Every game is a must-win game for the Mets these days—they’ve put themselves in this situation, after all—but last night was a doubly must-win game for the Mets coming off a tough loss on Friday night, and with the threat of 11 more games against these Dodgers and the Giants staring them down on the horizon.
Taijuan Walker, who had struggled to the tune of a 6.70 ERA since June 20, took the mound and he showed up big time. Flashing the best splitter that he had displayed in months, and throwing harder than he had in a while, Walker dominated the Dodgers lineup. He breezed through six hitless innings, walking two and striking out 7 in those six frames.
Unfortunately, he was up against Walker Buehler, arguably the front-runner for the NL Cy Young now that Jacob deGrom’s season has been officially derailed. The Mets’ feeble offense could only touch up Buehler for one run on a Michael Conforto solo shot in the fourth. Conforto’s hot hitting over the last week continues, which is at least a good sign for him.
Meanwhile, it was impressive enough that Walker had completed six innings and given up less than three runs—the first Mets starter to do that since July 23rd—but he was still no-hitting the potent Dodgers lineup into the seventh. He got Max Muncy to fly out to begin the inning, but then Will Smith got the party started for the Dodgers by blasting a solo shot into the second deck. Smith’s blast immediately switched the momentum and promptly ended Walker’s pursuit of happiness. Having hit game-breaking homers in back-to-back games this weekend, Smith is proving to be a real enemy of the state for the Mets.
Walker was clearly tiring at that point in the seventh, promptly serving up a double to Corey Seager right after the dinger. He struck out AJ Pollock, but then walked Chris Taylor, which ultimately ended his outing. It was a superb effort for Walker, tossing 6.2 innings overall with just two hits allowed with three walked and eight punchouts.
Aaron Loup came on in relief and struck Cody Bellinger out to escape the jam. Loup has been the Mets’ best reliever for nearly the entire season and he should probably be facing more than a handful of hitters per week at this point.
The Mets looked like they were finally about to break through against Buehler in the bottom half of seventh when they got the first two runners on, but the rally stalled when Tomas Nido went up there trying to bunt, which he was clearly not equipped to do. Instead, he wasted two strikes trying to get a bunt down that he was never going to, and then struck out because he was in an 0-2 hole against one of the best starters in baseball. It was a complete waste of an at bat.
The next hitter up, the batter Nido was trying to bunt the runners over for and set the rally up for, was Travis Blankenhorn, who was just called up yesterday when Javier Bàez went on the IL and hasn’t been deemed worthy of being on the Mets major league bench for most of the season. But he was the first left-handed hitter off the bench for the Mets last night in a huge spot against the potential NL Cy Young favorite, because he was the best left-handed option the Mets had in that spot, which is one of several problems the team chose not address at the trade deadline.
Blankenhorn struck out. Brandon Nimmo followed and popped out to the catcher. Buehler escaped trouble and finished his outing with a flourish.
Miguel Castro tossed a strong 8th inning for the Mets, continuing a positive trend for him. The Dodgers went to Alex Vesia out of their bullpen for the 8th. The Mets have struggled against both velocity and left-handed pitching all year, and Vesia is a hard-throwing left-hander, so he predictably shut the Mets down and retired the side in order in the 8th.
Seth Lugo came on for the Mets and followed with a strong 9th of his own, and a combination of Vesia and Phil Bickford got the Dodgers through the bottom half of the 9th without a problem to send it to extras.
The Dodgers came into this series at 1-12 in extra inning games on the year. The Mets fell in extra innings to them on Friday, and were in danger of suffering the same fate again when they sent Yennsy Díaz to the mound in the 10th instead of trying to give Seth Lugo a second inning.
Díaz surrendered a go-ahead RBI double to Cody Bellinger to score the free runner, but got through the inning without any other trouble. All in all, not a terrible outcome by any means, but allowing the free run to score meant that, in the bottom of the 10th, the Mets had to try to tie the game by getting a hit with a runner in scoring position.
James McCann pinch hit for Tomas Nido to start the inning. According to Fangraphs, McCann is hitting .195 (8-for-41) in situations deemed “high leverage” this season. McCann struck out. Brandon Drury, who came in on a double switch, struck out as well. Again, the Mets did not add a single upgrade to their bench two weeks ago at the trade deadline.
Nimmo then grounded out, and that ended the game. Corey Knebel got the save. The Mets went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 7 runners on base. The Mets are hitting .181 with RISP in the month of August, ahead of only the Rangers and Orioles, whom you might note are very bad teams.
The Mets drop to 59-57 and fall to 1.5 games out of first place. The front office simply ignored the team’s problems at the trade deadline and hoped to keep getting away with it, and then they immediately stopped getting away with it. Facing the Dodgers and Giants 13 times in a row will only help to further expose your flaws as a team.
*illar of the game
Jonathan Villar went 1-for-2 and walked twice. Kevin Pillar did not see the field tonight.
Verdict: Jonathan Villar
Win Probability Added
Big Mets winner: Taijuan Walker, +13.9% WPA
Big Mets loser: Brandon Nimmo, -22.2% WPA
Mets pitchers: +55.4% WPA
Mets hitters: -105.4% WPA(!)
Teh aw3s0mest play: Michael Conforto hit a solo home run, +14.8% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Cody Bellinger hit an RBI double, -30.3% WPA