On a cool April day in Denver, the Mets and Rockies played two baseball games, one of which was good and fun, and one of which was bad.
The first game of the day was filled with plenty of highs and lows, something that has become routine when Jacob deGrom takes the mound for the Mets. Though the Mets did end up winning 4-3, it took a late-inning rally to secure the win, and considering how the team performs when deGrom starts, it was far from a guarantee.
The game started with the Mets getting their first two batters of the game, Brandon Nimmo and Francisco Lindor, on base. But in typical 2021 Mets fashion, they could not capitalize against Rockies starter Chi Chi Gonzalez, stranding Nimmo and Lindor on base and wasting an early opportunity to score.
Jacob deGrom then took the mound, and through the first five batters of the game, looked human, relatively speaking. Whether it was the six days rest, or the first pitch temperature of 42 degrees, deGrom started out slow, hitting about 97 MPH on his fastball, when we had seen him hitting 100+ easily in his first two starts.
After allowing allowing a leadoff double to Charlie Blackmon in the bottom of the second, and then walking C.J. Cron, it seemed as if today was just not deGrom’s day. Instead, what we saw next was deGrom at his best, and what has made him the best pitcher in baseball. With two men on base and no outs, deGrom suddenly started hitting 100 on the gun and proceeded to strikeout the next three batters to escape trouble in the second.
deGrom then helped himself out, leading off the top of the third with a single to left field. After a Brandon Nimmo sacrifice bunt, and a Francisco Lindor groundout, Pete Alonso was able to drive in deGrom to give the Mets the 1-0 lead. And, because it was a Jacob deGrom start, and this is what the Mets do, they failed to score any more runs for deGrom that inning, settling for just the one run.
deGrom came back out in the bottom of the third and picked up right where he left off. Moving through the Rockies lineup with ease, deGrom struck out the side, to give him six straight strikeouts. He continued his superhuman performance in the fourth inning, striking out the side yet again. This gave deGrom nine straight strikeouts, setting a new career high, and putting him one shy of the major league record held by The Franchise, Tom Seaver.
deGrom came out in the fifth looking to make history, but instead was met with a rude awakening. On an 0-1 pitch, Josh Fuentes was able to put the ball in play with a weak grounder to second base. Seemingly shocked that the ball was actually hit, Jeff McNeil made an errant throw and Fuentes was able to reach base on the error. DeGrom was able to momentarily rebound, striking out the next batter, but then gave up a one out triple to Dom Núñez, plating the first run of the game for the Rockies. It only got worse from there for deGrom, who was able to retire Yonathan Daza on a fly ball to right, but in the process allowed Núñez to tag up and score, partly due to a poor throw from Michael Conforto. On the seventh pitch of the next at bat, deGrom made his biggest mistake of the day, allowing a solo shot to Raimel Tapia, making it 3-1 Rockies.
With the bats of the Mets being quiet all game long, a 2 run deficit seemed insurmountable for the team, but Pete Alonso led off the top of the sixth with a solo home run of his own to make it a one run game. That was all the Mets were able to muster though, leaving it a one run game heading into the bottom of the inning. Jacob deGrom was able to bounce back in the bottom half of the sixth, striking out the final two batters of the inning, giving him 14 on the day. It was the second game in a row deGrom struck out 14, as he finished his day allowing 3 hits and 3 unearned runs to go along with those strikeouts.
In the top of the seventh, the Mets had one more shot to give deGrom the win, and James McCann led the inning off with a single against Rockies closer Daniel Bard. After Albert Almora Jr. pinch ran for McCann, Jonathan Villar pinch hit for deGrom, and once again proved to have the clutch gene for the team this April. On a 1-0 slider, Villar ripped a double down the right field line, scoring Almora Jr. to tie the game. Brandon Nimmo then beat out an infield single to put runners at the corner for Francisco Lindor with a chance to give the Mets the lead.
Swinging on the first pitch, Lindor came through with the go-ahead single and his biggest hit in his early tenure with the Mets. And, as was the story all game long, the Mets were not able to score any more runs, sending out Edwin Diaz for the save with a 4-3 lead in the last of the seventh.
