On a night where the teams ahead of the Mets in both the National League East and Wild Card lost, the Mets were not able to take advantage, losing a closely fought battle in extra innings to the Cardinals.
The game started out with Marcus Stroman pitching extremely well, striking out six batters the first time through the Cardinals’ lineup, as he allowed no hits and one walk.
After putting up a lackluster performance on Monday night, the Mets’ offense wasted no time scoring runs, jumping out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning. After Jonathan Villar and Francisco Lindor led off the inning with hits, Michael Conforto brought home Villar with an RBI single, and then, Javy Báez pushed a bunt down the third baseline which was not fielded cleanly by Cardinals pitcher Jake Woodford, allowing Francisco Lindor to score.
In the fourth inning, Marcus Stroman ran into trouble, allowing his first hit to Paul Goldschmidt, a double, which spiraled into two runs scored for the Cardinals, and a high pitch count for Stroman. Stroman was able to settle down after the fourth inning, and ended up pitching six innings of two-run ball, striking out eight batters on 89 pitches.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Mets had a golden opportunity to give themselves a large lead, loading the bases with one out for Michael Conforto. Conforto roped a 2-1 changeup down the right field line, that barley hooked foul, robbing the Mets of a grand slam that would’ve broken the game open. Two pitches later, Conforto settled for a sacrifice fly, scoring Marcus Stroman which gave the Mets a 3-2 lead.
After Aaron Loup retired the side in the seventh inning on seven pitches to maintain the one-run lead, Jeurys Familia came on in the top of the eighth. It was an interesting decision by manager Luis Rojas, as Familia has struggled as of late, especially with the home run ball.
Familia eased those concerns with the first batter he faced, striking out Tommy Edman on a nasty sinker. However, because it’s Jeurys Familia and he never makes anything easy, Paul Goldschmidt worked a one-out walk, bringing Tyler O’Neill to the plate. O’Neill wasted no time in getting to Familia, crushing a sinker that was left over the plate and putting the Cardinals on top 4-3. Familia then allowed two more batters to reach base, as the Mets had to turn to Trevor May to get the final two outs of the inning.
In the bottom half of the eighth, the Mets had the heart of the lineup due up with Francisco Lindor, Michael Conforto, and Pete Alonso, and what figured to be their best shot to tie the game or retake the lead. Instead, Genesis Cabrera and Luis Garcia sent them down in order, and after Edwin Díaz worked a scoreless ninth inning, the Mets had only three outs left to work with.
Leading off the bottom of the ninth was Javy Báez. Báez, who has the reputation of being a very free swinger, had already drawn two walks in this game. Facing Giovanny Gallegos, Báez had no intention of drawing a walk, swinging at the first pitch he saw. Báez made contact with this pitch, sending the ball a couple of feet above the orange home run line on the left field fence for a game-tying home run, sending Citi Field into a frenzy. The Mets were unable to do anything else in the ninth inning, as Jeff McNeil, Kevin Pillar, and Dom Smith were all retired, sending the game into extra innings tied at 4.
With this game being a must-win game for the Mets to keep their slim playoff chances alive, one would think manager Luis Rojas would be willing to push his best relievers a little bit more. For that reason, it was somewhat surprising to not see Edwin Díaz out for a second inning of relief to start extra innings, especially considering he only threw 13 pitches in the ninth inning.
Rojas instead opted for Heath Hembree, which ended up working out quite well. After striking out the dangerous Tyler O’Neill, the Mets intentionally walked Nolan Arenado (where was that move last week in Miami?) to face the very slow, not very good hitter in Yadier Molina. This ended up being the correct move, as Molina hit the ball right back to the pitcher, as the Mets were able to turn the double play and escape the tenth inning without allowing a run.
After putting up a zero in the top half of the tenth, the Mets now had a golden opportunity to win the game. James McCann led off the inning with Kevin Pillar at second base as the free runner. Not asked to bunt, McCann instead did the next best thing, hitting a dribbler that started foul and then turned fair up the first baseline, leading Yaider Molina no choice but to field the ball and throw out McCann. The groundout did the same job as a sacrifice bunt, allowing Pillar to advance to third, and putting the winning run 90 feet away with one out.
With Jonathan Villar now at the plate, the Cardinals opted to go to a five man infield, with the goal of not allowing Pillar to score. Villar worked a walk on seven pitches, putting runners at the corners, and bringing Francisco Lindor to the plate. On a 1-0 pitch, Lindor grounded the ball right at first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who stepped on first, and threw the ball to home. Kevin Pillar, who was running on contact, was then caught in a rundown, as the catcher Molina was able to throw the ball to third baseman Nolan Arenado, who tagged out Pillar for the double play, as the Cardinals were able to use a magnificent defensive play to save the game.
With the game now going into the eleventh inning, there were more curious decisions made by Luis Rojas. Rather than call on Trevor Williams who wound up pitching anyway, Rojas decided to put Jake Reed in the game, on the day he was activated off the injured list. As one could imagine, things did not go well for Reed, as he gave up three runs and only recorded one out, putting the Cardinals in front 7-4. Trevor Williams then came on in relief of Reed and recorded the final two outs of the inning.
The bottom of the eleventh served as a microcosm for the 2021 Mets. They fought back enough to draw you in, but it was too little too late, and ultimately left you feeling disappointed. Down three runs with Michael Conforto leading off the inning and the free runner at second, they certainly had a shot at tying the game. After Conforto flied out to left for the first out, Pete Alonso sent a ball into right field that Jose Rondon, an infielder playing the outfield, could not catch, making it 7-5 Mets. After Javy Báez was walked for the third time in this game, Jeff McNeil represented the winning run for the Mets. McNeil hit a slow grounder to short, and the Cardinals were only able to get one out as McNeil beat out the throw to first, putting runners at the corners with two outs.
The game was now left in the hands of Kevin Pillar, who was able to foul off a couple of pitches and then hit a little dribbler to the left of the pitchers mound. Cardinals’ pitcher Kwang Hyun Kim was not able to make a clean throw to first, resulting in Pillar being safe at first, and allowing Pete Alonso to score and cutting the Cardinals lead to 7-6.
Albert Almora then pinch hit for the pitchers spot, sporting his impressively bad .327 OPS (yes, you read that right), and while he worked the count to 3-2, he ground out, giving the Mets yet another one-run loss. It was their 31st such loss of the year, and perhaps the most crushing one yet.
-illar of the day
Reaching base three times and scoring a run, Jonathan Villar takes the crown.
Win Probability Added
Big Mets winner: Javy Báez, +65% WPA
Big Mets loser: Jeurys Familia, -56% WPA
Mets pitchers: -2% WPA
Mets hitters: -48% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Javy Báez’s game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth, +44.4% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Tyler O’Neill’s two-run homer in the top of the eighth, +49.4% WPA