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Swimming with the Fishes

The Mets magical run to the playoffs appears to have ended.

Miami Marlins v New York Mets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Mets have had a long history of bad losses to the Marlins in September, and the opener to their last homestand of 2019 was no different. It was perhaps doomed from the beginning since the simple fact that a lefty was starting for Miami sent Mickey Callaway into a tailspin. He once again showed his lack of urgency and awareness of the situation when he sat the red-hot, rested Brandon Nimmo, who can hold his own against lefties, in favor of Juan Lagares who is not good against anybody. Nimmo pinch-hit and walked in the eighth, Lagares went 1-for-3 with two strikeouts. Sure Lagares scored ahead of Amed Roario’s home run, but not playing your best players when the team is fighting for its playoff life is inexcusable.

That was Callaway’s first mistake and it certainly wasn’t his last. It’s no secret that the manager’s job security is shaky at best, so every decision he makes gets amplified. Of course when things go wrong it will always get scrutinized more than when things break right, but Steven Matz was left in the game way too long. Jorge Alfaro had already taken the lefty deep in the second and was up again with the bases loaded in the sixth. Three straight singles loaded the bases and Matz was left in to face Alfaro with the Mets already down 2-0. If the Mets want to make the playoffs, these games need to be managed like the playoffs where there should be a quick hook at the first sign of trouble. Again the lack of urgency was egregious especially considering what happened in Matz’s last start where it blew up and it blew up quickly on him.

Here too it got ugly fast when Alfaro sent a ball over the centerfield fence for his first career grand slam. It was also the first grand slam Mets pitching had given up all season and it could not come at a worse time. Jeurys Familia came in and finished the inning but for Matz, his 2019 ended on the worst possible note with two back-to-back dreadful starts that all but eliminated the Mets from playoff contention.

Like they have all season, after getting knocked down the team got back up. After stranding baserunners all night long, Amed Rosario finally brought them all home with his second grand slam of the season. It seemed briefly that there was still some magic swirling around Citi’s walls but Callaway next turned to Walker Lockett to start the seventh. Lockett immediately allowed the first two runners to reach base and then finally Brad Brach came in from the bullpen.

Brach has been solid since joining the team and got a huge out the day before against the Reds. After a sac bunt and an intentional walk, Brach induced a short fly ball where the runners had to stay put and then a grounder where everything went wrong. He was late covering first and with some hustle by Harold Ramirez to beat the throw, and by Jon Berti who kept running from second, two runs scored when the play was overturned upon replay review. Despite that flub, had Brach started the inning it might not have gotten to that point since Lockett did not retire a batter.

Those runs ended up not mattering in the 8-4 loss, but the play at the time felt like the final blow to the Mets’ season. Weak rallies went nowhere in the late innings and the Marlins once again played spoiler to their October dreams. Time is running short on the Mets’ season and it is now too late for manager to start acting like it.

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Win Probability Added

What’s WPA?

Big winners: None
Big losers: Steven Matz -21.8%, Todd Frazier -10.8%
Total pitcher WPA: -31.2%
Total batter WPA: -18.8%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Amed Rosario grand slam in sixth
Teh sux0rest play: Jorge Alfaro home run in second