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Drew Smith’s scoreless streak ends and Mets waste gem from Max Scherzer

The dead balls were also prominently on display tonight, as the Mets drop the series opener to the Mariners.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at New York Mets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets lost a close game to the Mariners 2-1 in the first meeting of the two clubs in five years. The game ended up to be a pitchers’ duel, despite early indications that the Mets offense may have had a big night in them. But, after making Marco Gonzales work early, the offense was stymied, despite a couple of balls hit very hard that had Mets hitters staring into space with a mix of frustration and perplexity.

The Mets got to work right away in the bottom of the first inning. Brandon Nimmo led things off on an infield hit on which J.P. Crawford made a nice play to his right, but double clutched, which allowed Nimmo to beat it out at first. Starling Marte then smacked a double down the left field line, putting runners at second and third and nobody out and setting the Mets up for what could have been a big inning. Francisco Lindor then flew out to shallow center and Julio Rodríguez made a fantastic diving play to rob him of a bloop hit, but Nimmo was able to tag up and score and put the Mets on the board 1-0. But Gonzales then bounced back to strike out Eduardo Escobar, who continues to struggle at the plate, and get Mark Canha to ground out to third to end the threat.

In the second inning, the Mets continued to make Gonzales throw a lot of pitches, although they failed to score. Jeff McNeil worked a 14-pitch at-bat to lead off the inning and ultimately legged out an infield hit to reach base. But Gonzales retired the next three hitters and the Mets let the soft-tossing lefty (a type of pitcher they often struggle against) pretty much settle in after that.

Meanwhile, Max Scherzer retired the first ten batters he faced in order before hitting Ty France with a pitch with one out in the fourth inning. That hit-by-pitch—the first from Scherzer this season—ultimately came back to bite him, as he gave up a single to J.P. Crawford to advance France to third and then a two-out single to Jesse Winker to tie the game at one run apiece. Knotted at one run apiece the game would stay through seven innings and arguably each team’s best chance to break through against the opposing starting pitcher came in the seventh.

In the top of the seventh, Eugenio Suárez led off the inning with an infield single. Scherzer then walked Jesse Winker to advance Suárez into scoring position with nobody out. The rookie Rodríguez looked overmatched against Scherzer, striking out for the first out—Scherzer’s sixth strikeout of the night. Scherzer then walked Mike Ford to load the bases on a borderline 3-2 call that had him barking at home plate umpire Chad Whitson. But, Scherzer got Steven Souza Jr.—freshly called up from Triple-A—to ground into a 5-4-3 double play to retire the side, pumping his fist and yelling as he walked off the mound, knowing he ended his night on a high note.

The Mets tried their hardest to scratch out a run in support of Scherzer in the bottom of the frame, as Jeff McNeil got a hold of one to lead off the inning that looked like it should have been well into the seats, but like so many balls this season, it died in the outfield for a long fly out. Then, Tomás Nido walked for the first time this season with one out to put the go-ahead run on base. Brandon Nimmo then floated a ball to shallow center field and this time Rodríguez could not make the sliding grab and it trickled away from him for a double. That marked the end of Marco Gonzales’ night and he was replaced with former Met Paul Sewald, who struck out Starling Marte for a crucial final out to keep the game tied at one.

A tie game in the eighth inning was a poor time for Drew Smith’s scoreless streak to end, but that is what transpired on this night. Smith issued back-to-back walks to the pinch hitter Abraham Toro and Adam Frazier to lead off the inning, the latter on four pitches. Ty France then singled to score Toro and put the Mariners up 2-1. Smith bounced back to strike out the next two batters he faced and then got a pop out off the bat of Winker to stop the bleeding early and hold the Mariners to just the one run, but the damage was done.

Paul Sewald came back out to the mound for a second inning and made quick work of the Mets in the eighth, although Pete Alonso put a charge into one that went into the warning track, which resulted in a very similar reaction to Jeff McNeil a couple of innings earlier as he threw his hands up in disbelief at how poorly the ball carried. Adam Ottavino notched a 1-2-3 frame of his own in the top of the ninth. Drew Steckenrider came in to close the game for the Mariners and retired the Mets in order with the assistance of a great play from J.P. Crawford on a sharp bouncer off the bat of McNeil.

The Mets will look to even up the series tomorrow night, as Chris Bassitt faces off against rookie George Kirby.

Box scores

ESPN
MLB

Win Probability Added

Fangraphs.com

What’s WPA?

Big Mets winner: Max Scherzer, +27.2% WPA
Big Mets loser: Drew Smith, -23.0% WPA
Mets pitchers: +7.1% WPA
Mets hitters: -57.1% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Starling Marte’s double in the first inning, +11.1% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Ty France’s go-ahead single in the eighth off Drew Smith, -21.5% WPA

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