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Five Mets home runs not enough in loss to Tigers

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Noah Syndergaard got knocked around by a struggling offense in a back-and-forth affair at Citi Field.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at New York Mets
Aaron Altherr
Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets entered the night having won four straight games and the Tigers entered the night having lost nine straight games, but both streaks ended in the Mets’ 9-8 loss to Detroit in the first of a three-game series at Citi Field. It was a rollercoaster ride of a game that featured a lot of lead changes and a lot of home runs.

The Tigers, who came into the night last in the American League in hitting, jumped on Noah Syndergaard right away. Niko Goodrum led off the game with a walk and anyone that has watched enough Syndergaard starts can probably guess that he promptly stole second base. Christin Stewart then singled on a sharp liner that went off Adeiny Hechavarria’s glove and into right field, as Goodrum advanced to third. Nick Castellanos then hit a single to put the Tigers on the board. Miguel Cabrera followed with a sacrifice fly and four batters into the game, the Mets found themselves facing a 2-0 deficit. Syndergaard then bounced back to strike out the next two batters to end the inning. He was far from done striking guys out, but unfortunately he was also far from done giving up runs.

He gave up two more runs in the second before recording an out. Josh Harrison, who had been hitting just .164 going into the night, led off the inning with a single. Then, JaCoby Jones, not exactly known for his bat, smacked a two-run homer to open up a 4-0 Tigers lead. To add insult to injury, the pitcher Gregory Soto singled in his first major league at-bat. Soto would go on to collect two hits in probably one of the only opportunities he’ll get to show off his skills at the plate all season. Syndergaard then retired the next two batters on fly balls and induced a bouncing ball to third that should have ended the inning. But Todd Frazier bounced the throw to first and Pete Alonso was unable to handle it, allowing Castellanos to reach first safely. Syndergaard would then load the bases before finally getting Ronny Rodriguez to strike out swinging to keep the game within striking distance.

And strike the Mets did. Amed Rosario was the first to break through against the rookie Soto, belting a solo homer with two outs in the third to put the Mets on the board. The Mets then scratched out another run in the fourth when Pete Alonso smacked a leadoff double and Wilson Ramos went to the opposite field, as he is known to do, driving Alonso in for his 26th RBI of the season. Soto was able to get Carlos Gomez to strike out swinging, but then the real damage came. Rajai Davis poked a soft single to advance Ramos to second and Adeiny Hechavarria delivered yet another surprising blow from a Mets backup forced into a starting role by injury—a three-run shot that put the Mets ahead 5-4, chased Soto from the game, and gave Syndergaard a fresh start.

Syndergaard was unable to hold the Tigers there, however. He immediately surrendered a solo homer to Miguel Cabrera to lead off the fifth inning. Cabrera only had one home run the entire season going into the night. The Mets promptly responded with a solo homer of their own off the bat of Pete Alonso to recapture the lead. Alonso is now on pace to hit 55 home runs this season. But once again, given a lead to work with, Syndergaard could not put up a clean inning. With one out in the sixth, Dawel Lugo slapped a pinch-hit single to put the tying run on base. Goodrum then followed with a double, which advanced Lugo to third and forced Syndergaard out of the game. Tyler Bashlor was tasked with recording the final two outs of the inning. He was successful at limiting the damage, but did give up a sacrifice fly to Stewart that tied the game at six apiece. He then got Castellanos on a soft liner to first to end the inning, but that closed the book on Syndergaard, who gave up six runs on ten hits in total over 5 13 innings of work, striking out nine and walking one. After Syndergaard had put up two quality starts in a row coming into the night, he was unable to keep that run of success going and continues to be inconsistent on the mound.

After getting key home runs from Carlos Gomez, Rajai Davis, and now Adeiny Hechavarria, the Mets’ depth pieces weren’t done delivering surprises yet. Aaron Altherr, claimed off waivers by the Mets just two days ago and added to the 25-man roster ahead of the game, strode to the plate as a pinch hitter with two outs in the bottom of the sixth and hit an absolute blast in his first at-bat as a Met. The Mets were once again on top, 7-6. As was the case all night, the lead didn’t last long.

Going into the night, the Mets’ bullpen had the best ERA in the National League in the month of May, which is incredible considering all the injuries and roster changes the relief corps have endured this month. It seemed inevitable that the run of success would have to come to an end at some point and it did in a big way in this contest. Drew Gagnon had been a big part of those sparkling May numbers for the bullpen, but he took the loss in this game, yielding three runs in the seventh inning. Cabrera led off the inning with a walk. Gagnon then got Rodriguez to bounce into a force out at second, but a double by John Hicks put runners at second and third with one out. Gagnon induced a key grounder from Harrison, but couldn’t put the inning to bed with two outs. JaCoby Jones smacked a bases-clearing double, finishing the night with four RBIs and giving the Tigers back the lead. The pinch hitter Brandon Dixon then singled to drive in Jones before Gagnon struck out Goodrum swinging to finally end the inning.

That extra run surrendered by Gagnon on the single by Dixon turned out to be the difference in the game. The Mets made a couple of attempts to come back yet again, but fell one run short. J.D. Davis worked a nice at-bat to draw a walk to lead off the bottom of the seventh, but Victor Alcantara quickly erased him on a double-play grounder off the bat of Todd Frazier, who had a rough day at the plate and made an error in the field. Jeurys Familia kept the Mets within two, thanks in part to a spectacular leaping grab by Carlos Gomez in center field that robbed Christin Stewart of an extra-base hit.

The Mets’ best chance at a final comeback came in the eighth inning. Wilson Ramos hit a towering solo homer on the first pitch he saw from Joe Jimenez—the Mets’ fifth home run of the night—to bring the Mets within a run. Jimenez retired the next two batters, but then Hechavarria struck again with a double to left field. Dominic Smith, who has been so instrumental to the Mets as a pinch hitter this year, then strode to the plate. Unfortunately, this time Smith was not the hero. He struck out swinging on a nasty four-seam fastball from Jimenez. Hector Santiago set the Tigers down in order on three fly ball outs in his first appearance as a Met to give the Mets one last chance to battle back. But Shane Greene retired the Mets 1-2-3 in the ninth to secure the win for the Tigers and earn his sixteenth save of the season.

This game marked the seventh time this season the Mets scored six or more runs and lost. That happened only ten times the entire season in 2018. Also in this game, Noah Syndergaard gave up his tenth home run of the year, which on May 24th surpasses his total for all of 2018. Jason Vargas will make his return from the injured list and face off against Ryan Carpenter in the second game of this three-game interleague series at Citi Field.

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What’s WPA?

Big winners: Adeiny Hechavarria, +37.5% WPA, Aaron Altherr, +21.0% WPA, Pete Alonso, +20.5% WPA, Wilson Ramos, +19.3% WPA
Big losers: Drew Gagnon, -53.1% WPA, Noah Syndergaard, -52.0% WPA, Todd Frazier, -22.1% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -95.6% WPA
Total batter WPA: +45.6% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Adeiny Hechavarria’s three-run homer in the fourth, +34.7% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: JaCoby Jones’ two-run double off Drew Gagnon in the seventh, -39.3% WPA