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Pitching struggles and offense falls flat in loss to Cardinals

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The only highlight of the game was Jeff McNeil’s record-setting 100th hit.

New York Mets v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Michael B. Thomas /Getty Images

The Mets lost 10-2 to the Cardinals in the second game of a three-game series in St. Louis in what was a poorly played game by the Mets all around. They pitched poorly, the offense was completely stymied by Miles Mikolas, and they didn’t look particularly sharp in the field either, giving off an air of general “day game after a night game” malaise.

That said, it’s not as if this result was really all that unexpected. With deGrom skipping a start out of an abundance of caution due to soreness in his elbow that he insists is not serious, Chris Flexen was the latest candidate from the pool of the Mets’ subpar pitching depth to get a shot. Having had a strong spring training and lost 30 pounds this offseason, Flexen earned himself a spot start in deGrom’s stead. Unfortunately, things didn’t go how Flexen or the Mets would have hoped.

Flexen had a clean 1-2-3 first inning, retiring all three batters on balls in the air, which is how he got the overwhelming majority of his outs this afternoon. After retiring the first batter in the second inning, also on a fly ball, the inning unraveled rather quickly on Flexen. He gave up two straight singles to Jose Martinez and Yadier Molina, but was able to get Dexter Fowler to ground out for the second out, advancing both runners. With the pitcher Mikolas on deck and first base open, the Mets opted to intentionally walk Kolton Wong. However, a ball in the dirt skipped past Wilson Ramos for a passed ball and Martinez sprinted home with the first run of the game. It was the latest of many concerning defensive plays by Ramos behind the plate this season. Mikolas made the Mets pay for the decision to walk the eight hitter ahead of him by smacking a single up the middle to drive in two more runs and put the Cardinals up 3-0. Flexen then walked Matt Carpenter, but got Paul Goldschmidt to fly out to end the inning.

Given how much the Mets have been scoring lately, the game still felt very much within reach at that point, but the Mets’ bats were utterly silent early in the game. By the time the Mets managed a hit, they were down two additional runs. Flexen gave up a double, a walk, and a single in succession to lead off the third inning, allowing the Cardinals to add a run. He then induced three straight fly ball outs, but the first of which went for a sacrifice fly to make the score 4-0.

Robinson Cano recorded the Mets’ first hit of the afternoon, a leadoff single in the fourth. Nothing came of it, however, and the only other hit the Mets managed off Miles Mikolas until the seventh inning was a fifth inning single from Chris Flexen. In the bottom of the fifth, Marcell Ozuna led off with a walk—Mets pitching walked Ozuna three times on the afternoon and surrendered seven free passes overall. Ozuna broke for second far too early on a steal attempt and Flexen could have picked him off easily if he had stepped off the rubber, but was too absorbed in the at-bat to notice Ozuna, who arrived at second base safely despite the base running gaff. Jose Martinez then hit a liner that ricocheted off Flexen, but he was able to recover in time to throw out Martinez. However, Yadier Molina then singled to make the score 6-0 and that was the end of Flexen’s day after just 4 13 innings of work.

For the second straight day, a Mets starter did not make it five innings, meaning the bullpen would have to put in some work yet again. With all of the Mets’ trusted relievers having been used in last night’s close victory, it was up to Luis Avilan, Jacob Rhame, and Paul Sewald to finish out the game for the Mets. None of them completed their appearances without giving up at least one run. Avilan stranded his inherited runners in the fifth, but couldn’t work out of trouble in the sixth. He led off the sixth with a strikeout of Miles Mikolas and it was, incredibly, the first strikeout by Mets pitching on the afternoon. He walked Matt Carpenter and then recorded a second strikeout, this time of Paul Goldschmidt. But then a double off the bat of Paul DeJong plated an additional run to put the Cardinals up 7-0. Avilan was removed from the game in favor of Jacob Rhame, who promptly walked a batter and then gave up another double to make the score 9-0 before recording the final out of the inning.

Both of the Mets’ runs came in the top of the seventh inning off Mikolas, who was the first Cardinals starting pitcher all season to record an out in the seventh inning. Jeff McNeil smacked a one-out single, the 100th hit of his career. He is now the fastest player to 100 hits in Mets franchise history. Amed Rosario followed with a triple to drive in McNeil and finally put the Mets on the board to avoid the shutout. J.D. Davis grounded out to third, which allowed Rosario to score and made the score 9-2.

Rhame pitched a scoreless seventh, working around a walk to Kolten Wong. Paul Sewald pitched the eighth and gave up a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt to lead off the inning before recording three straight fly ball outs. Giovanny Gallegos set the Mets down 1-2-3 in the ninth relief of Mikolas to finish out the easy win for the Cardinals. Both Pete Alonso for the Mets and Matt Carpenter for the Cardinals came out of the game due to injury—Carpenter after fouling a ball off his knee and Alonso after swinging at a pitch that ran in on his hands and struck his top hand—but both players appear to be fine.

The Mets will look to bounce back from this afternoon’s lopsided loss on Easter Sunday in the rubber game of the series, as Noah Syndergaard matches up against Dakota Hudson.

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What’s WPA?

Big winners: None
Big losers: Chris Flexen, -30.2% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -30.8% WPA
Total batter WPA: -19.2% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Chris Flexen induces a groundout from Dexter Fowler in the second inning, +2.9% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Miles Mikolas’ second inning single, -15% WPA