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Wheeler unable to shut down first place Braves

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Jeff McNeil may be hurt, and things are bad again.

New York Mets v Atlanta Braves Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

While Sunday afternoon’s loss to the Nationals was a big of a buzzkill after an eight-game win streak, it was easy enough to write off that as a bad luck game set off by a three-run error. But with tonight’s demoralizing 5-3 loss to the Braves, it looks like the Mets have some work to do before being considered among the serious playoff contenders. Of course, they may win the next two games of the series and this is all worry for naught, but tonight was a rough one for Mets fans regardless.

Despite coming in with 15 scoreless innings under his belt, Zack Wheeler struggled instantly against the Braves. There are a number of non-pitching reasons that this may have been the case: Wheeler was pitching in front of his hometown crowd, it was still over 95 degrees at gametime. Regardless of the reason, Wheeler was not very effective in the first inning, allowing five of the first eight batters to reach against him, including run-scoring singles by Josh Donaldson and Matt Joyce.

The fact that only two runs scored in the first inning seemed almost miraculous and, to their credit, the Mets bounced back quickly, scoring their first run of the night on Jeff McNeil’s RBI single, driving in Juan Lagares, who went four for four with an uncharacteristically strong offensive performance. Braves’ starter Max Fried was perfectly cromulent tonight, going six innings of six hit, one run ball, where he walked three and struck out four.

Freddie Freeman continued his utter dominance of Wheeler, driving in the third run of the game in the bottom of the second inning. Ronald Acuna, Jr added the fourth run on his 34th home run of the year in the fourth inning. In the fifth, Ender Inciarte doubled to drive in the Braves’ fifth and final run of the game.

In an usual turn of events, the Met bullpen was solid tonight, with scoreless appearances from Brad Brach, Luis Avilan, Jeurys Familia, and Drew Gagnon. A solid series would be quite the surprise for this beleaguered crew.

The eighth inning gave a glimmer of hope that, perhaps, this would be another late inning, dramatic comeback. Pete Alonso and J.D. Davis started the inning off with singles against Shane Green, and the Wilson Ramos reached on a fielder’s choice, with Drew being out at second base. Our old friend “El Gordo” Jerry Blevins came in next, and got Michael Conforto to ground out, but Alonso came around to score the second run for the Mets.

Yet another former Met, Anthony Swarzak, was next in the game, and he gave up singles to Todd Frazier and Lagares, scoring Ramos, and making the score 5-3.

Jeff McNeil led off the ninth inning and, in an attempt to leg out an infield single, tweaked his hamstring. The severity of the injury is not known yet.

Steven Matz takes on Dallas Keuchel tomorrow evening in the second game of the series.

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Win Probability Added

Mets vs Braves WPA Chart, 8/13/19 Fangraphs.com

What’s WPA?

Big winners: Juan Lagares, +10.4%

Big losers: Zack Wheeler, -26.3% WPA, Michael Conforto, -12.7% WPA, Amed Rosario -11.2% WPA

Total pitcher WPA: -23.4% WPA

Total batter WPA: -25.5% WPA

Teh aw3s0mest play: Jeff McNeil’s RBI single, +9.5% WPA

Teh sux0rest play: Matt Joyce knocks in the second run of the game, -9.4% WPA