Hitting with runners in scoring position is hardly a new problem for the Mets, but with a revamped lineup, the hope was that those issues could be behind the club. Over the first three games of the season, it’s clear the team still has a lot of work to do in that department. After leaving ten runners on base on Monday and six more in last night’s victory, the Mets went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left 14 more on base as they dropped the series final 8-2 to the Phillies.
The Mets played pretty much the entire game from behind in Philadelphia. After failing to capitalize on a leadoff single by Brandon Nimmo in the first, David Peterson took the hill and labored from the start. Over the course of his 38-pitch frame, he went to five three-ball counts and was constantly behind hitters, eventually serving up an opposite field solo home run to Rhys Hoskins. After Bryce Harper hit a screaming liner for a double off the right field wall and J.T. Realmuto walked, Alec Bohm hit a mammoth home run to left-center to put the Mets in a four-run hole. Peterson was eventually able to end the inning, but the damage was done.
The Mets stuck with Peterson, who admirably settled down and was very effective and efficient over the next three innings. He worked around a two-out Hoskins double in the second and a two-out Didi Gregorius single in the third, needing just 13 pitches in each of those two innings. In the fourth, he hit Matt Joyce with a pitch, but he induced a double play to face just three batters in the frame.
On the offensive side of things, the Mets failed to score in the second, despite a Dominic Smith double and Luis Guillorme walk. The Mets finally broke through in the third inning, as Nimmo picked up an infield single that was eerily identical to the one he had in the first. Lindor picked up his second hit as a Met to put runners on the corners with nobody out, but Michael Conforto hit a shallow fly ball to right that was not deep enough to score Nimmo. It was just one of many bad at-bats for Conforto, who finished hitless in five at-bats while leaving nine on base. Pete Alonso picked up his teammate with a sharp single up the middle to bring Nimmo home. Aaron Nola escaped the frame without further damage by striking out Smith and Jonathan Villar. To that point, the club was 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, but things only got worse from there.
The Mets’ threatened in the fourth, but were unable to score. Guillorme picked up a one-out single against Nola and, after Peterson bunted him over, Nimmo drew a walk and Lindor was hit by a pitch to load the bases. To that point, the Mets had gotten Nola to throw close to 30 pitches in the frame, working his pitch count to the point where it became clear he would exit once the inning was over. Conforto had a chance to get his team back into the game, but he was called out on strikes to leave the bases loaded.
Any momentum the Mets might have had from that inning and getting Nola out of the game was promptly extinguished in the fifth, when Peterson again faltered before being removed. Hoskins led off with this third extra base hit of the contest, and Harper caught the Mets by surprise with a drag bunt single. Luis Rojas turned to Jacob Barnes, who immediately gave up a three-run home run to Realmuto on the first pitch he threw as a Met. In doing so, he became the first Mets pitcher to give up a home run on his first pitch with the club since John Candelaria in 1987. From there, Barnes worked around a Guillorme error and didn’t allow any more runs.
From there, it was a slow march to the team’s inevitable loss. Conforto again struck out to end the sixth and leave two more runners on base. Dellin Betances made his first appearance for the season, and he did little to assuage fears that he may be completely toast. His fastball topped out at 92 mph, and for much of his inning, he clearly had no clue where his pitches were going. He hit Roman Quinn with a pitch and walked Andrew McCutchen to put two runners on base right away. He lucked out when the first base umpire deemed Hoskins struck out on a check swing on a pitch well out of the zone, but a double steal put runners on second and third. Harper drove home Philadelphia’s eighth run of the game on a ground ball, but a Lindor defensive gem on a Realmuto ground ball up the middle kept the Phillies from scoring their ninth run. The gem elicited the coveted Gary Cohen “OH WOW”, which should tell you all you need to know about Lindor’s stellar play.
Joey Lucchesi made his first appearance for the Mets and provided the club with an impressive effort. He entered to close out the game and struck out three over those two frames. With the club not needing a fifth starter until April 14, Rojas took the opportunity to get the southpaw some work in a blowout, and he looked good on the mound. It hardly made much of an impact in a game that saw very few things to smile about for the Mets, but it’s good to see Lucchesi make a positive first impression.
With the loss, the club comes home with a 1-2 record as they prepare for their home opener on Thursday against the Marlins. Taijuan Walker will make his Mets debut, while the Marlins have yet to announce a starting pitcher for the game.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big Mets winner: Francisco Lindor, 8.8% WPA
Big Mets loser: David Peterson, -26.9% WPA
Mets pitchers: -31.1% WPA
Mets hitters: -18.9% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Pete Alonso run-scoring single, 7.6% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Alec Bohm three-run home run in the first, -17.4% WPA