Going into his debut as a starter this season, Seth Lugo emphasized that he would approach it like he had his relief appearances this season. It certainly showed, as Lugo was fantastic over his four innings of work, despite getting no run support from the Mets offense. Perhaps one day Lugo will join Jacob deGrom in therapy.
Lugo began his night bearing down after giving up a two-out double to Kris Bryant in the top of the first, jamming Anthony Rizzo inside on two pitches in a row, the second of which resulted in a little looper to Amed Rosario to end the inning. Jose Quintana immediately answered by striking out the side in the bottom of the first, mostly using high fastballs.
Lugo had a 1-2-3 second inning and for a second it looked like the Mets may have had something going in the bottom of the frame when Michael Conforto led off the inning with an opposite field base hit. However, Conforto was tagged out at second by a mile, as he somewhat foolishly attempted to test the arm of Kyle Schwarber. Lugo worked around two hits—one of them a soft blooper by Jason Heyward—in the top of the third.
The bottom of the third is when the Mets had their best opportunity to strike against Quintana. Lugo helped his own cause by working out a one-out walk. Brandon Nimmo followed with a double to advance Lugo to third. Asdrubal Cabrera then also worked out a walk on a very good at-bat, working back from behind in the count. However, Jose Bautista, who had been very hot with the bat coming into the night, struck out looking for a key second out on what was admittedly a very nice pitch from Quintana. Michael Conforto ended the threat by grounding out to first for the final out of the inning. The Mets allowed Quintana to settle in after that, as he retired the last eleven Mets he faced in a row.
For his part, Lugo also ended his night on a high note, pitching a 1-2-3 fourth inning and exiting the game after 60 pitches out of an abundance of caution, given he had never thrown more than 48 pitches in a game prior to last night. Hansel Robles replaced Lugo and followed up his solid performance on Monday night with a less solid one. Robles induced a foul popup from Kyle Schwarber to lead off the inning, but with the shift on, there was no one close enough to the ball to catch it. Devin Mesoraco put forth a valiant effort, but came up empty. Schwarber then went on to take first base via a walk. Robles was able to strike out Ian Happ and Jose Quintana popped up on a bunt attempt for the second out. But Robles was unable to put the inning away, as he gave up a two-run homer to Ben Zobrist to put the Cubs on the board.
The Cubs didn’t look back from there and punished the Mets’ beleaguered bullpen all night. Jerry Blevins—now being tasked with whole innings earlier in the game in lower leverage situations—came in to pitch the sixth and didn’t fare much better than Robles. Again the damage came with two outs, as Javier Baez double down the left field line and Kyle Schwarber hit a single to drive him in and increase the Cubs’ lead to 3-0. The Cubs then tacked on yet another run in the seventh off Buddy Baumann, who walked the pinch hitter Albert Almora to lead off the inning. Ben Zobrist then smoked a double, advancing Almora to third. Almora quickly scored on a groundout by Jason Heyward to make the score 4-0 Cubs. Baumann was able to get Anthony Rizzo to strike out looking, but then walked Willson Contreras.
Mickey Callaway then turned to the righty Scott Copeland to face Javier Baez and Copeland struck out Baez on three pitches to strand the runners on base. Copeland was the only Mets’ reliever to not give up a run and had a positive major league debut, going on to pitch a scoreless eighth, working around a pinch hit single by Tommy La Stella. Gerson Bautista gave the Cubs one final insurance run in the ninth—the result of back-to-back hits by Bryant and Rizzo, followed by a sacrifice fly by Willson Contreras.
In the bottom of the eighth, Brandon Nimmo blasted a solo homer run to right center field off of Brian Duensing, who was following Steve Chisek, who pitched a 1-2-3 seventh. Joe Maddon brought in his set-up man Pedro Strop to get the final out of the inning, facing Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera popped out on the first pitch to end the inning. Strop was asked to finish off the game, but surrendered two walks to Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce, forcing Joe Maddon to bring in his closer Brandon Morrow for the final out. Morrow got Amed Rosario to ground out on the second pitch he threw to end the game.
Brandon Nimmo was responsible for half of the Mets’ hits and all of the Mets’ runs this evening and continues to be one of the lone bright spots for the Mets of late. Seth Lugo’s strong first appearance as a starter is certainly another positive to take away from the game. Hopefully he can build on that success in his next start—and it’s likely he will get at least one more start with Noah Syndergaard on the disabled list—and make a strong case to remain in the rotation even once the Mets’ starters are all healthy.
In the meantime, the Mets’ bullpen is feeling Lugo’s absence, as injuries have forced the Mets to scrape the very bottom of the barrel of their pitching depth. The only member of the bullpen to do his job was Scott Copeland, who is perhaps making a case to stick around a little longer. Anthony Swarzak’s return is imminent and he will provide a much-needed boost to the Mets’ bullpen.
However, even though the Mets’ bullpen continues to dabble in mediocrity, the offense remains inconsistent and the Mets can’t hope to win very often scoring just one run. They had Jose Quintana, who had been having a relatively inconsistent season himself, backed against a wall in the third inning and failed to take advantage. Seemingly all too often, the Mets avoid putting up a crooked number against a struggling pitcher and subsequently allow him to settle in for the later innings.
The Mets look to turn the series around against Tyler Chatwood, as Zack Wheeler takes the hill for the second game of this four-game series.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Seth Lugo, +20.8% WPA
Big losers: Hansel Robles, -22.8% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Brandon Nimmo’s third inning double, +9.7% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Hansel Robles gives up a two-run homer to Ben Zobrist in the fifth, -25.5% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -12.2% WPA
Total batter WPA: -37.5% WPA
GWRBI!: Ben Zobrist