A day after one of the most memorable pitching performances in franchise history, Marcus Stroman did not quite live up to the lofty standards that Jacob deGrom had set less than twenty-four hours before. The number two starter struggled early on and the Mets bats were never able to catch fire, and the result was a deflating 7-1 defeat.
Things went wrong from the very beginning for the Amazins, as the very first batter of the day against Stroman hit what should have been a simple single to the opposite field, but Michael Conforto misplayed the bounce in right, and the ball went all the way to the wall. That miscue resulted in Josh Harrison winding up on third, and Yadiel Hernandez immediately hit a sacrifice fly to left field to give the Nationals an early 1-0 lead. Stroman followed that with two strikeouts to get out of the inning, and the Mets threatened to get the run back in the bottom of the frame against starting pitcher Joe Ross when Nimmo led off with a walk and Alonso got a bloop hit to put runners in scoring position, but Conforto was not able to make up for his defensive mistake, as he hit a hard fly ball out to right field to leave the runners stranded in what would, of course, be a running theme for the day.
Stroman came on to try to keep the deficit to only a run, but alas, he failed. After getting Kyle Schwarber out on a ground ball to lead off the inning, he threw back-to-back walks to Starlin Castro and Alex Avila (in part because of a small strikezone on the part of the home plate umpire). Stroman struck out Andrew Stevenson for the second out, but Ross then came up to the plate and pulled a deGrom and helped his own cause by hitting an RBI single to the opposite field. With that, the score was 2-0 Nationals, and the pain was unfortunately only just beginning.
The Mets went down meekly in the bottom of the second, and Stroman had a few choice words for the umpire while warming up for the top of the third. His frustrations would only continue in the third, in part due to more bad defense and more bad luck. Hernandez led off with a opposite field line drive to left field which a competent defensive outfielder probably would have been able to catch. Alas, Dominic Smith is currently manning the position, and he slid for the ball but couldn’t come up with it. Trea Turner followed that with an opposite field single to put runners on first and second, and Josh Bell subsequently hit a sharp ground ball that Alonso was able to make an impressive diving stop for, but he was only able to get the out at second base. With runners on first and third with just one out, the Nationals once again took advantage, as Kyle Schwarber hit a soft RBI single to right field to score Hernandez, and Castro followed with an RBI single of his own to center field. Those two hits made it 4-0 Nationals, a hole that already felt insurmountable.
The only offensive output the Mets got in the bottom of the third was a long foul ball shot off Lindor’s bat, but alas, no actual hits or baserunners in the bunch. Luis Rojas decided to let Stroman go back out for the fourth inning, and the results were unfortunately very similar to the first three innings. It started with yet another display of BABIP misfortune, as Stevenson hit a soft groundball which beat the shift for a leadoff single. Ross then bunted him over to second, and while Stroman got Harrison to ground out to shortstop to get to two outs, he was not able to secure his first scoreless innings of the game. Instead, Hernandez got his second RBI of the day by slashing a single to right, scoring Stevenson for the fifth run of the ballgame. None of those runs, eagle-eyed readers will notice, were scored by the Mets.
The sixth run, however, did come from the guys in the orange and blue in the bottom of the fourth inning. Smith and Alonso quickly got out to begin the frame, but then Conforto came up and finally made up for the run he allowed to score in the first by hitting a shot to right field that banged off the foul pole. The score was now 5-1, and for a brief moment it seemed like the Mets might be able to shorten the lead even further. J.D. Davis followed the homer with a sharp ground ball that Harrison was able to make a diving play on at third but that still resulted in an infield hit. McNeil then hit a shot that bounced off the second baseman’s glove for another single, putting two runners on. But James McCann came up to the plate and, after working the count full, got jammed and hit a weak pop up to short to end the inning.
Stephen Tarpley came on to replace Stroman (whose final line—4 innings pitched, 5 runs, 8 hits, 2 walks, four strikeouts—raised his season ERA all the way up to 2.22), and he was, uhh, not good in his garbage time audition. An overview of his outing: a five-pitch walk to Bell, a bizarre check swing single to center by Schwarber, a four-pitch walk to Castro, and a first-pitch hit-by-pitch to Avila. Thus, another run scored, and Tarpley was never heard from again. Robert Gsellman came on in a double switch to replace him, with McNeil getting an early shower as well. The Nats scored yet another run on a fielder’s choice hit to first base by Stevenson, but Gsellman managed to get out of the inning without giving up any additional runs. He went two more innings after that, surrendering only a lone walk and striking out two, which certainly bodes well for his chances to get more work in close games soon.
Alas, the Mets did not benefit from Gsellman’s efforts to keep the score where it was. The Mets managed a grand total of two baserunners in Ross’s final two innings of the day. The first was a mere two-out soft single up the middle by Lindor, and the latter was a hit-by-pitch to Alonso—who was then immediately erased by a Conforto double play. Ross was finally replaced by Kyle Finnegan in the bottom of the seventh inning after six innings in which the Mets bats did just about nothing. The team unfortunately did not improve against the bullpen, as Finnegan also worked a 1-2-3 inning to keep the score right where it was.
Jacob Barnes came on for the eighth, and he followed Gsellman’s strong outing with a good performance of his own. He allowed a leadoff single to Victor Robles to start things off, but subsequently got the next three batters out, including a strikeout of Trea Turner to end the inning. Jeurys Familia later come on for the ninth inning and also pitched an impressive frame, retiring all three batters he faced with two strikeouts. If there is one positive to take away from this otherwise ugly game, it’s that the bullpen—save for Tarpley’s initial implosion—looked strong, and can hopefully result in some higher-leverage performances from these three pitchers down the line.
But the Mets offense still continued to be inept. They had one more chance to score in the bottom of the eighth, as the team got two runners on—first with another Nimmo walk to leadoff the inning, and then with another single off the bat of Alonso. But with two outs in the inning, Conforto failed for the second time in the game to come through with runners in scoring position, as he struck out against Sam Clay to end the scoring chance. Paulo Espino then came on for the ninth and put the Mets down 1-2-3 to put them out of their misery.
The Mets will try once more to ignite their offense on Sunday when Taijuan Walker goes up against Patrick Corbin to try to lead the team to a series victory.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big Mets winner: Pete Alonso, +3.5% WPA
Big Mets loser: Marcus Stroman, -29.8% WPA
Mets pitchers: -34.3% WPA
Mets hitters: -15.7% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Brandon Nimmo leadoff walk in the first, +4.0% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Joe Ross RBI single in the second, -10.9% WPA