As the one non-TBD starting pitcher going for the Mets over the next two days, a lot was once again riding on Marcus Stroman to lead the team to victory in the first day of the doubleheader. Unfortunately, the Mets were facing a rookie left-handed pitcher, and history tells us that they are never likely to find much success against those types of players. Such was the case today, as Kyle Muller outpitched Stroman to lead to a frustrating game one defeat.
As was the case with his last start, Stroman came out of the gate being very efficient with his pitches, a much-needed quality given the number of relievers the Mets would need in the next two games. He needed just 18 pitches to get through the first two innings, giving up only a soft single to Ozzie Albies. Meanwhile, Muller—who pitched four hitless innings against the Mets earlier this season—matched Stroman during that period, as he surrendered a leadoff walk to Jonathan Villar to open his night and then retired the next six batters without much trouble.
The Braves broke through in the top of the third inning, beginning with a hit off the bat of Guillermo Heredia that Dominic Smith misplayed off the bounce in left field, resulting in a generously called double. Muller then came up to the plate and squared to bunt, but on the second pitch he pulled his bat back and swung, shooting the ball to left field for a base hit that moved Herredia to third base. Leadoff hitter Joc Pederson followed him, and he sent a line drive double to right field that scored Heredia from third to give the Braves what would turn out to be the only run they needed. Stroman did a good job rebounding after these first three hitters of the inning—first by striking out Albies, and then, following an intentional walk to Freddie Freeman, inducing a double play off the bat of Austin Riley—but the Braves would do more damage before too long.
The Mets did threaten to get the run back in the bottom of the frame. With one out, Stroman bunted a ball for a single for the Amazins’ first hit of the day, and Jonathan Villar followed that up with a single of his own. That brought Pete Alonso to the plate, and given A) how hot the slugging first baseman and horse lover has been in recent days, and B) the matchup against a lefty tossing pitcher, one would have thought that the Mets had things right where they wanted them. Things did not work out as planned, however, as Alonso struck out swinging, and Michael Conforto immediately followed suit to end the threat. The Braves, meanwhile, came back up for the top of the fourth and, like the inning before, did quick damage against Stroman. Dansby Swanson led off with a booming ball that bounced off the center field wall and was initially called a homer. Upon further review, he was sent back to second base, but they were still in business after the leadoff double. Stephen Vogt followed with a single to right to send the runner to third, and then Orlando Arcia grounded a ball to shortstop that Villar made a diving play on to get at least one out at second base. Alas, the runner at third came home to make the score 2-0, and while Stroman once again retired the next two batters to keep the Braves there, it was beginning to become clear that the Mets would have trouble overcoming even this minor lead.
A two-out single by Kevin Pillar was all the Mets managed in the bottom of the fourth. The Braves also got themselves a couple of two-out singles off the bats of Freeman and Riley in the next frame, but this time Stroman kept the runs from coming home. After five innings, his pitch count was still pretty low at 65, but since this was a seven inning game, there was some urgency for the team to try to score some runs, which resulted in Stroman being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the inning. His final line—5 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 4 K—demonstrates the fact that he found himself in trouble numerous times in the game, and while he did well to not give up any additional runs, the Mets were undoubtedly hoping for a stronger outing to get the series started on a strong note.
Muller came on for his fifth inning of work, and the Mets once again tried to put themselves in position to score. Brandon Drury pinch-hit for Stroman with one out in the inning, and he socked a double against the wall in right-center field to try to get things started. Villar then worked another walk—his second of the day, and his third straight time getting on base—to, as was the case in the third inning, put runners on first and second with one out and Alonso coming up to the plate. “Pete may have failed to come through the first time around,” the ever-optimistic Mets fan thought to himself, “but surely he will not fail in the clutch twice in a row!” Reader, he failed in the clutch twice in a row, this time hitting a bouncer directly to third base that resulted in a double play and immediately killed the rally that wasn’t.
Miguel Castro came on to replace Stroman in the top of the sixth for the final two innings, and in typical Miguel Castro fashion, allowed a good number of baserunners while accruing a good amount of strikeouts. He struck out three hitters in his first inning of work—sandwiched between a two-out single by Heredia—and then in the seventh gave up a single and a walk to Freeman and Riley with two outs but managed to strand them. He gave the Mets offense a chance to come back, but they decided they didn’t want to. Tyler Matzek came on for the Braves in the bottom of the sixth and threw a perfect inning against the heart of the batting order. Will Smith the pitcher came on to finish things off in the seventh, and the Mets at least pretended to try to come back then, with Nido lining a one-out single to center and pinch-hitter James McCann working a full count in the next at-bat. But McCann subsequently hit a sharp ground ball that Swanson made a very nice play on at shortstop, and he was able to turn a double play against the slow-footed catcher to secure the shutout against the Mets.
*illar of the game
Villar took Brandon Nimmo’s place in the leadoff spot and performed very capably, getting on base three times. Pillar also got a hit, but give this one to Jonathan.
Win Probability Added
Big Mets winner: Jonathan Villar, +14.3% WPA
Big Mets loser: Pete Alonso, -25.6% WPA
Mets pitchers: -1.7% WPA
Mets hitters: -48.3% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Brandon Drury one-out double in the fifth, +6.6% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Joc Pederson RBI double in the third, -12.1% WPA
SB Nation GameThreads
The Mets do not have five major league starting pitchers right now. They don’t really have much in the way of available options in the minors, either. But they bounced back from a loss in a game with a real major league starting pitcher starting in Game 1 on Monday evening with a win in a bullpen game in Game 2.
Aaron Loup and Jeurys Familia pitched a scoreless inning each to start the game. Anthony Banda threw two scoreless. And then Trevor May, Seth Lugo, and Edwin Díaz each threw a scoreless inning, shutting out the Braves in a seven-inning game. Of all those pitchers, only Lugo looked bad, getting into a jam before getting out of it with a ground ball double play in the sixth.
As for the Mets’ lineup, there wasn’t a ton in the way of offense. There were, however some missed opportunities. But thankfully, Jeff McNeil hit a long double to center field in the bottom of the fifth to plate the only run of the game. It’s probably worth noting that McNeil did not run the bases as if he were totally healthy. For now, though, he gave the Mets just enough on a night that their bullpen mostly had things under control.
*illar of the game
Jonathan Villar went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Kevin Pillar pinch ran and played left field after that. Both players were involved in good defensive plays, but the tie goes to the one who didn’t have a a bad night at the plate. *illar of the game: Kevin Pillar
Win Probability Added
Big Mets winner: Jeff McNeil, +22.9% WPA
Big Mets loser: James McCann, -17.1% WPA
Mets pitchers: +59.2% WPA
Mets hitters: -9.2% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Austin Riley grounds into an inning-ending double play in the sixth, +28.2% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: James McCann grounds into an inning-ending double play in the fourth, -17.9% WPA