Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? Did the Mets win against the Nationals on Monday in the series finale? No. Did they need to win? Pretty much, yeah. Was the loss one of the most disappointing of the season? You betcha. Is Edwin Díaz the worst pitcher in the history of baseball? Only if you listen to random Mets fans online, but there’s no question he did not perform in this series. Am I going to give myself an aneurysm trying to muster enough enthusiasm to write about this stupid game? Read on and find out!
The Mets have been scoring early pretty consistently in recent times, and they kept up that trend against Patrick Corbin in the first inning. Francisco Lindor, who has hit more extra-base hits against the Nationals than any other team this season, got things started with a one-out double to left field, and after a groundout by Michael Conforto moved him to third, Pete Alonso dunked a ball into right field to drive him in and give the Mets an early 1-0 lead. Javier Báez followed that hit with an opposite field single of his own, but Kevin Pillar struck out swinging to leave runners on first and second. It was the first of many opportunities that the Mets had to add on some extra damage which they did not capitalize on.
With the team needing an extra starter following Saturday’s doubleheader, Trevor Williams got the call. In the early days of his Mets career, Williams has done a good job of keeping runs off the board, coming into the game with a 0.69 (nice) ERA since being acquired in the Báez deal. Nevertheless, he’s generally been a pretty hittable pitcher for the majority of his major league career, and that was the case from the outset on Monday. After retiring the leadoff hitter, Alcides Escobar hit a ball softly into right field. Conforto ran to his left to try to make the play, only to realize too late that he misjudged it, and the ball landed and bounced right past him towards the corner. Escobar made it all the way to third, and he scored one batter later on an RBI groundout by Juan Soto. If it is any consolation to Conforto, the run probably would have scored anyway, as Soto’s at-bat was followed by a walk to Josh Bell and a double to left field by Yadiel Hernandez. But Williams was at least able to limit the damage by getting Carter Kieboom to strike out on a check swing. Nevertheless, the game was tied.
The next two innings saw a couple of missed opportunities by both teams. Jeff McNeil singled to lead off the next frame and advanced to second on an error by Lane Thomas in center, but Corbin retired the next three batters to leave him stranded. Williams, meanwhile, continued to give up a lot of hits and solid contact, but managed to squeeze his way out of trouble. Alex Avila doubled to lead off the bottom of the second, but he was retired two batters later when he mistakenly tried to advance to third on a ground ball to the shortstop. That baserunning miscue may have cost the Nationals a run, as Thomas subsequently hit a single to center that a runner on second running on contact likely would have scored on. Instead, the Nats simply had runners on first and second, and the threat ended when McNeil made a nice sliding play on a ball hit by Escobar to end the inning. A similar story played out in the bottom of the third: the first two runners got on via a walk and a double, respectively, but were followed by 1) a sharp lineout to right field that the runner at third could not tag on, 2) a ground ball to third which Villar fielded and threw to home to retire the runner trying to score, and 3) a 3-2 pop-out to shallow center field to end the inning.
The Mets finally got another run on the board in the fourth, though they once again failed to capitalize on an opportunity to put up a crooked number. Báez and Pillar singled on back-to-back pitches to get things started, and McNeil came up with runners on first and third and the chance to really get a rally started. Instead, he grounded out to second, and Pillar ran out of the baseline trying to avoid a tag, resulting in a double play. The runner at third came home to make it 2-1, but the rally was over before it truly began. And naturally, the Nationals came right back to once again tie the game in the bottom of the frame, with three straight singles—the second on a butcher boy play by Corbin, and the third an RBI knock by Thomas—scoring a run and giving Washington a chance to score even more. Thankfully, the haplessness with runners in scoring position was a common theme for both teams for most of the day, and Williams was able to retire the next three batters to keep the score even.
Both teams once again got multiple runners on in the fifth, and both teams once again wasted an opportunity by hitting into double plays (off the bats of Conforto and Luis Garcia, respectively). For Williams, that fifth inning represented the end of his outing, with his final line being 5 IP, 10 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K. Despite the unseemly hit totals, he did keep the Mets in the game, and he was even placed in a position to get the win when Alosno cranked a solo homer to left field to lead off the sixth inning. It was the Polar Bear’s 30th homer of the season, and it gave the Mets a 3-2 lead.
