In what can only be described as the low point of the season (so far; there’s still plenty of season left for new low points), the Mets were swept by the Phillies, losing the series finale 3-0 at Citizen’s Bank Park.
Things did not get off to a good start for Taijuan Walker, as he allowed two solo homers in the first inning—one to Jean Segura and one to J.T. Realmuto—to put the Mets in an early 2-0 hole. What’s particularly demoralizing about this current slide the Mets are on is that the game already felt over at that point. In the first inning. So much so, that I started writing the final score post in the bottom of the first, which I think is a record for me. It’s unfortunate because Walker went on to deliver a quality start for the Mets—the first time the Mets have had a starter complete six innings since July 23. But the continued ineptitude of the offense rendered this achievement irrelevant.
As is the case with most good pitchers, in order to beat Zack Wheeler, the Mets needed to get on him early and they failed to do so. Brandon Nimmo, the only player who managed to do any damage off Wheeler all day, led off the bottom of the first with a double. The Mets got some good swings against Wheeler in that inning; Jeff McNeil then lined out hard to second and following a Pete Alonso strikeout for the second out, Dominic Smith hit a ball 104.5 mph that also resulted in an out. That was the last real chance the Mets would have against Wheeler, as he went on to retire the next 22 Mets in order. Although most of those outs were either strikeouts or meek groundouts, Pete Alonso hit a ball 106.7 mph off Wheeler to deep center in the seventh inning that resulted in an out on the warning track; the ball had an expected batting average of .960. But when things are going bad, those are the types of things that never break a team’s way.
Meanwhile, Taijuan Walker settled in nicely, at one point retiring seven Phillies hitters in a row. It looked like he would cruise his way through six innings with only the two runs allowed, but with two out in the sixth inning, the red hot Bryce Harper added an insurance run for the Phillies with another solo homer, continuing the trend in this series of almost all the runs being scored via the long ball. It was still an encouraging start for Walker, given his second half struggles, but it was not enough to lift the Mets from the abyss.
The Mets plummeted even further into the abyss in top of the fifth inning, when Javier Báez winced in pain on a swing that resulted in a groundout on which Báez never left the batters box. He was immediately removed from the game with what was later described as “left hip tightness.” Wilfredo Tovar was removed from the Syracuse Mets game shortly after these events, so that might lead one to believe a stint on the injured list may be incoming for Báez. Losing their top trading deadline acquisition would be a pretty hefty dose of salt in the wound for the Mets, who are already missing Francisco Lindor, Luis Guillorme, and José Peraza right now, leaving Jonathan Villar as the only player on the roster on the moment who can play shortstop.
Really the only small nugget of positivity that can be found in this garbage dump of a game (and series) is that the Mets played solid defense again behind Walker and their bullpen, which continues to pitch well as a group. In the fifth inning, Walker helped his own cause by snagging a hard bunt back to him by Wheeler and whipping around to throw the ball to second, beginning a well-executed double play to end that inning. In the bottom of the seventh, the Mets turned another inning-ending double play, thanks to McNeil being perfectly positioned up the middle on a grounder off the bat of Ronald Torreyes. That play came in support of Jeurys Familia, who pitched a scoreless seventh. Trevor May followed with a scoreless eighth, striking out the side—a performance which will unfortunately be lost in the fog of bad vibes that descended upon this game and this entire series.
Wheeler’s streak of 22 straight batters retired ended in the top of the eighth when Michael Conforto worked a one-out walk. But Jonathan Villar popped out to third and James McCann flew out to right, quickly diffusing the “threat”—a term which I use loosely here. With one out in the ninth, Nimmo collected his second hit—a single—to give the Mets some semblance of life. However, McNeil followed with a lazy floater to second and then Alonso struck out to end the game and put a capper on the complete game shutout for Wheeler, which marked his tenth win of the season.
Since the Braves held on to win their game over the Nationals, the Mets are now officially in third place in the NL East—a half game behind Atlanta and two and a half games back of the Phillies. The Mets (mercifully) have tomorrow off and then they return home to face the Nationals in an attempt to stop the season from spiraling completely out of control before facing the Dodgers and Giants for four straight series.
*illar of the game
Jonathan Villar went 0-for-3 (like pretty much everyone else in the lineup) and Kevin Pillar struck out as a pinch hitter, so neither -illar earns the title today.
Win Probability Added
Big Mets winner: Brandon Nimmo, +5.7% WPA
Big Mets loser: Jeff McNeil, -11.6% WPA
Mets pitchers: -4.5% WPA
Mets hitters: -45.5% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Brandon Nimmo’s leadoff double in the first inning, +5.9% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Jean Segura’s first inning solo homer, -10.2% WPA