message to the rest of the pitching staff hung over their heads as the Mets took the field: you are on notice.

LOSE, 8-7

Zack Wheeler didn’t make the best case for himself tonight. The first inning played out like some sort of cruel broken record, with the opposing offense immediately putting up a crooked number. Charlie Blackmon led off the game with a single off of Wheeler’s new splitter he has been experimenting with. That was followed by two more singles from Gerardo Parra and Nolan Arenado to put the Rockies on the board. Carlos Gonzalez then hit a sacrifice fly and it was 2-0 Rockies as the first out of the game was recorded. Trevor Story then doubled to drive in yet another run.

Jay Bruce started his first game at first base for the Mets tonight and had an overall solid night, but made his only blunder of the game on an Ian Desmond bloop to shallow right field. Brandon Nimmo came in and Bruce went out in an attempt to field the ball, but the two ended up nearly colliding and the ball dropped in for a double. Daniel Castro then followed with a two-run single to put the Rockies up 5-0.

It seemed like the inning would mercifully come to an end, as Tony Wolters hit a double play ball, but upon replay review it was determined that Wolters beat the throw to first, so the inning continued. However, Wheeler finally escaped with the pitcher at the plate, inducing a groundout. The five runs were the most the Rockies had scored in the first inning of a road game in six years.

Unlike other games in the recent past, the Mets’ offense immediately responded, as Brandon Nimmo led off the bottom of the first inning with a single, which Asdrubal Cabrera followed up with a two-run shot to put the Mets on the board.

However, Wheeler was unable to put up a zero in the second, as Charlie Blackmon led off the inning with a solo home run to put the Rockies up 6-2. In the third, Jay Bruce would assist Wheeler in his first scoreless inning by making a diving stop at first on a hard-hit ball by Tony Wolters for the third out with Trevor Story standing on second base via a walk and a stolen base.

The Mets then settled into seemingly another night of offensive ineptitude, as the bats fell silent against German Márquez, although Zack Wheeler managed to collect a hit in the fifth inning. The fifth inning was also Zack’s strongest on the mound, as he threw his first 1-2-3 inning of the night, needing just six pitches to do so. It was just what the doctor ordered, as Wheeler had been at 80 pitches through four innings.

But the Rockies struck again in the sixth, this time in the form of a solo home run off the bat of Tony Wolters, his first home run of the year, earning him the silent treatment from his teammates in the dugout. The Mets started to get to Márquez a bit in the bottom of the inning, as Asdrubal Cabrera led off the inning with a drive to deep left, on which Gerardo Parra made a nice over the shoulder catch on the warning track. Cespedes and Bruce then both singled. Todd Frazier then hit into what should have been an inning-ending double play, but Ian Desmond dropped the throw to first, allowing the inning to continue and giving Michael Conforto a chance to come through. But Conforto foul tipped the ball into Wolters’ glove for strike three to end the inning, his third strikeout of the night.

With his pitch count in the nineties, Wheeler was allowed to come back out for the seventh inning. But Mickey Callaway quickly pulled the plug after Wheeler gave up an infield hit to Nolan Arenado and a walk to Carlos Gonzalez to start the inning. Seth Lugo was called upon to finish the inning. Lugo struck out Trevor Story looking, but then gave up an RBI single to Ian Desmond for the Rockies’ eighth run. Daniel Castro then drove a ball into the gap that seemed destined to be an extra base hit, but Brandon Nimmo made a nice snag to reel it in and prevent further damage. Lugo induced a flyout to retire Tony Wolters to close the book on Zack Wheeler, who was charged with eight runs on ten hits—the latest ugly pitching line for the back end of the Mets’ rotation, which currently holds an abysmal 7.41 ERA.

With the Mets not having scored since the first inning, the game certainly seemed out of reach at this point. However, Seth Lugo held the Rockies where they were, pitching two additional scoreless innings of relief and giving the Mets the opportunity to chip away at the Rockies’ lead.

And chip away they did. Chris Rusin took the mound in the bottom of the eighth inning for the Rockies. Yoenis Cespedes led off the inning with a walk. Jay Bruce then flew out to shallow left field for the first out. But then Todd Frazier blasted a two-run homer to bring the Mets within four.

Jake McGee started the ninth inning for the Rockies, but things got dicey quickly for McGee when Wilmer Flores led off with a pinch hit double. Amed Rosario followed that up with an RBI single to make it 8-5. Bud Black, in an effort to not let the game get away, then turned to his closer Wade Davis to finish the job. Davis retired Brandon Nimmo on a popup for the first out. But then Asdrubal Cabrera smacked an RBI triple to score Rosario and suddenly the Mets were within two. Wade Davis was able to strike out Yoenis Cespedes looking for the second out, but Jay Bruce worked out a walk. Mickey Callaway replaced Bruce on the base paths with Jose Reyes, representing the tying run. Todd Frazier then drove a 2-2 pitch into left field for a single to score Cabrera and bring the Mets within one run, advancing Reyes to third base. For the second time in the game, Michael Conforto was up in a big spot with two outs. Todd Frazier stole second base on a piece of heads up base-running as the catcher Wolters attempted to hold the ball on a pitch he was trying to frame for Davis’ benefit, putting the winning run in scoring position. Conforto earned his golden sombrero at an inopportune time, striking out to end the game in anticlimactic fashion.

Conforto certainly has not looked good at the plate lately, but it is hard to hang the loss on him when the Mets did manage to score seven runs against a solid pitching staff, putting together good at-bats against one of the premier closers in the game. Ultimately, Zack Wheeler put this game out of reach by digging the Mets a big hole early and not completely stemming the tide. The Mets’ offense is full of enough good hitters to not stay silent for too long, but the back end of the rotation has failed utterly to do its job. And with the Matt Harvey news still fresh on everyone’s minds, one has to wonder whose job may be in jeopardy next.

Steven Matz, returning to action after having his start pushed back due to back tightness, looks to buck that trend tomorrow night, as he goes up against Chad Bettis, who has had a strong start to his season, going 3-1 with a 2.43 ERA over his first six starts.

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Win Probability Added

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What’s WPA?

Big winners: Asdrubal Cabrera, +14.3% WPA, Todd Frazier, +11.5% WPA
Big losers: Zack Wheeler, -39.9% WPA, Michael Conforto, -28.8% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Asdrubal Cabrera’s first inning two-run homer, +10.2% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Michael Conforto strikes out swinging to end the game, -23.5% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -39.6% WPA
Total batter WPA: -10.4%
GWRBI!: Ian Desmond