The Mets came into St. Petersburg in their beach clothes and riding a high, having won seven in a row and sitting in first place in the NL East. They looked to keep the good vibes going last night as they faced the reigning AL Champion Tampa Bay Rays, but couldn’t hold a 2-0 lead in the eighth inning and lost the first game of the series by a score of 3-2.
It was a little surprising for the Mets to have been in such advantageous spot so late in the game, because they did not look great early on. Tyler Glasnow started for the Rays and looked completely unhittable from the jump. He set down the first 14 Mets in a row, and with with no-hitters on the rise this season, it seemed like the Mets might become the latest team to be no-hit. Then until the -illars struck.
With two outs in the fifth inning and the offense looking hopeless, Kevin Pillar beat out an infield hit, which must’ve felt like a giant relief for the Mets. Then, the very next batter and the other half of the -illars, Jonathan Villar, came up and knocked a two-run homer that just eked over the wall in right right field to suddenly put the Mets up 2-0.
And with the way David Peterson was pitching, that lead had every chance to stick. After he was knocked out in the second game of his last start, Peterson fared significantly better this time. He ran into some trouble in the second inning again, much like last time. He allowed a leadoff double, and after a strikeout, allowed back-to-back walks to load the bases with one out.
But this time Peterson regained his command, and struck out the next two hitters in the inning to end the threat and keep the game scoreless at that point. Those two punch-outs were the the first two in a stretch where he retired 17 consecutive Rays hitters that he retired.
That stretch lasted all the way to the 8th inning, a place Peterson had never gone in his career before. The young lefty came out for the 8th inning last night and immediately started missing badly to the armside on the first two pitches of the inning, a clear sign of tiring. The very next pitch was a 91 MPH fastball that Mike Zunino hit 117.3 MPH and 450 feet to get the Rays on the board.
Anybody watching could tell you that Peterson, who doesn’t typically pitch deep into games, was probably tiring, as he had lost velocity and was missing badly. But Luis Rojas kept him in to face rookie Kevin Padlo, who scorched a double into the gap to put the tying run on second.
Peterson, now clearly done and laboring even more at this point, was still not lifted by Rojas, who kept him in to face Brett Phillips. Peterson struck Phillips out, after which Rojas finally pulled his young starter.
Trevor May came into the game at that point with a runner on second and one out. May gave up hard contact to Randy Arozarena, but got fortunate that the ball found Villar’s glove at third. He wasn’t so lucky the next at bat, as Manuel Margot laced a ball a few feet to the left of Arozarena’s and down the left field line to tie the game.
May was giving up hard contact, not throwing his usual velocity consistently, missing his slider by a matter of feet, not inches, and had to resort to throwing his third pitch—his changeup—to try to get Margot out. Rojas, seeing this happening to May pitching with the game on the line, chose not get a reliever up behind him at all.
May was able to fight through and strike out Austin Meadows to end the frame and keep the game tied, which probably saved the game because Rojas had clearly chosen to ride or die without a backup for May, despite having a fully rested bullpen after an off day.
The Mets did not get anything else off Glasnow, who tossed eight fine innings of his own and struck out 10 Mets. They didn’t fair much better against Pete Fairbanks in the 9th either, despite a fortunate hit for Pillar and Villar reaching on an error.
Miguel Castro then came on for the bottom of the 9th and struggled a bit. He got the first hitter of the inning to fly out, but walked the next hitter and allowed a soft hit to Willy Adames. He then couldn’t find the zone against Mike Zunino and walked him as well to load the bases. Rojas then went to Aaron Loup to face the pinch-hitting Joey Wendle.
Loup was able to fan Wendle for the second out, setting up a matchup with another lefty, Brett Phillips, whose claim to fame was his walk off hit in last year’s World Series. Loup instantly gave up a hit on the first pitch to to end the game. Phillips walked it off again, while he did his signature airplane celebration, growing his legend even more.
For the Mets, it’s their first loss in over a week, but it’s still a frustrating one. They drop to 18-14 on the season and have to pin their hopes in the series on an opener today.
*illar of the Game
Jonathan Villar: 1-for-4, two-run HR, 2 RBI
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big Mets winner: Jonathan Villar +28.2% WPA
Big Mets loser: Miguel Castro -20.2% WPA
Mets pitchers: -30.9% WPA
Mets hitters: -19.1% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Jonathan Villar hits a two-run home run (+27.4% WPA)
Teh sux0rest play: Brett Phillips hits a walk-off RBI single (-34.6% WPA)