On nights like Thursday, it’s important to remind ourselves that Jacob deGrom is, in fact, human. Despite running a 0.69 ERA early on (six earned runs in 13 starts), he is by no means flawless, as much as we would like to believe it. And yet, when you look at the final stat line, you realize that the worst outing we’ve seen from quite some time from the Mets’ ace still resulted in a quality start and 14 strikeouts over seven frames. And yet, his quality outing, and two homers from Dominic Smith, couldn’t prevent a 4-3 walk-off loss against the Atlanta Braves.
For the second straight evening, the Mets got on the board first in Atlanta, this time tallying a run against Ian Anderson right out of the gate. After a Jeff McNeil line out to lead off, Francisco Lindor worked out a walk, and stole second during Michael Conforto’s at bat. That proved to be a big steal, as Conforto lined a single to right-center field to put New York on top. Anderson looked wild early, working three-ball counts to each of the first three batters. After Wednesday’s loss, the Mets still sported a very impressive 33-8 record when scoring first in a game. Like on Wednesday, their past record didn’t mean anything here.
deGrom entered this outing with a streak of 37 consecutive batters retired in the first inning—the longest such streak in 90 season—but that streak came to an end with an Ehire Adrianza leadoff triple. Adrianza, who had fouled a ball off his foot and looked noticeably uncomfortable while circling the bases, was originally ruled out at third, but replay showed that he snuck his way around Luis Guillorme’s tag. Two batters later, the scorching-hot Ozzie Albies knotted the game with a single. Austin Riley was next promptly deposited a deGrom fastball into the right field stands to make it 3-1. With that, Jake’s ERA climbed up above 1.00 for the first time since his second start of the season. After the inning, cameras caught Jake showing visible frustration in the dugout, and he later explained that he was shocked that Riley hit his pitch for a homer.
deGrom settled down to finish the first frame, but he found himself in immediate trouble again in the second thanks to a double from Abraham Almonte and a single from Kevan Smith. With his back against the wall, deGrom buckled down and went to work, striking out the next three batters to extinguish the threat. As he did in his last start, deGrom relied heavily on his slider in the early part of the game, but he started using his fastball more as the game moved on.
From there, the best pitcher in baseball returned to form, retiring the final 18 batters he faced on the evening. He struck out Albies to start the third before retiring the next two batters on a ground out and a fly out. Then, he K’ed eight straight until Dansby Swanson’s line out to center field in the sixth. On the evening, Jake threw 93 pitches, which is the most he’s thrown since his outing against the Boston Red Sox on April 28, while his 70 strikes were his third-most in a game this year.
As has been the case for much of the past month, the offense was largely silent. From the second through the sixth, the lone baserunners were a McCann second inning walk and a Kevin Pillar fifth inning single. Then, in the seventh, Smith came through with a towering home run to lead off the inning against Anderson and cut the Braves’ lead in half. The Mets had a chance to do some damage in the eighth against Atlanta’s bullpen thanks to Billy McKinney’s pinch hit single and Lindor’s one-out walk. With the heart of the order coming up, Brian Snitker chose to stick with the right-hander Chris Martin against Conforto instead of going to the left-hander, and it paid off as Conforto grounded out to first. Pete Alonso came up with two runners in scoring position and a chance to put his team ahead, but he grounded out to short on the first pitch he saw from Martin.
After Trevor May worked around some trouble in the eighth, the Mets were staring down Atlanta’s closer in a one-run game. As he did two innings earlier, Smith led off the frame with a solo home run that knotted things up at three. It was the left fielder’s eighth home run of the season and his first career multi-homer game. The Mets couldn’t do anything else against Will Smith, and Luis Rojas called upon Seth Lugo to navigate the ninth and push the game into extras.
The first batter of the ninth, Guillermo Heredia, hit a slow grounder to Lugo that was destined to be an infield single, and Lugo inexplicably grabbed it and threw wildly to first, which allowed Heredia to advance to second. The error proved costly, as Pablo Sandoval hit a grounder to Lugo that would have, in normal circumstances, been a double play, but instead advanced the runner to third. After Lugo struck out Smith, Rojas ordered an intentional walk on Ronald Acuña Jr., who did not start the game but entered later in the contest.
Lugo had a chance to strike out Ender Inciarte after getting ahead 0-2, but a missed called by the umpire and a couple of good takes resulted in Inciarte working out a walk to load the bases. From there, Freeman, who had picked up the Golden Sombrero, strode to the plate and hit a liner off Lugo’s foot that ricocheted to Guillorme. There was some discussion as to whether he could have potentially tried to race to third base instead, but Guillorme chose to throw the ball over to first. Freeman beat out the play, and the rest was history.
Thanks to a rain-shortened Washington Nationals loss against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Mets maintained their two-game lead in the NL East, but their lead over Atlanta shrunk to three-and-a-half games. The Mets finished off their stretch of 16 consecutive games against NL East opponents with six wins and ten losses. They will try and regroup as they travel to the Bronx to face the New York Yankees in the first part of the Subway Series. Taijuan Walker will look to play stopper as he faces off against Jordan Montgomery.
Win Probability Added
Big Mets winner: Dominic Smith, +42.1% WPA
Big Mets loser: Seth Lugo, -36.1% WPA
Mets pitchers: -37.3% WPA
Mets hitters: -12.7% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Dominic Smith ninth inning homer, +33.6% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Freddie Freeman ninth inning single, -34.1% WPA
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