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Mets’ bats quiet against Smyly as Stroman struggles in his latest start

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Not a whole lot went right for the Mets in this one.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

There was a lot of blame to go around in tonight’s New York Mets loss. Marcus Stroman had another poor outing for his new team. The offense couldn’t score against the immortal Drew Smyly and his 6.65 ERA while leaving nine on base and going 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position. J.D. Davis made a crucial error that led to the Philadelphia Phillies putting a crooked number up on the board. In the end, it was a combination of all these failures that resulted in the team suffering a big loss at this late juncture of the season.

The trouble began immediately for Stroman, who surrendered a lead-off home run to Cesar Hernandez following an eight-pitch battle with the Met killer. Hernandez, who entered the game hitting almost .400 against New York, contributed three hits in five at-bats in his team’s victory. As it turns out, that would be all the offense Philadelphia would need, but they would get a little bit more later on.

It was the first lead-off home run that Stroman had given up in his career. After allowing just ten home runs with the Toronto Blue Jays before the trade, Stroman has now served up seven long balls since arriving in Flushing. After that homer, Stroman was burned by some bad BABIP luck. J.T. Realmuto hit a dribbler past Stroman that went for an infield hit, and Corey Dickerson blooped a ball down the left field line that was bobbled and dropped by Todd Frazier. After a Rhys Hoskins liner was caught by Jeff McNeil at second, Jean Segura blooped a ball into shallow left that fell for a hit, but Realmuto was unable to score after stumbling around third. After that, Stroman settled down to retire Brad Miller on a strikeout and Scott Kingery on a soft line drive back to the pitcher. All told, it took Stroman 32 pitches to navigate the first.

On the other side, it took Smyly 32 pitches to get through his own first, but he was able to escape unscathed. Pete Alonso got things started for New York with a one-out double that registered at 108 miles-per-hour off the bat and just missed sneaking over the left field wall. With the hit, Alonso extended his on-base streak to 32 games, which is one behind the single-season record held by Darryl Strawberry in 1987 and matched by Jose Reyes in 2008. Jeff McNeil followed with a walk, but Davis struck out on a check swing for the second out. After Michael Conforto walked, Frazier was robbed of what could have been a three-run double by Adam Haseley, who was stepping in for an injured Bryce Harper in right field. It turned out to be a critical defense play that squashed the best scoring chance the Mets would have on the night.

Stroman pitched a scoreless second and third, and Smyly matched him. At the start of the fourth, both pitchers had 62 pitches as it looked like both teams would need to dig deep into their bullpens. At this point, the tides completely shifted for one pitcher, as Smyly settled in while Stroman continued to struggle.

The fourth inning was a mess for the Mets, beginning with Davis dropping a routine fly ball that went for an error. From there, the Phillies started to pick up some hard hits against the Mets’ hurler as every ball they hit was a scorcher off the bat. After the error, Haseley hit a single. While Smyly failed to advance his teammates on a bunt, Hernandez hit a single into right to score Kingery. Realmuto immediately followed with a hard hit single to make it 3-0, and Corey Dickerson rocketed a double into the right field corner to plate two more and make it a five-run lead. At this point, the top of the order had eight hits in nine at-bats against Stroman. Stroman recovered to retire Hoskins and Segura, but that would be all for the right-hander.

The Mets were gifted two base runners to start the fourth after Brad Miller booted grounders from Frazier and from Lagares but couldn’t figure out how to score. Tomas Nido followed the errors up with a strikeout, which brought up Jed Lowrie for his first at-bat as a member of the Mets. Lowrie, who has battled injuries all season long, got a nice ovation from the Citi Field crowd as he pinch hit for Stroman, but he struck out too on a 2-2 fastball. Rosario grounded out to end the inning and leave Frazier and Lagares stranded on the bases.

From there, the Mets bullpen got to work. First it was Daniel Zamora, who pitched an impressive 1-2-3 inning in the fifth. He was replaced by Walker Lockett, who was spectacular as he pitched two perfect innings. Jeurys Familia was next and pitched around a lead-off single by Sean Rodriguez to hold the Phillies scoreless, and Tyler Bashlor tossed a perfect ninth to finish things off.

Unfortunately, it was a slow march towards the end for the Mets’ offense, who didn’t do much of anything after squandering their chances in the first and fourth. They managed just a Davis single in the fifth and went down in order in the sixth and seventh. After needing 78 pitches to get through four, Smyly made it through the final three innings with just 30 pitches. The Mets barely challenged him.

The Mets didn’t do much against Philadelphia’s bullpen either, despite getting the leadoff man on over the final two innings. In the eighth, McNeil led off with a single but was erased on a Conforto double play to end the inning. In the ninth, pinch hitter Brandon Nimmo got things started with a walk, but a bevy of pinch hitters that followed him could not produce similar results. Joe Panik grounded out, Robinson Cano struck out, and Wilson Ramos grounded out to put an end to the game and the team’s modest two-game winning streak.

With the loss, the Mets remained at four games back of the Chicago Cubs in the NL Wild Card race and fell to one game behind the Phillies and the Milwaukee Brewers, who walked off against the Cubs. They also lost a game on the Arizona Diamondbacks, who earned their eleventh victory in their last twelve games. With only 21 games remaining, the team cannot afford many more losses or any more lackadaisical efforts like the one on Saturday night, and just earning series wins is no longer enough. The team will look to take the rubber game on Sunday afternoon behind Noah Syndergaard.

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What’s WPA?

Big winners: Juan Lagares, 10.7% WPA
Big losers: Marcus Stroman, -27.6% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -25.4% WPA
Total batter WPA: -24.6% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Pete Alonso third inning single, 4.7% WPA.
Teh sux0rest play: Cesar Hernandez lead-off home run, -11.0% WPA.