The Mets had no shortage of chances in their 5-2 loss to the Dodgers to open the homestand at Citi Field. After Alex Wood struck out the side in the first, the Mets gave him his first hill to climb in the second, loading the bases with one out. But Amed Rosario grounded into a force out and Zack Wheeler struck out swinging, allowing Wood to escape the jam.
Wheeler continued to build on his comeback season early in the game, with the revitalized snap from his pitches we are used to seeing of late. His newly featured splitter was working and he began his outing with two 1-2-3 innings, striking out the side in the second. Kike Hernandez singled to lead off the third inning and made it to third on a sacrifice bunt from Wood and a balk by Wheeler. Joc Pederson then drove a ball into the gap that seemed destined for the warning track, but Michael Conforto made a tremendous leaping grab to rob Pederson and save a run. If you missed this game and are looking to save yourself time and pain—and who isn’t—do yourself a favor and watch the video of Conforto’s catch and nothing else. It will get buried as yet another play in yet another Mets loss, but it was truly something to behold.
After retiring eight Mets in a row, Wood faced his second instance of adversity in the fifth. Devin Mesoraco laced a soft single, followed by a bloop hit by Amed Rosario. Rosario had gotten a hanger preceding his single, but unfortunately pulled it just foul down the line, narrowly missing extra bases. Wheeler and Brandon Nimmo then struck out back-to-back, which left it to Todd Frazier to try to knock in some runs for the Mets. Unfortunately, Frazier was robbed of a hit by Justin Turner, going nicely to his left to snag an awkward hop. Frazier slammed down his batting helmet in frustration, understanding as well as the fans watching that he has been hitting into his fair share of bad luck lately.
Meanwhile, Wheeler pitched a 1-2-3 fifth inning and appeared to be cruising, having struck out six batters through five innings of work and holding the Dodgers scoreless. However, things all went south for Wheeler in the sixth. Pederson ran the count full on Wheeler and earned the base on balls on a questionable ball four call. This seemed to rattle Wheeler, who then walked Max Muncy on four pitches. Turner then hit a ball to shallow center and Nimmo made a diving catch to rob him of a bloop hit. Matt Kemp then strode to the plate and Wheeler’s discomfort on the mound showed again when he seemed to forget how to pitch mid-pitch, throwing a slow looping pitch for a ball that nearly sailed over Mesoraco’s head. Kemp then singled to load the bases for Cody Bellinger. Wheeler threw a hanger on an 0-2 pitch and Bellinger didn’t miss it, hitting a monstrous grand slam to put the Dodgers ahead 4-0. It was one of the only mistakes Wheeler made all night, but it was a costly one that soiled what could have been another encouraging outing for the young righty, who has been showing his best stuff since his return from Tommy John surgery.
Alas, the Mets offense has returned to its pre-Coors Field state and was unable to bail Wheeler out. Their only runs came in the bottom of the sixth. Jose Bautista—who helped Wheeler escape the top of the inning by gunning down Yasiel Puig to double him off first base—hit a two-run homer to bring the Mets within two runs. It was Bautista’s first home run as a New York Met. To his credit, Wheeler responded by putting up a zero in the seventh. He threw 114 pitches over his seven innings of work, the most pitches in any start since his Tommy John surgery.
Scott Alexander entered the game for the Dodgers in relief of Alex Wood and pitched a scoreless seventh, working around a pinch-hit single from Jose Reyes. Anthony Swarzak threw a seven-pitch, 1-2-3 eighth inning in relief of Wheeler. The Mets’ best chance at a comeback came in the bottom of the eighth. Asdrubal Cabrera led off the inning with an infield hit, which Hernandez was unable to handle. Wilmer Flores struck out swinging for the first out. Conforto then hit what seemed to be an easy double play grounder, but Muncy—showing his inexperience at second base—dropped the ball. Cabrera was able to advance to third base on the error because the Dodgers had the shift on against Conforto, with no one in proximity to cover third base. This brought the go-ahead run to the plate in Bautista, who had the chance to twice play the hero. Instead, in very Mets fashion, he promptly hit his own double play ball, which the Dodgers were successful in fielding the second time around to end the inning.
With the game still within striking distance, Mickey Callaway turned to Jerry Blevins to face Bellinger to lead off the top of the ninth. Blevins did his job, getting Bellinger to fly out to left field. Chris Beck was tasked with finishing the inning and surrendered a solo home run to Puig to extend the Dodgers’ lead to 5-2. Beck then got two quick outs, but the game was even further out of reach.
The Mets went quietly in the ninth against Dodgers’ closer Kenley Jansen, with Dominic Smith striking out as a pinch hitter to end the game. After a three-game winning streak that included a feel good, come from behind victory, the Mets have now dropped four straight. Their ineptitude against the Dodgers continues, as they have now lost ten straight games to a team that has Chase Utley on it, dating back to May 2016, which is irritating.
On the bright side, Jacob deGrom is pitching in game two of this three game set. The bad news is that Clayton Kershaw is now set to oppose him in his return from the disabled list. It should be one heck of a matchup, provided that rain doesn’t spoil the fun.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: None
Big losers: Brandon Nimmo, -15.1% WPA, Todd Frazier, -12.6% WPA, Zack Wheeler, -11% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Jose Bautista’s two-run homer, +11.9% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Cody Bellinger’s grand slam off Zack Wheeler, -27.8% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -11.6% WPA
Total batter WPA: -38.4% WPA
GWRBI!: Cody Bellinger