Jeurys Familia replaced Williams in the sixth and had an easy 1-2-3 inning—the first such occurrence for the Mets all day. In the seventh, despite a rising pitch count and having given up ten hits in six innings, Corbin was sent back out on the mound. As was the case for most of the afternoon, the Mets threatened, with a pinch-hit infield single off the pitcher by J.D. Davis (which was originally called an out, but overturned upon review) and a walk by Jonathan Villar. Corbin certainly looked like he was done, and the Mets had the opportunity to secure their lead with Lindor and Conforto coming up. Alas, both players hit the ball hard—the former with a ball smoked to the third baseman, and the lattter with a solid line drive to left field—but both were retired, and Corbin miraculously escaped unscathed.
Newest addition Brad Hand made his second appearance as a Met in the seventh and also recorded a clean inning. The Nationals, meanwhile, finally went to their bullpen in the eighth, with Brandon Finnegan getting the call. Aside from a two-out walk to Pillar, he retired the Mets with ease in his first inning of work, and the Nationals came on to try to make a come back in the bottom of the frame. Seth Lugo—whose last outing was the seventh-inning blown save on Saturday—came on, and he quickly retired Kieboom and Avila and looked like he would provide the Mets with their third straight easy bullpen inning. Instead, we were gifted our second Conforto outfield misplay of the game, with Garcia hitting a ball sharply into right. Conforto tried valiantly to cut it off and prevent Garcia from being able to take second, but he instead fell down while trying to make the play, resulting in the Nationals second baseman making it all the way to third. Ryan Zimmerman—who’d entered the game in a double switch—followed that miscue with a walk, which brought Thomas up to the plate with the chance to get his second game-trying hit of the day. He came pretty close to getting it, as he hit a ball sharply up the middle that would have resulted in a hit in most infields. Instead, Báez made a miraculous diving play to stop the ball, and then even more miraculously made the throw to first from his knee to retire the speedy Thomas and end the inning with the Mets still holding onto the lead. Despite the misfortunes that would follow, it was a remarkable play that certainly served to remind Mets fans how otherworldly their up-the-middle defense is with their current squad.
The top of the ninth inning saw a leadoff single by James McCann and the return of Dominic Smith from the bereavement list with a pinch-hitting appearance, but Finnegan—in his second inning of work—was able to keep the Mets off the board. With that, the Mets turned to Díaz, who had been pitching brilliantly in recent times before his blown save in the opening game of the series on Friday. The Mets were able to avoid using him in either the doubleheader on Saturday or Sunday’s afternoon game, so he was certainly refreshed coming into Monday’s game, for all the good it did him.
You can usually tell right away whether you’re getting good Díaz or bad Díaz on any given day, and a four-pitch walk like the one he surrendered to Alcides Escobar to lead off the ninth inning is a pretty solid indicator that you’re getting the latter. He recorded his first and only out of the inning with a Juan Soto fly-out in foul territory in left field, but he then gave up his second walk to Josh Bell to put runners on first and second. Andrew Stevenson—who already brutalized the Mets with a clutch two-run game-tying homer in Saturday’s game—pinch-hit for the pitcher’s spot, and he once again came through by notching a single to right field. Escobar was sent home from third, and he was called safe at the plate despite a strong throw from Conforto in right. After the play, there was some question about whether Escobar actually touched home plate—his leg may in actuality have bounced over the plate—but there was not enough evidence to overturn the call, and the game was tied. The Nationals wasted no time in putting things away for good, as Kieboom followed with a ground ball up the middle that Lindor could not quite get to, bringing Bell home with the winning run.
With that, the Nationals had taken the final game of the series 4-3. In a vacuum, winning three out of five games will rarely be a bad outcome, but with the Mets fighting to get back in a playoff spot, they could ill-afford to lose those two games against the easiest opponent they’re going to get this month. The team will now head down to Miami and try to rebound from this frustrating loss with a series against the Marlins.
*illar of the game
Pillar had two hits and also worked a walk, while Villar was held hitless. This round goes to Kevin.
Win Probability Added
Big Mets winner: Pete Alonso, +20.5% WPA
Big Mets loser: Edwin Díaz, -79.1% WPA
Mets pitchers: -39.1% WPA
Mets hitters: -10.9% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Pete Alonso home run in the sixth, +15.7% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Andrew Stevenson RBI single in the ninth, -48.4% WPA