Before getting into this update of my simulated Mets season in OOTP, I just want to say that I hope you, your friends, and your family are staying safe through this crisis. It’s been good to see that folks are into this little project, and it’s been a good escape from reality for me to write these up. Here’s hoping real baseball will be back before too long.
Two quick housekeeping notes: I’m going to stop putting the final score in the headline for each game in case anyone wants the suspense, and there’s a poll at the end of this post about how you’d all like to see this series paced as I continue it.
April 2, Game 7: Mets at Nationals
With a 5-1 record to star the season, my Mets are feeling pretty good as they start a three-game series in Washington, D.C. for the Nationals’ home opener. Noah Syndergaard is starting for the Mets opposite Stephen Strasburg in this one, and as a reminder, Syndergaard entered this simulated season healthy. But in this season, Michael Conforto is still out for a few more weeks, while Amed Rosario looks like he’ll only be out for 10 days. And hey, the game spares me any ceremonial World Series stuff, which is nice.
Eric Thames opens the scoring with a solo home run for the Nats in the bottom of the second, but the Mets score two in the top of the fourth on a home run off the bat of Dom Smith, who’s off to a fantastic start. Unfortunately, Syndergaard gives up two more solo home runs, one to Howie Kendrick in the fifth and the other to Trea Turner in the sixth, giving the Nats a 3-2 lead. Syndergaard goes six on 100 pitches with just two strikeouts and two walks.
Robert Gsellman pitches a scoreless seventh, and with the Mets still down a run, Brad Brach comes on for the eighth. It goes terribly, as he gives up three runs on three hits, one of which being a two-run home run by Eric Thames. And although Strasburg went just 6.1 innings, the Mets aren’t able to do anything against Washington’s bullpen until Pete Alonso hits a two-run home run in the top of the ninth, cutting the Nats’ lead to 6-4. But the Mets get nothing else and lose. It’s early, but I am starting to lose patience with Brach.
FINAL: Nationals 6, Mets 4
April 4, Game 8: Mets at Nationals
Friday, April 3 is the off-day built in following the Nats’ home opener, so the series resumes on Saturday. Marcus Stroman starts opposite Patrick Corbin. This one gets off to a fun start.
Jeff McNeil singles, and after J.D. Davis strikes out, Pete Alonso is hit by a pitch. Wilson Ramos singles to load the bases, and Robinson Cano follows that up with a grand slam. That’s it for the scoring through the first seven innings of the game for the Mets, but that’s fine, as Stroman is having himself a day. He goes eight innings, strikes out three, walks three, doesn’t give up any runs, and throws 101 pitches.
As tempting as it is to push him a bit and go for the shutout, I’m comfortable pinch hitting for him in the ninth because the Mets had scored two more runs in the eighth when Ramos and Cano each single in a run. And the Mets tack on one more insurance run in the ninth when Jake Marisnick scores on a wild pitch.
With a 7-0 lead, I feel completely comfortable turning things over to Robert Gsellman, who manages to give up five freaking runs on just 17 pitches. He gets two outs in the process, but what and ugly process it is. Juan Soto doubles, Eric Thames singles, Asdrubal Cabrera hits a three-run home run, and those are the first three batters he’s faced. Jeurys Familia starts getting warm in the bullpen.
Gsellman gives up a single to Starlin Castro and hits Victor Robles with a pitch before catching a big break on a line-out double play off the bat of Kurt Suzuki. Yan Gomes then triples to bring Robles home, and I finally get Gsellman out of there in favor of Familia. He gives up a single to Adam Eaton that cuts the Mets’ lead to just two runs, but Familia gets Wilmer Difo to ground out to mercifully end the damn game.
FINAL: Mets 7, Nationals 5
April 5, Game 9: Mets at Nationals
Quick note before getting into this game: Eduardo Nunez cleared waivers and is back in Syracuse. As for the rubber game of the series, my Mets send Steven Matz to the hill, while the Nats have Joe Ross going for them.
Michael Taylor starts the scoring with a two-run home run in the bottom of the first, but Dom Smith hits a solo shot in the second to cut that lead in half. Taylor strikes again, though, with another two-run home run in the bottom of the third. Juan Soto takes Matz deep to lead off the bottom of the fifth, and after Matz gets a ground out and gives up a single to Taylor, his pitch count is at 103 with just one out in the fifth. I pull him in favor of Jeurys Familia, who finishes the inning and pitches a scoreless sixth, all on a very efficient 22 pitches.
That’s a big help, as the Mets had gotten two runs in the top of the sixth on back-to-back home runs by Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil to start the inning. The Mets get two more in the seventh on a two-run home run from J.D. Davis that ties the game at five apiece.
Justin Wilson gets the seventh, retires the first batter he faces, and leave the game with an injury. Not great. I turn to Dellin Betances, who matches Familia with 1.2 innings of scoreless work, throwing just 25 pitches. With the game still tied, Dom Smith hits a solo home run in the top of the ninth to put the Mets up 6-5. Between Davis’s home run in the seventh and that one, it’s been a pretty dramatic comeback.
But that’s when the game gets turned over to Edwin Diaz. Wilson Ramos had hit for Betances in the ninth and stays in the game at catcher. Diaz walks Howie Kendrick, and Juan Soto reaches on an error by Luis Guillorme at short. Diaz strikes out Thames, but he then walks Adam Eaton to load the bases. Wilmer Difo singles to bring in one run and tie the game, and with Deven Marrero at the plate, a wild pitch by Diaz brings Soto in to score the walk-off run.
FINAL: Nationals 7, Mets 6
I haven’t been including a WPA graph in this series yet, but this game absolutely warrants the heartbreaking one below. If you want to see more of them in this series, chime in down in the comments and I’ll be happy to oblige.
And the usual box score stuff:
Vas’s take: The Mets hit a little bit of a snag after kicking things off with a 5-1 homestand to start the year. Still, going 6-3 over the first nine games while splitting six with the defending World Series champs is nothing to sneeze at. The bright spot of the weekend was Stroman, who dazzled with eight shutout innings in the team’s lone victory before the pen made things interesting. If he keeps pitching like that, he’s in for a big payday.
The offense continues to be a positive at this early juncture of the season, especially Smith. If he can hit the way he has so far this season (.400 with three home runs), you can live with him playing out of place and being a defensive liability in left. Even without Rosario and Conforto out with injuries, they’ve managed to average just under five runs per game in the last six contests. Alonso’s power numbers are where you’d expect, although he only registered one hit in the series. There’s no need to worry about the Polar Bear though.
The bullpen, which was a big concern heading into the year, has done little to assuage those fears. If you’re McShane, you have to start to worry about Brach after he gave up three earned runs for the second straight outing to start his 2020 campaign. If this lets up, Brach might find his opportunities diminishing as the season progresses. On top of that, Edwin Diaz has done nothing to calm people’s nerves after his rough 2019. A 6.00 ERA and two blown saves, including throwing away Sunday’s game with a walk-off wild pitch, is not the kind of start he or his new manager were envisioning. Throw in Gsellman’s disastrous Saturday showing, and it was not a good weekend for the pen.
The team continues a tough road trip against the defending AL champions, but the team has another off day on Monday to rest and recover from their early-season injuries.
How should we pace this series?
This poll is closed
Roughly align with the Mets’ original 2020 schedule
Pick up the pace, McShane! 2-3 series per post every few days