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The Nats bullpen somehow doesn’t blow a Scherzer gem

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Two big comebacks just weren’t enough.

MLB: Washington Nationals at New York Mets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

This afternoon in Queens, the Mets put up nine runs, four against the ace of their division rival, Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals. That sounds like it should probably be enough for a win or, at very least, a close game. But, despite the final score of 12-9, the Mets never looked to be three runs away from the Nationals at any point after the middle of the second inning.

Zack Wheeler started for the Mets, and had a relatively uneventful first inning, erasing an Adam Eaton walk with a Howie Kendrick double play ball. But in the second inning, Wheeler unraveled in a way that we hadn’t seen in quite some time. A walk to Juan Soto, a Kurt Suzuki single, and a Wilmer Difo walk loaded the bases with one out for Scherzer, who singled in Soto for the first run of the day.

It just got worse from there. Victor Robles drove home Suzuki with a single, and then Adam Eaton hit a ground rule double, bring in two more runs. A sacrifice fly off the bat of Kendrick made it 5-0.

Wheeler eventually settled in, putting up scoreless frames in the third and fourth innings, but in the fifth, his erratic control returned. Wheeler walked four of the next six batters to face him, eventually walking in a run, before his day was done. Tim Peterson replaced him, and promptly threw a wild pitch to plate an additional run for the Nats. Four hits, seven walks, and seven earned runs was the tally against Wheeler by the end of the day.

Up to that point, the Mets had scored just one run in the bottom of the second inning. A Michael Conforto double was followed up by a Wilson Ramos single, to give the Mets their sole run of the first six innings.

The Mets bullpen got tagged for five more runs, two charged to Peterson in the sixth, and three to Luis Avilan, who gave up a three run shot to Anthony Rendon in the seventh inning. A 12-1 deficit looked far too great for the Mets to climb back from. And, though that was ultimately correct, they sure as hell gave it their best shot.

The bottom of the seventh saw Scherzer finally start to thaw a bit, giving up singles to defensive replacement Luis Guillorme and Amed Rosario. A Brandon Nimmo double plated Guillorme and pushed Rosario to third with just one out. Matt Grace relieved Scherzer and instantly reminded everyone in the ballpark why the Nats don’t like to give the ball to the bullpen thus far this season.

Jeff McNeil lined a single to right field, plating Rosario, before Pete Alonso showed off more of his prodigious power by driving the ball over the left-center field wall, halving the lead at 12-6.

The ninth inning provided the Mets another opportunity to hang a crooked number, a McNeil was hit by Joe Ross to lead off the inning. A walk to Alonso and a fly out to the returning Travis d’Arnaud set the stage for Conforto’s second big hit of the day, a home run pulled to right field. But, nine runs just wasn’t enough today, and Juan Lagares and Guillorme recorded the final outs of the game.

While it is nice to see the Mets so resilient, even in loss, Mickey Callaway’s managerial decisions today were, again, questionable. With a day off tomorrow, allowing Wheeler to stay in as deep into the fifth inning as he did was not wise. Additionally, Callaway’s newfound obsession with double switching allowed Robinson Cano’s bat to be out of the lineup for the final two turns at bat, including the last out of the game.

The Mets can rest tomorrow before welcoming the Minnesota Twins to Citi Field for a two-game series. Kyle Gibson takes the hill against Jacob deGrom in the series’ opener.

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Win Probability Added

Mets/Nationals WPA Chart, 4/7/19 Fangraphs.com

What’s WPA?

Big winners: None
Big losers: Zack Wheeler, -36.5% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -39.1% WPA
Total batter WPA: -10.9% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: J.D. Davis’s second inning single, 5.2% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Adam Eaton’s 2 RBI double, -11.1% WPA