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Mets lose rollercoaster game in walk-off fashion

Jason Vargas did not give the Mets much length in his return from the disabled list and eventually the bullpen cracked.

MLB: New York Mets at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets dropped the second game of the series in Pittsburgh 5-4 on a walk-off RBI single from David Freese, who drove in all five of the Pirates’ runs.

The Mets looked primed for another offensive barrage, as they tagged Ivan Nova for three runs in the first inning. Brandon Nimmo walked with one out and Wilmer Flores advanced him to third on a hustle double. Then newly invigorated Michael Conforto belted a three-run shot to put the Mets up 3-0. Jose Bautista kept the rally going with a single, but Jeff McNeil grounded into a double play to end the inning.

Alas, the Mets would not go on to score double digit runs this time around, perhaps partially because shortly before the game, they traded one of their best offensive weapons, Asdrubal Cabrera, to the Phillies. The Mets allowed Nova to settle in and he threw a seven pitch second inning.

The Pirates chipped away at the Mets’ lead in the bottom of the second, as Elias Diaz—who gave the Mets trouble all night—led off the inning with a single. It could have been more, but Conforto backed up a missed dive from Nimmo nicely to keep him at first base. It didn’t matter, however, as the next batter Freese hit a two-run homer to make the score 3-2. Jason Vargas bounced back after giving up the homer and would go on to retire seven Pirates in a row.

Vargas’ night ended in the fifth after he gave up a one out single to Diaz. All told, it was a so-so return to the mound for Vargas who did settle down after giving up the home run, but also was hit relatively hard all night and benefitted from some nice defensive plays behind him. Nonetheless, he left the game with the lead in tact and Mickey Callaway turned to Seth Lugo, the most trusted member of the Mets bullpen with Jeurys Familia gone.

This time Lugo didn’t get the job done. He was obviously struggling with his usually lethal curveball, opting to rely heavily on his slider instead, which did not go well. He did win an eight-pitch battle with Josh Harrison to retire him for the second out, but then Placido Polanco slapped a bouncer down the third base line against the shift that Reyes was unable to field and throw in time to get him at first. Lugo then walked Diaz to load the bases. Freese then struck again with an RBI single and the Pirates took the lead 4-3. Amed Rosario, who didn’t have a good night at the plate but had a good day with the glove, then made a nice play to snag a grounder off the bat of Adam Frazier to end the inning. Frazier came in the game when Josh Bell seemed to tweak something running out a groundout the inning before, moving Sean Rodriguez to first base.

The Mets were able to respond in the top of the sixth. Nova walked two straight batters to lead off the inning, which led to the end of his night. He was replaced by Edgar Santana. McNeil then pushed a beauty of a bunt—the second time he’s done that since being called up—down the third base line that Santana rushed trying to field and was unable to get McNeil, loading the bases with nobody out. Kevin Plawecki struck out swinging for the first out. Jose Reyes then lined out to Jordan Luplow in left field and Michael Conforto tagged up and came halfway down the line and normally would have stopped as the throw came home, but Luplow’s throw was wild, going all the way to the backstop. Santana failed to back up the play and Conforto was able to slide in and score to tie the game at four. Phillip Evans was unable to keep the inning going as a pinch hitter and grounded out to third.

The battle of the bullpens then began for the duration with the game staying tied at four into the late innings. With Seth Lugo having thrown 28 pitches just to make it through the fifth, he did not put in his customary second inning of work. Tyler Bashlor came on for the sixth and started off the inning well, blowing away Rodriguez on a 99 mph fastball. Things got dicey from there, though. He walked Jordy Mercer, allowed a single to Colin Moran, and walked Luplow to load the bases with one out. But he was able to induce the 4-4-3 double play grounder from Josh Harrison, who the Mets defense positioned themselves perfectly for to turn two and end the inning.

Santana and Bashlor each stayed in and pitched relatively uneventful seventh innings. Kyle Crick pitched a scoreless eighth for the Pirates, working around a Conforto single and a Plawecki hit by pitch. Mickey Callaway chose to play the platoon match-ups in the eighth and burned three relief pitchers in one inning. Jacob Rhame got the first out, retiring Rodriguez on a popup, but then gave up a single to Mercer. Jerry Blevins then came in to face the lefty Moran and did his job, striking him out looking. Anthony Swarzak followed that with a strikeout of his own, getting Luplow swinging.

All the Mets managed against Felipe Vazquez (formerly known as Felipe Rivero) was a seeing eye single from Nimmo with two outs. Austin Jackson led off the inning with his first plate appearance as a Met, pinch hitting for the pitcher’s spot, but struck out looking.

Tim Peterson was tasked with the bottom of the ninth in a tie game. Harrison led off the inning with an infield hit. Rosario made a valiant effort, making a nice diving grab, but was unable to throw out the speedy Harrison. Polonco then hit a single to advance Harrison to third and put runners at the corners with nobody out. The Mets intentionally walked Diaz to load the bases and put the force out at home in order. With Freese strolling to the plate, though, the walk-off almost felt inevitable. Freese wasted no time, smacking the first pitch he saw over the drawn in outfield for a base hit to end the game. Vasquez earned the win for his scoreless top of the ninth and Peterson suffered the loss.

Jacob deGrom matches up against Trevor Williams for the third game of this four-game series in Pittsburgh and has to be hoping the offense gives him just a fraction of the run support his teammates have gotten the past few days.

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What’s WPA?

Big winners: Michael Conforto, +26.4% WPA, Tyler Bashlor, +16.3% WPA
Big losers: Tim Peterson, -36.2% WPA, Seth Lugo, -24.6% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Tyler Bashlor induces an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the sixth, +20.9% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: David Freese’s go-ahead single off Seth Lugo in the fifth, -25.5% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -31.1% WPA
Total batter WPA: -18.9% WPA
GWRBI!: David Freese