The Mets had a chance to play spoiler in the race for the Cy Young and the race for the NL East as they faced off against Aaron Nola at Citi Field. They were sort of successful in the former endeavor, but lost the game 4-3. Nola did earn his sixteenth win of the season, but raised his ERA to 2.29 on the season, giving Jacob deGrom an even bigger cushion in the ERA lead entering his Sunday afternoon start.
Steven Matz pitched well, but the Phillies lineup worked a lot of deep counts against the lefty, forcing his pitch count up and an early exit. The Mets had a rare excellent defensive game and that began right off the bat in the top of the first when Rhys Hoskins hit a screaming line drive that seemed destined for the left field corner, but Todd Frazier made an excellent diving grab to rob him of an extra base hit. Matz looked good early, striking out four of his first six batters in the first two innings.
The Mets opened the scoring in the bottom of the second when Jay Bruce smacked a solo homer off Nola to lead off the inning. This is when I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that at least the Mets were not going to be shut out by Nola, or worse, no-hit. Mickey Callaway chose to stack the lineup with lefties against Nola and though the Mets fell short, it was the lefties Bruce, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, and Dominic Smith that were responsible for the Mets’ three runs.
Matz’s only real mistake came in the third, as he walked Jorge Alfaro to lead off the inning and after striking out the pitcher Nola looking, he surrendered a two-run shot to Carlos Santana to put the Phillies ahead. Matz then struck out Hoskins and retired Aaron Altherr on a groundout to third to end the inning. Matz would go on to strike out eight batters in total, but he needed over 100 pitches to get through five and his night ended early.
Meanwhile, the Mets responded to Santana’s homer by tying the game in the bottom of the frame. Nimmo worked a one-out walk and then was able to score all the way from first on a hit-and-run bloop double by McNeil. Michael Conforto—who was the one Mets’ lefty to not have a good day at the plate—then flied out to right center. Then it was the Phillies’ turn to flash the leather, as Santana made an excellent grab on a line shot off the bat of Bruce that almost surely saved a run for the Phillies.
Eric Hanhold made his second appearance out of the bullpen since being called up and was tasked with the sixth inning. He was greeted rudely when the pinch hitter Odubel Herrera smacked a double into the left field corner. He was able to strike out the other lefty pinch hitter Nick Williams, but then ex-Met Asdrubal Cabrera smacked a single as a little welcome home present to the Citi Field faithful to put the Phillies back in front. Hanhold was able to retire the next two batters to limit the damage, but Nola was in a groove at this point. As he took the mound for the seventh inning, he had retired eleven Mets in a row since the McNeil RBI double.
Dominic Smith ended that streak with an opposite field bomb to tie the game. It was a rare start for Smith and he absolutely made the most of it, tagging Nola with his third run and showing off his defensive skills in the field. It should be noted that after the home run, Jacob deGrom was one of the first to greet Smith in the dugout.
The warm fuzzies didn’t last long though. Tyler Bashlor pitched a very impressive 1-2-3 seventh inning with two strikeouts. But Rhys Hoskins hit an absolutely monstrous home run off Bashlor to lead off the eighth. Bashlor was removed in favor of Daniel Zamora, who did his job, striking out the lefty Herrera. Once Wilson Ramos was announced as the pinch hitter for Nick Williams, Mickey Callaway countered by calling on the righty Drew Smith. September baseball! Ramos hit a single and was taken out for a pinch runner, Pedro Florimon. Florimon was caught stealing on an excellent throw by Kevin Plawecki, an underrated defensive play in a game full of pretty good defense from two bad defensive teams. Plawecki’s throw is underrated because the play that followed was even more spectacular. Cabrera hit a sharp grounder into the hole and McNeil ranged far to his right and snagged it on the back hand, whipping an off-balance throw to first base that Smith adeptly picked on the bounce to his right side. It was a heck of a play all around and quite possibly one of the better defensive plays the Mets have made all season.
Unfortunately, the Phillies’ one run lead stood and the Mets lost the battle of the bullpens. Smith remained in the game and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, but the Mets went down 1-2-3 against Seranthony Dominguez in the eighth, as well as against Tommy Hunter in the ninth. The one glimmer of hope came on a ball that Bruce hit to the very deepest part of the ballpark in the ninth, but Herrera ran it down on the warning track. Even though Bruce had just the solo homer to show for it, he hit three balls hard in the game. Overall, it was a tough loss for the Mets in a hard fought game.
The Mets will try to turn the series around in game two, as Noah Syndergaard looks to build upon his complete game effort last outing. He faces off against the struggling Zach Eflin.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Dominic Smith, +21.5% WPA
Big losers: Tyler Bashlor, -20.5% WPA, Michael Conforto, -16.1% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Dominic Smith’s game-tying homer, +24.7% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Rhys Hoskins’ go-ahead homer, -25.7% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -21.4% WPA
Total batter WPA: -28.6% WPA
GWRBI!: Rhys Hoskins