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It’s like déjà vu all over again, as Mets bullpen implodes in the ninth

How many different ways can one say that the bullpen was bad?

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets lost to the Phillies 7-2 in what was the most prototypical 2019 Mets game possible, almost to a laughable degree. The three Mets’ All-Stars were the only players that contributed, while the rest of the team faltered, especially the bullpen. The old Mets narrative is often that of the team finding a new way to lose every day, but this team invokes a Groundhog Day-style hell akin to entering a house of mirrors at the seediest carnival imaginable—the same grotesque loss reflected glaringly around you over and over and over. At some point, the bubbling discomfort in the pit of your stomach either has you fleeing the building in horror or completely and utterly transfixed.

If, like me, you fall into the latter category and are still reading this, you can probably surmise much of this game’s events absent my description, but perhaps you can allow yourself to play a guessing game about some of the finer details since we all have to find joy in the little things somehow. One thing you perhaps did not see coming is that Jacob deGrom gave up a solo home run to Scott Kingery on the first pitch he threw. However, because he’s Jacob deGrom, he settled in after that. He struck out the side in the second and only surrendered two more hits the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, the Mets’ bats were stymied by Vince Velasquez, as even the more offensively formidable 2019 iteration of the Mets often have a way of making mediocre pitchers look like aces, especially when their own ace is on the mound. They managed just two hits through the first three innings—singles by Robinson Cano and Todd Frazier. The latter turned out to be significant only because Frazier attempted to steal second and was caught. The Mets challenged the play, the call was upheld, and they would later regret the choice. The only other Met to hit the ball with any authority through those first three innings was Jeff McNeil, who was robbed of an extra-base hit by a leaping Scott Kingery on the warning track in deep right-center field to end the third inning.

The Mets evened the score at one apiece on Pete Alonso’s 29th home run of the season—a solo shot off Velasquez to lead off the fourth inning. Cano followed with his second hit of the day and Frazier was hit by a pitch with one out to get a small rally brewing. But Dominic Smith flew out to left-center and then Maikel Franco made a nice diving stop to deny Wilson Ramos a base hit to end the threat.

Meanwhile, deGrom finished the top of the fifth having retired eight straight batters. The Mets rewarded him with a lead in the bottom of the frame when McNeil laced a two-out single to left and Alonso followed with a double to drive him in. deGrom cruised through the sixth, working around a one-out walk and ending it with a strikeout of Bryce Harper, his ninth punch-out of the night.

After Jose Alvarez replaced Velasquez and did his job by striking out the side in the seventh, deGrom encountered his first jam of the evening in the bottom of the frame. He issued a walk to Rhys Hoskins to lead off the inning and J.T. Realmuto followed with a double to advance Hoskins to third. deGrom induced a grounder to the first base side from Jay Bruce that forced the runners to hold. He then made a pitch to induce another grounder off the bat of Cesar Hernandez, but this was a slow enough dribbler to the third base side that Hoskins broke for the plate. He was ruled safe by the home plate umpire and appeared to beat the throw, but replay revealed that he made a poor slide and was probably out. However, the Mets no longer had a challenge left, having burned it on the Frazier caught stealing in the second and it was not yet the eighth inning, so the umpires could not initiate a crew chief review. So a tie game it was.

deGrom ultimately escaped further damage by notching his tenth strikeout in the pinch hitter Andrew Knapp to end his night on a high note. But the play at the plate that everyone thought would perhaps be the headline turned out to be nothing more than a footnote in the Mets bullpen time loop trope. After Seth Lugo pitched a scoreless eighth, Edwin Diaz—who collected his eighteenth save of the year in a rather dominant performance against the Yankees in his most recent outing—entered a tie game in the ninth and was disastrous again. He immediately gave up a ringing double to Realmuto. Jay Bruce then drove in the go-ahead run with a single because of course he did.

The elaborate labyrinth of the bullpen house of mirrors only twisted and turned deeper after that. The Phillies pinch ran Roman Quinn for Bruce and predictably Quinn immediately stole second, advancing to third on an errant throw from Wilson Ramos. Diaz walked Hernandez and then got his one and only out of the five batters he faced on a strikeout of Franco, but not before Hernandez also swiped second base. The pinch hitter Sean Rodriguez singled to drive in Quinn and make the score 4-2, which chased Diaz from the game. Mickey Callaway turned to Jeurys Familia to finish the inning and the result was pretty much exactly what you would expect. He got Kingery to strike out swinging, but Rodriguez also stole second for the third stolen base of the inning. Familia then gave up back-to-back doubles to Jean Segura and Bryce Harper, which plated three more runs and closed the book on Diaz, who was charged with four runs in just a third of an inning. Even after all of this, Familia could not put the inning to bed. He walked Rhys Hoskins on a 3-2 pitch and Mickey Callaway had to bring in yet another relief pitcher just to finish the inning. Luis Avilan recorded the final out on a Realmuto groundout to shortstop.

The Mets went down quietly in the ninth against Hector Neris, who worked around a two-out walk to Wilson Ramos. Tommy Hunter and Adam Morgan also contributed scoreless relief out of the bullpen for the Phillies. I wonder what that is like. Meanwhile, the Mets’ bullpen holds a truly nightmarish 8.06 ERA since May 27th and a 9.30 ERA in Jacob deGrom’s starts.

There comes a time when you run out of words to write about the sameness of this team’s ineptitude. That time is rapidly approaching—for me, at least. The best any of us can do is hope that tomorrow is a better day—or at the very least, a different one. Noah Syndergaard faces off against Jake Arrieta in the second game of this final three-game series before the All-Star Break.

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Box scores


Win Probability Added

What’s WPA?

Big winners: Pete Alonso, +27.7% WPA
Big losers: Edwin Diaz, -45.8% WPA, Amed Rosario, -11.0% WPA, Michael Conforto, -10.4% WPA, Dominic Smith, -10.2% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -33.8% WPA
Total batter WPA: -16.2% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Pete Alonso’s RBI double in the fifth that put the Mets ahead 2-1, +18.3% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: J.T. Realmuto’s double that put the tying run 90 feet away in the seventh inning, -22.1% WPA