It was a tale of two games for the Mets in San Diego Thursday night, as the team looked a bit overmatched early by Yu Darvish and the Padres, only to come back late, with rallies in both the eighth and ninth innings, falling just short in a 4-3 defeat.
While Darvish cruised early—allowing only one walk through the first four innings—Taijuan Walker never quite looked comfortable throughout his game. Walker battled through the first two innings, stranding a pair of runners in each frame before the Padres finally broke through—barely—in the third.
After a leadoff walk to Manny Machado, Walker got Jake Cronenworth to fly out, bringing up the dangerous Fernando Tatis Jr. The MVP candidate lofted a high fly ball high and deep to straightaway center. Mason Williams seemed to have the ball lined up as he leapt at the wall, but as the ball entered his glove, it seemed to slip out or get jarred loose by con with the ball, landing over the fence and giving the Padres a 2-0 lead.
The Padres added another run in the bottom of the fourth. With one out, Victor Caratini walked, and Darvish followed with his second hit of the game before the Mets had recorded a single hit off of him—this one a double down the right field line. Caratini would then come around on a Jurickson Profar bloop single.
With two outs in the top of the fifth, Williams broke up the no hit bit with an infield single. Jose Peraza followed with a single to put runners on first and third. Given how dominant Darvish had seemed to that point, it seemed like an obvious time to pinch hit, but Luis Rojas made the curious choice to allow the clearly laboring Walker bat, and he grounded out to end the inning.
Walker would not turn in a scoreless bottom of the fifth, although the run would be unearned. With Tatis on first after an infield single and one out, Brandon Drury fielded a slow ground ball—probably too slow to turn a double play, but his rushed throw to second eluded Peraza, leaving everyone safe. This would prove costly when Tatis advanced to third on a ground out and used his speed to score on a wild pitch that didn’t bounce terribly far from James McCann.
At 4-0 entering the top of the sixth and with two measly singles off of Darvish, the result seemed pretty cut and dried. But the Mets would awaken and battle. With one out in the frame, Francisco Lindor would get things started with a single to center, and when Darvish hung a slider to the red hot James McCann, it quickly ended up in the left field seats to cut the deficit in half. Darvish would hit Dom Smith with a pitch and then get was pulled for sidearming lefty reliever Tim Hill. Hill would walk Billy McKinney and Drury would reach on an error to load the bases. Here Rojas seized the opportunity and sent up a resting Pete Alonso to pinch hit, only for Alonso to ground into a double play to end the threat.
Jacob Barnes and Aaron Loup would turn in impressive work to keep the game close, and the Mets just missed knotting the game back up in the eighth. Lindor led off with a walk, and with two outs, Billy McKinney lofted a fly ball that missed going over the wall for a game tying home run by about a foot. The ball took a strange bounce off the right field wall away from Will Myers, but Manny Machado—already deep in the outfield on a shift—was able to hold McKinney to a triple. That potential tying run would remain there when Drury would ground out to short.
The Mets would get one more golden opportunity to knot the game in the ninth, as Tomas Nido led off with a pinch hit single and Jose Peraza would battle Padres closer Mark Melancon for a walk to put runners on first and second with none out. But Travis Blankenhorn could not play the role of Patrick Mazeika, grounding into a force out, before Kevin Pillar would hit a sharp grounder up the middle that might have tied the game years ago, but was right at the shifted Ha-Seong Kim to turn a game ending double play.
Win Probability Added
Big Mets winner: Billy McKinney, +14.5% WPA
Big Mets loser: Kevin Pillar, -33.4% WPA
Mets pitchers: -10.7% WPA
Mets hitters: +39.3% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Jose Peraza walk in the ninth, +16.5%%
Teh sux0rest play: Kevin Pillar double play in the ninth, -27.3%