In the end, Diaz did not need any insurance runs, as he struck out the side to get his first save of the season, and secured a thrilling win for the Mets. On the day, deGrom and Diaz combined for 17 strikeouts, the most ever by a pitching staff in a game at Coors Field, and Jacob deGrom finally got his first victory of the year.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big Mets winner: Jonathan Villar, +36.1% WPA
Big Mets loser: Jacob deGrom, -9.3% WPA
Mets pitchers: +15% WPA
Mets hitters: +35% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Jonathan Villar’s game-tying double in the top of the seventh, +36.1%
Teh sux0rest play: Dom Núñez RBI triple in the bottom of the fifth, -27.9%
Game one was fun. It involved one of the rarer sightings in Metsland, a Jacob deGrom win, and even had a thrilling comeback to cap it off. Francisco Lindor drove in what ended up being the winning run. Playing a second game seemed like a great idea on the heels of that win.
But it ended up being way more fun in theory than in execution.
The top of the first inning ended up being a sign of things to come, as Germán Márquez diced up Brandon Nimmo, Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso — something he did in all but one of the innings in his two-hit complete game victory.
Due to the Mets incredibly bad luck in regards to the weather, Joey Lucchesi finally toed the rubber as the Mets fifth starter in game two, and he was a mixed bag. He struggled mightily to start, as the Rockies threatened immediately with a Garrett Hampson double, and a misplay by Jonathan Villar (that was somehow ruled a hit) off the bat of Ryan McMahon had the Rockies set up with first and third with no outs. Trevor Story drove in the first run with a sacrifice fly, and Charlie Blackmon put McMahon right back in scoring position with a single. An RBI double by C.J. Cron had the inning feel like the wheels were about to fall completely off.
To Lucchesi’s credit, he settled down immediately after that. He got Josh Fuentes to ground out (though that made it 3-0), and a pop out by Yonathan Daza ended the inning before it got really out of hand.
The next two innings kept the 3-0 score the same. Márquez was excellent, silencing the Mets bats and silencing Coors all at once. Lucchesi settled down impressively after his bad first, and only allowed one base runner in the second and third innings, the latter his last inning before Luis Rojas turned to the bullpen.
The only sign of life the Mets showed happened in the top of the fourth. Nimmo continued to be completely on fire, leading off the inning with a single. Lindor worked a walk, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Márquez almost finagled his way out of it, striking out both Michael Conforto and Pete Alonso. Jeff McNeil stayed true to his ultra-agressive nature, ripping a first pitch knuckle curve down the first base line, making it a 3-2 ballgame.
That would be the be all and end all of the Mets offense. Márquez would allow just one more base runner for the entirety of the seven inning affair, a walk to Dom Smith in the 5th inning. Their inconsistent offense showed how finicky it has been in the early goings so far this season in this double header — it has been a perfect microcosm of their stop-and-start season.
On the pitching side, Robert Gsellman finally made his season debut, giving up a hit in a scoreless fourth inning. Jacob Barnes relieved him in the fifth, and immediately put the game out of reach for his own team — some of it through no fault of his own. After a lead off single, Barnes got Story to roll what would be a perfect double play ball — except the shift had the second baseman playing for Story to pull, and he hit it against the shift. Blackmon grounded out to make it 4-2 Rockies, and Fuentes hit a very large home run to make it 7-2 and force Sunday’s game to be a rubber game. The biggest highlight after that home run was Trevor Hildenberger debuting in a Mets uniform, sidearming his way to a scoreless sixth inning.
The Mets close out their series with the Rockies today, with Marcus Stroman squaring off against Antonio Senzatela in a 3:10pm ET start.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big Mets winner: Jeff McNeil, +15.2% WPA
Big Mets loser: Jacob Barnes, -20.3% WPA
Mets pitchers: -30.9% WPA
Mets hitters: -19.1% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Jeff McNeil two RBI doubled to right, +17.5% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: C.J. Cron RBI double to center, -11.5% WPa