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Offense sputters as Mets lose in extras

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Mets pitching struck out 26 batters on the night, but eventually the bullpen gave way.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at New York Mets Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets lost to the Braves 2-1 in a hard-fought fourteen inning contest at Citi Field. Both starting pitchers put forth a strong performance, but Jacob deGrom was especially brilliant. In the top of the third with a man on and two outs, Freddie Freeman strode to the plate. deGrom battled him for a nine-pitch at-bat and eventually struck him out. He struck out the side in the next two frames and struck out Ronald Acuna Jr. to lead off the sixth for his eighth strikeout in a row and his tenth on the night. The eight consecutive strikeouts matched a career high and deGrom became the first pitcher since Nolan Ryan to accomplish that feat twice in his career. With the players donning their somewhat garish monochrome uniforms for Players’ Weekend, deGrom looked even more otherworldly in all white, almost as if descended from on high.

It was after deGrom’s streak ended in the sixth that the Braves would finally break through against him. Ozzie Albies snapped the streak with a single to shallow center. He promptly stole second base to advance into scoring position. Then, Freddie Freeman punished the Mets as he often does by finding a hole up the middle to plate Albies and give the Braves a 1-0 lead. deGrom recovered, striking out the next two batters in Josh Donaldson and Matt Joyce to end the inning. On Donaldson’s third swinging strike, he smacked Tomas Nido hard in the head on the follow-through. Nido stayed in the game to catch deGrom and record the strikeout of Joyce—deGrom’s dozenth—but then was removed from the game after that. Rene Rivera was also pulled from the game in Triple-A Syracuse, indicated that a concussion injured list stint for Nido may be imminent.

In the bottom of the inning, deGrom erased his own deficit instantly by hitting a solo home run to left-center field. It was the only run the Mets would score against Mike Foltynewicz and the game would remain knotted at one until the fourteenth. Nearing 100 pitches, deGrom was given one more inning and retired the Braves in order, finishing his night with his thirteenth strikeout. With that strikeout, deGrom became the first pitcher in baseball history to hit a home run and strike out thirteen batters in the same game twice in his career. Foltynewicz ended his evening with a strikeout as well. He surrendered a walk to Luis Guillorme with one out but then was able to strike out Juan Lagares on the tenth pitch of the at-bat to finish his night with the score still tied.

The Mets and Braves bullpens then matched zeros well into the night. Seth Lugo worked himself out of a jam in the eighth after yielding a one-out walk to Acuna. He then retired Ozzie Albies on a fly out. After Acuna predictably stole second base, the Mets utilized the free base to intentionally walk Freddie Freeman. That paid off, as Lugo struck out Josh Donaldson looking to retire the side. His second inning of work went even more smoothly, as he retired the Braves in order with two strikeouts.

The Mets went down 1-2-3 against Shane Greene in the eighth. They were able to get the winning run on base in the bottom of the ninth against Chris Martin in the form of a Pete Alonso single that went under Adeiny Hechavarria’s glove into left field. However, Michael Conforto then grounded into a double play to end the threat and send the game to extra innings.

It seemed as if this extra inning affair would end rather quickly when Edwin Diaz hit the first batter he faced with a pitch to start things off in the tenth—a batter who had yet to record a major league hit, no less. It was shades of the bad side of Diaz we have seen all year, command utterly lacking and disaster impending. However, this time, Diaz recovered. Billy Hamilton pinch ran for Alex Jackson and was advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Charlie Culberson. He then stole third base, putting the go-ahead run 90 feet away with one out and the top of the order coming up for the Braves. In the big spot, Diaz delivered. He struck out both Acuna and Albies to keep the game tied.

Meanwhile, the Mets mounted rallies in next of the each two innings and failed to score. With two outs in the tenth, facing off against former Met Anthony Swarzak, Juan Lagares slashed a single to right. Wilson Ramos, now in the game to catch, followed with another single to advance Lagares to third. Swarzak then walked Todd Frazier to load the bases. However, Amed Rosario, who has been so good of late, showed flashes of his old self when he struck out swinging on a pitch well out of the zone to end the inning.

Luis Avilan will likely be a mere footnote in this marathon contest, but he did what was asked of him in a key spot, striking out Freeman to lead off the top of the eleventh. Mickey Callaway then called upon Brad Brach to record the final two outs of the inning and he did so. He struck out Josh Donaldson to hand Donaldson a golden sombrero for the evening. He gave up a single to Tyler Flowers, but then retired Adeiny Hechavarria on a groundout to third. Hechavarria handed Brach a bit of a gift, swinging on a 3-0 count, but the Mets were out of the inning nonetheless.

