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The Wheel(er)s fall off in Philadelphia

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Zack Wheeler made the Mets pay in a different way on Sunday afternoon.

MLB: New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

On a rainy, misty day in Philadelphia, the Mets lost a fittingly depressing game, falling 6-2 to the Phillies to finish off a sweep. The most apparent dichotomy in this game was that between Zack Wheeler, the former Met they let get away, and Rick Porcello, the veteran “former Cy Young winner” they replaced him with. Wheeler was great, limiting the Mets to two runs over seven innings, while Porcello was...not. Offensively, the Sunday doldrums that have plagued the Mets’ bats for what feels like forever combined with 2020’s poor RISP luck were too much to overcome.

Porcello was greeted rudely by Jean Segura, who roped a triple off the right-center field wall leading off the bottom of the first. Two bloop hits from Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper followed, giving the Phillies an early lead and seemingly setting them up for a big inning. Instead, Porcello buckled down the hatches and got out of the jam, inducing a foul pop up from J.T. Realmuto, striking out Didi Gregorius, and getting a groundout from rookie Alec Bohm.

The Mets immediately had a chance to get that run back, as the red-hot Dominic Smith singled leading off the top of the second. After two fielder’s choice ground outs, Wilson Ramos hit a weak infield dribbler that Bohm threw away, and Andres Gimenez—who was running on the pitch—tried to score all the way from first. The throw beat him in plenty of time, however, and since the Phillies were player a catcher with functional knees that can block the plate, Gimenez was tagged out at home to end the inning.

Undeterred, the Mets got the leadoff man on again in the third, as the white-hot Luis Guillorme worked a leadoff walk. A bunt moved him into scoring position, but Wheeler struck out Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto to end that threat too. In the fourth, J.D. Davis also reached base to lead off the inning, and another single and an HBP loaded the bases with two outs for Guillorme. Reveling in his new starting role, Guillorme shot a ball over the third base bag for a two-run single. Wilson Ramos was thrown out at third to prevent any further scoring, but the Mets had jumped back in front.

On the other side of the Ball, Porcello did an excellent job of working around traffic, stranding one runner in each of the second, third, and fourth. His only 1-2-3 inning came in the fifth, but that inning also featured two balls that nearly left the ball park. Perhaps that should’ve been a sign, because the Phillies finally broke through in the sixth. Doubles from Realmuto and Bohm tied the game before Andrew McCutchen launched the first pitch he saw into the left-field seats for a two-run home run. Porcello finished out the inning without further damage, but the Mets were now in a 4-2 hole.

Things got worst in the seventh, when the Mets decided to stop playing defense. J.D. Davis threw a ball away to stat the inning, Ramos allowed a passed ball, and another low throw from Davis clanked off Dominic Smith’s glove. In total, two errors, an intentional walk, and two hits led to two more Phillies runs. Those runs turned out to be meaningless, as the Mets failed to do anything relevant against the putrid Philadelphia bullpen, ultimately accepting the sweep without much of a fight.

Really, this summary of this game could’ve been copied from any other of the Mets’ losses this season. The offense was a morose mix of unimpressive and unlucky, the starting pitching struggled, and the game never really felt all that competitive. Expanded playoffs may still give the Mets a chance at postseason glory, but the reality is that this team simply isn’t very good, and a big driver of that reality is the total lack of production from the majority of the free agent additions made over the last two years.

Several streaks ended in this one: Brandon Nimmo lost his 36-game on-base streak, Michael Confoto lost his 12-game hitting streak, and Dominic Smith lost his four-game home run streak. More importantly, the loss drops the Mets to 9-14, leaving them two games back of the second wild card spot. Robert Gsellman will be on the mound tomorrow night in Miami for the first of four games with the surprising first place Marlins.

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What’s WPA?

Big Mets winner: Luis Guillorme, +17.7% WPA
Big Mets loser: Rick Porcello, -22.7% WPA; Andres Gimenez, -12.8% WPA
Mets pitchers: -30.5% WPA
Mets hitters: -18.2% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Luis Guillorme drives in two with a single in the fourth, +15.9% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Andrew McCutchen hits a two-run home run in the sixth, -22.4% WPA