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Hechavarria, Lagares, and Davis, Oh My!

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Three light-hitting, defensive minded reserves came up big in a late rally.

MLB: Washington Nationals at New York Mets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In an outcome no one expected, three reserves came up big for the Mets in a come-from-behind, 6-1 victory against the Nationals. Despite neither starter having his best stuff, this game was a pitching duel for six innings, at which point the bullpens took over. But while the Mets’ bullpen might have issues, the Nationals’ pen is truly a disaster, and three veteran depth bats came up huge for the Mets in a six-run, eighth inning rally.

The Mets worked Nationals starter Max Scherzer for plenty of long at-bats, but he usually came out on top anyway, striking out nine over six shutout innings and allowing only four hits and a pair of walks. Opportunities to score were there, with two runners on and less than two outs in both the first and the third and two more runners in the fifth, but came up short each time. Scherzer capped his outing by flummoxing the Mets in the sixth, an inning where he was clearly gassed, giving the Nationals vital coverage for their porous bullpen.

Jacob deGrom was similarly shaky, and clearly didn’t have his best stuff either. He gave up a first-inning home run to Adam Eaton, but retired the next eleven Nationals, working through some mechanical difficulties and an inconsistent strike zone to strike out eight over six innings. He often seemed rattled or frustrated, either with himself or with home plate umpire Ryan Blakney, something we never saw from the Met ace during his Cy Young 2018. Perhaps he’s grown frustrated by his inability to consistently harness his best stuff this year after being so dominant a season ago. Whatever the case, he’s still been somewhere between very good and excellent despite the struggles, and he’ll figure it out eventually.

Whilt the Nationals had most of their best lineup out there, the Mets’ had something of an excuse due to their recent injuries. With their lineup already depelted - Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo on the IL, Jeff McNeil sitting with a tight hamstring - the Mets started both Juan Lagares and Carlos Gomez, with Tomas Nido behind the plate as deGrom’s personal catcher. Things got even worse in the third, when, in a cruel stroke of irony, Robinson Cano came up lame running out a ground ball. He exited the game with a strained quad and was replaced by Adeiny Hechavarria (-7 wRC+ coming into the game) at second base. It’s not as if the few big bats the Mets had in the lineup did anything against Scherzer, but running out what amounts to half a lineup didn’t help.

Nevertheless, the Nationals’ bullpen could politely be described as ‘extremely bad’, so the Mets were still very much in the game after Scherzer departed. Joe Ross and Matt Grace combined to set the Mets down in order in the seventh, and Kyle Barraclough got the first out of the eighth. Adeiny Hechavarria lined a one-out double, putting the tying run in scoring position. After inducing a ground out from Pete Alonso, Barraclough walked Todd Frazier, and Dave Martinez had seen enough. Sean Doolittle, the one reliable reliever in the Washington bullpen and a top tier closer, entered the game.

With Carlos Gomez and Juan Lagares due up, two outs, and a legitimate major league arm on the mound, it felt like the Mets had missed their opportunity. Instead, Carlos Gomez was hit by the first pitch Doolittle threw, loading the bases. Juan Lagares then drilled a down-and-in fastball into the left-center field gap, driving in three and giving the Mets the lead. After an intentional walk to Wilson Ramos, the newly called up Rajai Davis worked a nine pitch at bat before lining another fastball down in the zone over the left field wall, extending the Met lead to 6-1.

Tyler Bashlor’s work in the ninth felt mostly like a formality, and he worked around a squibbed single to secure the comeback victory. Its the first time the Mets have won a game in which they trailed in the seventh inning or later this season, and they got it by beating up an elite closer for his worst outing since 2014. For those of you who enjoy cool historical notes, Rajai Davis became the eleventh Met to homer in his first plate appearance for the team. For those of you who enjoy schadenfreude, the Nationals are now 2-9 in games started by Max Scherzer this season.

With this exhilarating win in the books, the Mets are now 23-25, sitting 4.5 games back of the first place Phillies in the NL East. Steven Matz will square off against Stephen Strasburg in the final game of the series today at noon as the Mets look for a four-game sweep that could very well bury the Nationals’ season.

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What’s WPA?

Big winners: Juan Lagares, +51.4% WPA; Jacob deGrom, +15.3% WPA; Adeiny Hechavarria, +15.2% WPA
Big losers: Pete Alonso, -27.5% WPA; J.D. Davis, -10.9% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: +24.6% WPA
Total batter WPA: +25.4% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Juan Lagares doubles in three runs in the eighth, +60.9% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Adam Eaton hits a solo home run in the fist, -11.2% WPA