The Mets began their weekend series against the NL West champion Dodgers coming off a four-game sweep of the Diamondbacks. Noah Syndergaard—after having been painted as something of a villain this past week—took the mound against Clayton Kershaw looking to keep the good times rolling for the Amazins. Alas, the Dodgers proved that they are the team with the best record in the National League for a reason, as they put a hurting on both Thor and the Mets bullpen to win the opening game of the series 9-2.
The game got off to a pretty solid start. Syndergaard opened up his night with a perfect inning in the top of the first, and it only took the Mets two batters before they scored off Clayton Kershaw in the bottom of the frame. That run came as the result of a booming J.D. Davis solo shot to left field for his 19th homer of the year. While Jeff McNeil subsequently flew out to center for the second out of the inning, Ramos followed with a four-pitch walk, and Cano worked a 2-0 count as the Mets threatened to do even more damage to Kershaw in the early going. However, the next pitch was grounded out to first to end the inning, and the Dodgers’ ace would quickly find his groove after this slightly rough start.
Corey Seager got the first hit off Syndergaard in the second with a one-out opposite field single in the second, but the Dodgers otherwise went down quietly. The third inning went very similarly for them, as a lone single—this one a two-out hit against the shift off the bat of Joc Pederson—was all that the Los Angeles bats managed. The Mets, however, were not able to even manage that level of offensive production during these two innings, as the team were unable to get any runners on base against Kershaw during that time. Thus, the first third of the game ended with the score still 1-0.
It was in the fourth inning when the Dodgers finally struck, and they did so in a big way. After retiring the first batter of the inning, Syndergaard underwent a ten-pitch battle against the Cody Bellinger, and he ultimately walked the likely NL MVP. Corey Seager quickly followed with a line drive single to right field, moving Bellinger over to third base. A.J. Pollock then came to the plate, and he got the Dodgers on the board with a single up the middle past a diving Robinson Cano. That tied up the ballgame, but it wouldn’t stay tied for long. Rookie second baseman Gavin Lux came up next, and he socked a 3-2 pitch to straightaway center field which just went over the orange line for a three-run homer. The fact that Syndergaard subsequently got the next two outs to end the inning did little to alleviate from the fact that all of the sudden, the Dodgers had themselves a 4-1 lead with their ace pitcher on the mound.
The Mets did threaten to get some of those runs back in the bottom of the frame, as Wilson Ramos hit a one-out dribbler to third base which Matt Beaty was unable to handle on the barehand followed by a ground ball single up the middle by Cano to put runners on first and second. Alas, Todd Frazier popped up a 3-1 pitch to third base, and Michael Conforto hit a sharp line drive out to center field to end the threat. Syndergaard came back on for the top of the fifth, and while he did give a sharp line drive off the bat of Pederson (which Lagares bailed him out on with a nice running catch) and a walk to Max Muncy, he was able to get through the inning unscathed. That was the end of the night for Thor, as he finished with a rather pedestrian line of four runs in five innings with five hits, two walks, and four strikeouts.
After the Mets went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the fifth, Jeurys Familia replaced Syndergaard to begin the sixth, and he got his night started with a 1-2-3 inning of his own. But Kershaw matched him with yet another perfect inning of his own in the bottom of the frame, and Familia quickly went back out for his second inning of work. It started just as successfully as his first one did, as he retired Will Smith on flyout to center and Kershaw on a strikeout. Pederson then came up to the plate, and he once again beat the shift for a single, with his hit this time being a particularly weak ground ball down the vacated third base side. With a runner on first and two outs, Mickey Callaway came out to the mound and took the ball from Familia, and he turned to Luis Avilan to try to finish the inning and bring the Mets back up to the plate with just a three-run deficit.
Avilan did not cooperate with that plan, however, as he got his night started with a two-out walk to Muncy to put runners on first and second. Dave Roberts then used Chris Tayor as a pinch hitter for Beaty, and the latter player quickly rewarded his manager with a line drive double down the left field line which scored both runs. Taylor went to third on the throw to home plate, and he would soon advance those last ninety feet himself, as Cody Bellinger followed that clutch hit with one of his own. This one was an opposite field single past a diving Rosario which brought Taylor at home to make it a 7-1 ballgame. Avilan finally struck out Seager to end the inning, but by that point the bullpen had already failed to keep the Mets in the game.
Nevertheless, the offense did get to work trying to claw their way back from this big deficit they found themselves in. Cano led off the inning against Kershaw with a ground ball out to first, but then Frazier got things started with a single to center. Conforto followed that hit with a walk, and with runners on first and second, Callaway turned to Pete Alonso—who received a rare night out of the starting lineup—to pinch hit for Lagares to try to get the Mets back in the ballgame with one majestic swing. He did not get the chance to provide that swing, however, as Kershaw—who by this point was clearly running out of gas—walked the first baseman slugger on four pitches, which prompted Dave Roberts to remove his ace in favor of Joe Kelly. The Mets initially sent up Jed Lowrie to pinch hit for the nine hole, but when the pitching change was announced Callaway turned to Brandon Nimmo—also getting a night off from starting duty—to try to get the team within striking distance of the Dodgers.
Alas, Nimmo was not able to do that for the Amazins. Instead, he hit an 0-2 dribbler back to the pitcher, and Kelly came home with the ball to ensure that a run would not score on the play. The bases thus remained loaded, but now there were two outs, and the Mets’ chances at a big rally were greatly diminished. Rosario came up to the plate, and he ensured that the Amazins would at least not leave the inning empty-handed, as he hit a single up the middle to score Conforto from third and make it a 7-2 ballgame. Alas, that was all that the Mets would be able to manage, as Davis grounded out to second to end the threat.
The score was still pretty insurmountable at this point, but the Dodgers decided not to take any chances. Walker Lockett came on to pitch the final two innings for the Mets, and after retiring the first batter he faced, Lux reached first base on a ground ball that a diving Rosario was able to stop but not quite get a handle on for an infield single. Smith then lined out to third base, and with the pitcher’s spot coming up, Roberts turned to rookie Edwin Rios to pinch hit. The 25-year-old lefty hitter used the opportunity to provide some insurance runs that the Dodgers didn’t need, as he knocked an opposite field two-run homer to give the team a 9-2 lead. Lockett retired the final batter of the inning, and he got through the top of the ninth inning without much trouble as well. But he, like Familia and Avilan before him, failed to hold the Dodgers where they were and give the Mets a chance to make an improbable comeback.
There is little to be said about the final two frames for the Mets’ bats. McNeil, Ramos, and Cano all went down quietly against Casey Sadler in the bottom of the eighth inning, and Josh Sborz came on to try to finish things off in the ninth. Aside from a two-out walk to Alonso, he was able to accomplish his goal without any trouble, and the Mets fell to the Dodgers 9-2. With that loss and the Cubs win earlier in the day, the Amazins fell back to a three-game deficit in the wild card race.
The Mets will turn to their ace to start a new winning streak, as Jacob deGrom will take the mound against Hyun-Jin Ryu in a battle of Cy Young contenders tonight at 7:10.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: None
Big losers: Noah Syndergaard, -29.1% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -35.4% WPA
Total batter WPA: -14.6% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: J.D. Davis solo homer in the first, +11.4% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Gavin Lux three-run homer in the fourth, -28.2% WPA