Sean Newcomb struggled with his control in the bottom of eleventh, but the Mets were unable to capitalize. He hit Joe Panik with a pitch to lead off the inning and Panik advanced to second base on a wild pitch, putting the winning run in scoring position with nobody out. Like Rosario in the previous inning, Pete Alonso seemed overeager at the plate, striking out on a pitch in the dirt for the first out. That pitch did bounce away from Flowers, however, and Panik advanced to third base. Michael Conforto, who really had a rough night at the plate, then struck out swinging for the second out. To be fair to Conforto, Newcomb is not exactly the easiest matchup for him and he has not fared well against him in his career, which explains why the Braves chose to go after Conforto in that spot. They did not, however, choose to go after J.D. Davis. They intentionally walked Davis, forcing the Mets to use their last available bench bat in Aaron Altherr. Predictably, Altherr grounded out to short to end the inning.

Paul Sewald took care of the top of the twelfth for the Mets and pitched a 1-2-3 inning in which the Braves, now out of position players, were forced to use Julio Teheran as a pinch hitter. Luke Jackson pitched a scoreless bottom of the twelfth for the Braves, working around a one-out single up the middle by Ramos. Acuna beat out a dribbler in front of the plate for an infield single to lead off the top of the thirteenth against Justin Wilson, but Wilson bounced back to retire the next three batters in the heart of the Braves order to give the Mets yet another chance to walk it off in the bottom of the inning. They did not do so, going down 1-2-3 against Jackson in his second inning of work. Jackson went on to earn the win for his strong two-inning effort, his seventh win of the season.

The Mets were now faced with a difficult choice in the top of the fourteenth. They could have pushed Justin Wilson to go a second inning, but Wilson has been heavily used of late and has already spent significant time on the injured list this season. Losing one of their only consistently reliable relievers to injury again would be devastating for an already thin bullpen. Instead of turning to Chris Flexen, newly called up from Triple-A, Mickey Callaway opted to go with Jeruys Familia, who was pitching for the third consecutive day. Familia had been much better of late, but the results were not there this time. However, it’s hard to argue that the outcome would have been different if Flexen had come in the game instead. The bullpen simply reached its breaking point after six strong innings of work.

Familia gave up a leadoff walk to Tyler Flowers to start things off. Then Hechavarria smacked a double to right-center field because of course he did. The ball bounced on the warning track and got stuck in the padding of the wall, but Juan Lagares ignored this and scampered up to the wall to vest it from its sticking place. Flowers scored on the play, but upon a crew chief review (the Mets had lost their challenge earlier in the game), the hit was ruled a ground rule double and Flowers was sent back to third base. Familia then recorded a key strikeout in Ortega for the first out. However, with the infield in, Billy Hamilton slapped a single just past the diving Panik to put the Braves ahead. Familia was able to limit the damage, striking out two hitters with a walk sandwiched in between to keep the Mets within a run. His strikeout of Albies to end the inning was the 26th by Mets pitching on the night, which is a new club record.

However, the Mets were unable to scratch together a rally against the Braves’ new closer Mark Melancon, who they acquired from the Giants at the trading deadline. The Mets went down 1-2-3 against him. J.D. Davis struck out looking, Steven Matz—being used as a pinch hitter with the Mets out of position players as well—bounced out to third, and Juan Lagares hit a sharp liner, but right at Albies to end the game. In the midst of a run when so many seemingly impossible things have happened for the Mets, they were unable to deliver the magic this time.

The Mets look to pick themselves up and even the series this evening, as Zack Wheeler takes the hill against Max Fried.

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What’s WPA?

Big winners: Seth Lugo, +21.8% WPA, Jacob deGrom (pitching), +20.7% WPA, Jacob deGrom (hitting), +18.8% WPA, Joe Panik, +14.2% WPA, Justin Wilson, +12.1% WPA, Paul Sewald, +12.1% WPA, Edwin Diaz, +12.1% WPA
Big losers: Michael Conforto, -42.4% WPA, Jeurys Familia, -32.7% WPA, Amed Rosario, -29.4% WPA, Juan Lagares, -18.2% WPA, Pete Alonso, -14.0% WPA, Aaron Altherr, -12.7% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: +58.3% WPA
Total batter WPA: -108.3% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Jacob deGrom’s game-tying home run, +20.4% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Adeiny Hechavarria’s ground rule double in the top of the fourteenth, -24.5% WPA