Steven Matz took the mound this afternoon to face off against Julio Teheran and the Atlanta Braves, as the Mets desperately hoped that today would be the day in which their week-long losing streak would finally come to an end. But it was not to be, as the Mets continued their descent into irrelevance with a 5-4 loss at the hands of their division rival.
Matz has struggled mightily in the first inning this season, and that trend continued this afternoon. The troubles began when he gave up two singles to Ronald Acuna Jr. and Dansby Swanson to start off the game. After striking out Freddie Freeman, he hit Josh Donaldson with a pitch to load the bases, and Ozzie Albies followed with a ground ball single out of Amed Rosario’s reach. Acuna and Swanson both scored, though left fielder Dominic Smith managed to throw out Donaldson trying to advance to third base (the Braves challenged the call, and while the replay review showed he may have been safe, the umpires nevertheless upheld the call). That helped Matz limit the damage in the opening inning, as he got Austin Riley to ground out in the next at-bat.
The Mets tried to make a quick comeback in their first trip up to the plate. After a strikeout to Jeff McNeil, they got the next three men on with singles by Pete Alonso and Robinson Cano and a walk to Michael Conforto to load the bases. Unfortunately, the team could not capitalize, as Todd Frazier hit a sharp line drive out to left field which Alonso was unable to tag on and Smith struck out to end the inning. Matz subsequently took the mound, and his second inning went much better than his first, as he retired the side 1-2-3 with the last two batters going down by looking at strike three. He then tried to help his cause in the bottom of the inning with a two-out single, which was followed by two straight hit-by-pitches to load the bases. However, the Mets could not capitalize for a second straight inning, as Cano struck out looking to end another threat.
As the second inning ended, however, the rain started coming down more heavily, and the tarp came on the field. An hour and ten minute rain delay followed, and when the game resumed Matz was removed in favor of Chris Mazza. The 29-year-old reliever was making his major league debut, and it was a rough introduction for him, as he gave up two hits—a single to Acuna and a double to Swanson, respectively—which scored a run and gave him an ERA of infinity. He quickly lowered it by retiring the next three batters—including his first major league strikeout against Freeman—but the Braves had nevertheless expanded their lead to 3-0.
Unlike the Mets, Atlanta decided to stick with their starter in spite of the rain delay. Teheran retired the first two hitters without much trouble, but then Smith clocked an impressive home run—his eighth on the season, and his fourth in his past six games—to left-center field to cut the lead back to two, which is where the score would be heading into the fourth. Mazza then came on for his second major league inning. It went much better than his first, as he allowed a leadoff infield hit on a ball that Rosario had trouble handling but quickly a followed that with a lineout to right and a double play to get out of the inning without any trouble.
Teheran came back out for his second inning following the rain delay, and Rosario promptly greeted him with a leadoff double. After Mazza failed to move him over on a bunt attempt, McNeil brought him home with a booming RBI double that sailed over Acuna’s head in center. Teheran then walked Alonso, and the fourth ball outside the strike zone went all the way to the backstop for a wild pitch that sent McNeil to third. That was the end of Teheran’s day, as Brian Snitker brought in our old friend Jerry Blevins to try to get through the two upcoming lefties. He accomplished his job, retiring Cano on a flyout to left field and Conforto on a ground ball, keeping the score at 3-2.
The Braves managed some hard-hit balls against Mazza in his third inning—one off the bat of Acuna for a double, and two line ball outs that required some sparkling diving plays by the defense (Alonso at first and Smith in left field, respectively)—but he got through it unscathed. The Mets went down quietly in the bottom of the fifth against new pitcher Touki Toussaint, and Mazza came out for the top of the sixth. Again, he allowed some baserunners—first on a hit-by-pitch to Albies (which would ultimately make him leave the game in the following inning) and then to a single by Johan Camargo, but he ended his debut by striking out Flowers to end the inning and finish with a line of four innings, five hits, one run, and two strikeouts.
Toussaint returned to the mount for the bottom of the sixth, an inning that would wind up mirroring the bottom of the fourth. Just like the fourth, Rosario started off an inning with a leadoff hit (this time a single, though he would advance to second on a wild pitch), and after an out by the nine-hitter—this time Hechavarria pinch-hitting for Mazza—McNeil hit a double to the gap in right-center field which tied the game. Unlike the fourth inning, however, the Mets did not end the scoring there, as following an Alonso strikeout—and a pitching change to bring in Sean Newcomb, a lefty pitcher—Cano hit a ground ball up the middle to bring home another run. Conforto lined out to end the inning, but the Amazins had their first lead of the day.
Seth Lugo entered the game in the top of the seventh looking for a rebound after two rough outings in a row in which he allowed multiple runs. He allowed a two-out double to Swanson in his first inning, but also struck out two and got through the inning with the lead intact. The Mets went down quietly against Newcomb in the bottom of the seventh, and Lugo came back out for the eighth. After recording a strikeout against Donaldson to start the inning, things quickly fell apart, as Lugo threw two consecutive pitches which went out of the ballpark—first off the bat of Nick Markakis, and then on a swing by Riley. Just like that, the Mets had blown yet another lead, and after surrendering another hit later in the inning Mickey Callaway came out of the dugout to relieve his beleaguered pitcher. Brooks Pounders came on to try to finish the inning, and in spite of a walk to his first batter he was able to get Acuna to line out to center to keep the score where it was.
The Mets still had two innings to overcome this one-run deficit, but if you’ve been watching this team in recent days, you had to know that it wasn’t likely they were going to do that. And indeed, the bats went down without a whimper in the bottom of the eighth inning. Pounders returned for the top of the ninth and got through it without giving up anything more than a two-out single to Donaldson, bringing the Mets back up for their last licks. As might be expected, the team offered a tantalizing hope that they would be able to make the comeback, as the first two batters got on—first on an error by Freeman and then on a J.D. Davis walk. But those would be the last baserunners of the ballgame, as a Conforto strikeout, a Frazier groundout, and a Smith strikeout ended the threat and the Mets’ chances at snapping their week-long losing streak.
The Mets will look to avoid their second-straight sweep at the hands of a division rival tomorrow evening in a Sunday Night Baseball game on ESPN. Noah Syndergaard will take the mound as the team tries to finally get back in the win column.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Jeff McNeil, +34.6% WPA; J.D. Davis, +18.7% WPA; Pete Alonso, +17.1% WPA; Amed Rosario, +10.5% WPA
Big losers: Seth Lugo, -43.0% WPA; Michael Conforto, -25.0% WPA; Dominic Smith, -25.0% WPA; Todd Frazier, -22.7% WPA; Steven Matz, -14.3% WPA; Adeiny Hechavarria, -10.1% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -45.8% WPA
Total batter WPA: -4.2% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Jeff McNeil RBI double in the sixth inning to give the Mets the lead, +20.0% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Austin Riley solo homer in the eighth inning to give the Braves the lead, -29.5% WPA