Tuesday evening started off badly enough for the Mets when the team revealed that Robinson Cano was heading to the IL and Jeff McNeil and Amed Rosario were both day-to-day. Unfortunately, things did not get any better from there, as poor starting pitching and poor clutch hitting resulted in a 5-3 loss in the series opener against the Washington Nationals.
The bad energy from the pregame carried over into an inauspicious start to the game, which featured a battle of southpaws as Steven Matz went up against Patrick Corbin. Aside from a one-out walk from number two hitter J.D. Davis, the top of the lineup was unable to get anything going against Corbin to start things off in the first. Conversely, it didn’t take too long for the Nationals to strike against Steven Matz. After he retired the first two batters he faced, number three hitter Howie Kendrick stepped up to the plate and socked a 3-2 pitch over the wall in left center field. The Nats quickly had a 1-0 lead, and it wouldn’t be long before they struck again. After a similarly quiet second inning for the Mets offense, Matz came back on for the second and quickly gave up a leadoff homer to Josh Harrison on a 3-1 pitch to make it 2-0. If the two bombs and the thus far anemic offense wasn’t bad enough to give one bad vibes about how this game would progress, the Mets also saw fit to give us some bad defense during this frame, as Brian Dozier—in the game at second thanks to Cano’s absence—made two misplays (the first of which was an error which put Yan Gomes on first base and the second of which kept him from turning what should have been a double play on the very next play), but thankfully those miscues did not result in even more runs being put on the board.
Nevertheless, things somehow got even worse for Matz in the bottom of the third—but on the bright side, Michael Conforto had himself quite a workout in right field that inning. After Adam Eaton led off the frame by lining out to right, Kendrick secured his second hit of the evening with an opposite field single. Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a double down the right field line that put runners on second and third, and Starlin Castro subsequently lashed an opposite field single to right which scored one run. Matz then finally secured an out, but it was a sacrifice fly to left field which scored yet another run and moved Castro to second base. Carter Kieboom then came up and slashed an opposite field hit to right—you sensing a pattern here?—which scored yet another run, making it 5-0 Nationals. Matz did manage to get the final out of the inning by getting Yan Gomes to ground out to short, but his night was done after that, and his final line was ugly—3 innings, 7 hits, 5 runs, 3 strikeouts, and 2 homers.
The Mets began the unenviable task of trying to come back from a five-run deficit in the top of the fourth inning. After a leadoff groundout to short off the bat of Alonso, Wilson Ramos hit an opposite field single to get things started, bringing Michael Conforto to the plate with a runner on. The lefty slugger blasted an impressive homer to left field—against a lefty pitcher, no less—to give the Mets their first runs of the game and cut the lead to 5-2. Alas, the bats were unable to get anything going for the rest of the inning, and the task then fell to the bullpen to keep the score where it was and give the team the chance to come back. Paul Sewald was the first man out of the pen for the Mets, and while the righty has struggled thus far in the 2020 season, he nevertheless tossed a perfect frame in the bottom of the fourth.
The offense came back up against Corbin in the top of the fifth, and after leadoff strikeouts by Andres Gimenez and Tomas Nido, it seemed like they were going to go down without much trouble. But after getting to two strikes, Brandon Nimo lashed a single to center, and Davis followed with a soft ground ball to third. Third baseman Kieboom came running in on the play and tried to make the throw to first, but Kendrick couldn’t handle the bounce, and Davis was safe at first with a single while Nimmo moved to third on the throw. The struggling Pete Alonso then came to the plate, and for this at-bat at least he came through, as the Polar Bear laced a two-strike opposite field single to score Nimmo from third and make it 5-3 Nationals. Wilson Ramos hit a long fly ball to center field that was caught to end the inning, but it certainly seemed like the Mets had enough momentum to potentially complete the comeback here.
