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Despite coming back from early deficit, ugly eighth inning dooms Mets in loss to Yankees

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The weekend Subway Series is now tied up at a game apiece.

MLB: New York Yankees at New York Mets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to yesterday’s game, the Mets and Yankees held a beautiful ceremony in which they remembered the victims and heroes of the 9/11 attacks twenty years ago. The subsequent game seemed a bit less important in the grand scheme of things after that. Nevertheless, it certainly would have been nice for the Mets (and their dwindling, virtually non-existent playoff hopes) to win it. Alas, instead they suffered an 8-7 defeat at the hands of the Yankees, who snapped their lengthy losing streak and evened up the series.

Taijuan Walker, who has struggled to the tune of a 7.36 ERA in the second half, started in this game for the Mets. Following a first inning in which he allowed two baserunners (a leadoff walk to D.J. LeMahieu and a two-out single to Giancarlo Stanton) before escaping the frame unscathed, he got hit hard in the second inning. The damage started with a shot off the left field wall by Gleyber Torres that was hit hard enough that Jeff McNeil was able to hold him to a single. That proved to be inconsequential a couple of batters later, as number eight hitter Kyle Higashioka hit a two-run shot to left-center field to give the Yankees an early 2-0 lead. Unfortunately, that was only the start of the damage against Walker, as following a strikeout against opposing pitcher Corey Kluber, LeMahieu hit a single to extend the inning, and then the 38-year-old Brett Gardner hit the second two-run homer of the inning with a bomb to right field. And reader... that still was not the end of the trouble, as Aaron Judge quickly hit a solo shot of his own in the next at-bat. If you weren’t counting at home, that is three homers and five runs for the Yankees in the second inning, and a quick 5-0 lead for the AL New York squad.

But to the Mets’ credit, they quickly fought back. After a scoreless first inning against Kluber, Javier Báez led off the second with a walk, and then stole second on a 3-2 strikeout to McNeil. Kevin Pillar then got the Mets on the board with a double to left field, scoring Báez from second. That was quickly followed by a most unlikely occurrence: a triple off the right field wall by the notoriously slow-footed James McCann. And that unlikely occurrence was subsequently followed by arguably an even MORE unlikely occurrence: a left-handed single by Walker. As such, the score was now 5-3, and it was suddenly a ballgame once more after the deflating top of the second.

Meanwhile, Walker hunkered down in a big way following his disastrous three-homer inning. After finally getting out of that rough frame, he came back out for the third and recorded a 1-2-3 inning with a couple of strikeouts. It was the beginning of a remarkable run of perfect innings, as he subsequently also retired the Yankees in order in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings—thirteen straight outs, with seen of them being done via the strikeout. While Walker’s final line ultimately includes five runs in six innings, it doesn’t reflect just how dominant he looked after his one rough inning.

And the Mets offense did their part to continue the comeback while Walker held the Yankees at bay. They inched even closer in the bottom of the third when Báez socked his 30th homer of the year to left field to bring the deficit down to just one run. The barrage of runs and a high pitch count forced Kluber out of the game after just four innings, which gave the Mets a chance to complete the comeback against the Yankees bullpen. And indeed, they did just that in the bottom of the sixth inning. McNeil started off the frame with a walk against Lucas Luetge, who was subsequently taken out in a double switch and replaced by Chad Green. After striking out Pillar, McCann—who already had one unlikely extra-base hit on the evening—came up to the plate and got himself another, hitting a shot to left field that bounced above the orange line for a two-run homer. The improbable comeback was thus complete, as the Mets led the Yankees 6-5 and put Walker in a position to get the win, which would have been his very first in the second half.

The Mets gave us even more reason to believe that win was incoming in the seventh inning, following a 1-2-3 frame by Seth Lugo in the bullpen’s first inning of work and an insurance run in the bottom of the frame courtesy of three straight two-out singles (the first an infield single by Báez that required a review to overturn an initial out call, and the last an RBI knock by Pillar for his second of the day). With the lead now 7-5 and the Yankees having been held hitless since that ugly second inning, it certainly was looking good for the Amazins when Trevor May came on to pitch the eighth and get us one inning closer to victory. And dear reader, I might advise you to stop reading here and just pretend that the game ended at this point. It’s okay, I won’t be offended. Just hop on over to another page and leave it be.

No? Still with us? Well, okay. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

Gardner led off the inning with the first hit for the Bombers since the second, a sharp line drive to right field for a single. Aaron Judge then came up to the plate and did what Aaron Judge does: he hit yet another bomb, his second of the game. This one was a long two-run shot to left-center field, tying the game up at 7 apiece and forcing May to hang his head in shame. Giancarlo Stanton followed that up with a single to right field, which forced our lovable YouTubing setup man out of the game before he even recorded a single out. Aaron Loup came on to try to stop the damage, and seriously, you can still leave, you don’t have to read the rest of this, just go, save yourself.

Loup got Anthony Rizzo to fly out to right for the first out of the inning, but Torres followed that up with a sharp hit to shortstop that Lindor wasn’t quite able to handle, putting runners on second and first with one out. Luke Voit then came up to the plate as a pinch-hitter, with the Mets desperately needing a double play to get out of the inning with a tie still intact. And for a brief, beautiful moment, it seemed like Loup might have gotten just that, as Voit grounded a ball to Lindor, who got the first out at second. But the normally slick-fielding Báez made an errant throw over to first base, as the ball sailed over Alonso’s head into foul territory. Andrew Velazquez—who had come on as a pinch-runner for Stanton—went racing home with the go-ahead run, giving the Mets yet another painful deficit to overcome.

And I suppose it cannot be said that the Mets didn’t try to overcome this deficit, just like they overcame the larger one earlier. With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Lindor and Conforto both worked walks to bring Alonso to the plate. Given how active Pete has been in honoring the 9/11 victims and heroes during his time in New York, along with his general flair for the dramatic, it certainly would have been a thrilling moment to see him come through with a big hit here. And indeed he almost did, as Alonso gave a long ride on a ball to center field that was nevertheless caught by Gardner to end the inning.

Following a perfect ninth inning by Brad Hand, the Mets batters came back up for one more opportunity to come back in the bottom of the frame (against Aroldis Chapman, no less, who they’ve had some impressive performances against in the past). They once again threatened, with pinch-hitter J.D. Davis hitting a one-out ground-rule double to right field to put the tying run in scoring position. The next batter was Pillar, who already had two clutch hits on the game. Did he have another one in him? I am sorry to report that he did not, as he struck out on a pitch that sailed to the backstop and then failed to beat the throw to first base for the second out of the inning. Still, the pitch moved Davis up to third base, so the tying run was now just ninety feet away. And the next batter was McCann, who had also had a couple of clutch hits on the night. Perhaps he would have one more in him? Once again, I am sorry to report that he did not, as he instead flew out to right to end the game.

All told, it was a disappointing performance for the Mets despite their impressive effort to come back from the early five-run deficit. The squad will try to rebound with a series win against the Yankees in Sunday’s evening game.

*illar of the game

Jonathan went hitless in five plate appearances with three strikeouts. Kevin got two run-scoring hits. He failed to come through in the clutch in the ninth, but nevertheless, we’ll give this one to Pillar.

Box scores

ESPN
MLB

Win Probability Added

Fangraphs.com

What’s WPA?

Big Mets winner: James McCann, +31.0% WPA
Big Mets loser: Trevor May, -44.6% WPA
Mets pitchers: -63.4% WPA
Mets hitters: +13.4% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: James McCann two-run homer in the sixth, +34.9% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Aaron Judge two-run homer in the eighth, -31.2% WPA

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