Alas, Paul Sewald remembered that he is Paul Sewald in the bottom of the fifth and thus threatened to put the game back out of reach for the Mets. Kendrick led off the inning with a leadoff single, and after Cabrera popped out to Gimenez, Castro dunked a ball into right field to put runners on first second. Harrison then hit a groundball to third, but he beat the double play to keep the inning alive with runners on first and third. And because, as previously alluded to, Paul Sewald is Paul Sewald, Kieboom subsequently walked on four pitches to load the bases for Gomes. Rojas wisely pulled the plug on his mediocre reliever in favor for a mediocre reliever who has the potential to not be mediocre. Jeurys Familia came into the game and immediately did his job, striking Gomes out on three pitches.
Alas, the next couple innings failed to generate too much excitement on either side, save for some individual exciting moments. After retiring the first two batters in the top of the sixth, Corbin gave up back-to-back singles to Ryan Cordell and Gimenez, and he was subsequently pulled in favor of Ryne Harper, who got Nido to ground out to short to end the inning. Familia came back on for the seventh and gave up a one-out walk to Trea Turner, but the speedy shortstop was immediately caught stealing (thanks in large part to a terrific tag by Gimenez on the throw), and no other Nationals batters reached base in the inning. The Mets then briefly threatened in the seventh thanks to leadoff walks to both Nimmo and Davis to start the inning, which resulted in Harper being taken out of the game in favor of Tanner Rainey. Alas, the potential for a rally did not come to pass, as Alonso struck out, Ramos flied out to center, and Conforto flied out to left to end what was the Mets’ best chance at scoring and getting back into the ballgame.
Dellin Betances came on for the seventh, and while Kendrick hit a line drive single to left for his fourth hit of the game, he quickly secured a double play on the nexr batter and then got a fly out to right from Castro to end the inning. However, it unexpectedly started to rain during the frame, and it was bad enough that the grounds crew had to bring the tarp on the field. The game was thus delayed, and both teams had to wait an hour and seven minutes before they could resume play. When the game did pick back up around 11:00 p.m., it followed the same tune as it had been following previously: the Mets ended a rally before it even began. Dozier hit a leadoff line drive single off new pitcher Javy Guerra to get things started, but pinch hitter Dom Smith then struck out swinging. The strikeout was not nearly as frustrating, however, as Dozier’s subsequent attempt to swipe second on a ball that barely bounced away from Gomes while Gimenez was up at the plate in the following at-bat. Gomes recovered and made the throw to second, and while he was initially called safe, the replay review showed that he was out. This unnecessary out was made all the more frustrating by the fact that Gimenez followed it with a ground balll single to right which should have put runners on first and second with just one out. Instead, Tomas Nido struck out in the next at-bat to end the inning, and the Mets headed to the ninth still behind two runs.
Edwin Diaz—whose recent struggles and Luis Rojas’s subsequent usage of him gave the impression that he has lost the closer’s role—came on for the bottom of the eighth and reminded us why many fans continue to hold out hope for him, as he tossed a perfect frame with two strikeouts. Indeed, most of the positive elements to take away from yesterday’s game were in regards to the team’s bullpen, as the trio of Familia, Betances, and Diaz all flashed signs of their former selves. The offense, unfortunately, did not do this for the vast majority of the game, and the top of the ninth was no different. After new pitcher Dniel Hudson struck out both Nimmo and Davis to lead off the inning, Alonso did walk to bring the tying run to the plate in one last feeble attempt to make us think that a comeback was salvageable. But it was not to be, as Ramos flied out to center to end the game and put the Mets back on the losing track.
The team will try to salvage a series split tomorrow at 6:05 in a battle of former Cy Young winners, with Rick Porcello taking on Max Scherzer.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big Mets winner: J.D. Davis, +9.2% WPA
Big Mets loser: Steven Matz, -25.5% WPA
Mets pitchers: -38.3% WPA
Mets hitters: -11.7% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: J.D. Davis no-out walk to advance Brandon Nimmo to second in the seventh, +9.2% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Howie Kendrick solo homer in the first, +9.8% WPA