“Just wait until September,” Mets fans have been telling themselves for most of the 2022 season. While the Braves have been nipping at their heels for the past few months, it was easy to look at the schedule in September—when the Mets would almost exclusively be facing the worst teams that baseball has to offer—and come to the conclusion that if they just maintained a lead in the division heading into September, they’d be able to feast on the bad teams and lock up their first NL East title since 2015.
Well, the thing is, that plan only works if they actually take care of business against these aforementioned bad teams. In theory, it shouldn’t be difficult—the Mets are clearly a more talented team than all of the squads they will be facing over these next few weeks. But baseball is a game filled with randomness, and the worst team in baseball can make a 100+ win team look like a joke on any given day. And these past two days, the lowly Washington Nationals have made the mighty New York Mets look like a joke. The result today was a 7-1 loss—a second straight embarrassing defeat to wrap up an embarrassing series defeat in which there is not much to feel good about.
Carlos Carrasco made his return from the injured list today—the Mets made the curious choice to have him return without making a rehab start—and was immediately given a rude greeting by the Nationals, as he allowed a leadoff double to Lane Thomas and then an RBI single to Luis Garcia to quickly put the Mets in a 1-0 hole. Thankfully, Cookie rebounded to hold Washington to just the one run, giving the Mets an opportunity to come back against Erick Fedde. The bats went down quietly against him in the first inning, but managed to get on the board in the second, as they got two runners on to start the inning thanks to a Pete Alonso walk and a Daniel Vogelbach single. Jeff McNeil then brought a runner home with a sacrifice fly to center to tie the game at a run apiece, though the Mets would fail to score more in the frame.
In the top of the third inning, Carrasco got into trouble once again. After giving up a one-out single to Thomas, Garcia hit a ground ball to second that should have been a double play, but McNeil booted the ball while trying to make a transfer to Francisco Lindor, resulting in both runners being safe. Joey Meneses then singled to load the bases, and after Carrasco struck out Luke Voit for the second out, Keibert Ruiz singled to center to drive in two runs and make it 3-1. The Nationals unfortunately were not done there, as after a walk to once again load the bases, Ildemaro Vargas hit a single to left that a diving Mark Canha couldn’t quite come up with, scoring two more to make it 5-1. With that, Carrasco was done, and his performance—while undoubtedly hurt by the McNeil error which should have ended the third inning—leaves one to wonder whether he would have been better off making a rehab start before returning from the injured list.
Trevor Williams replaced Carrasco and did his best to give the Mets some innings and keep the Nationals off the board, though he did give up a two-run home run to Cesar Hernandez (his first of the 2022 season) in the fifth inning. That was ultimately the only damage that Washington was able to do off him, and he was able to pitch 4.1 innings to help preserve the bullpen. But ultimately, the story of this game is not about Williams or Carrasco. The story of this game is the Mets offense and the fact that for the second straight day, they failed to do much damage against an objectively bad pitcher. The one run that they scored off Fedde—who came into this game with a 5.29 ERA—was the only one they managed to get against him in six innings of work. They didn’t even manage to threaten against him over the rest of his outing, as they failed to even get a runner in scoring position for his last four innings of work. When Fedde left the game in the seventh and the bullpen came on, the Mets finally got a runner in scoring position thanks to back-to-back singles by McNeil and Canha to lead off the inning—only for the Nationals to get a double play when Hernandez dropped a fly ball off the bat of Escobar in left and threw out the two runners who had retreated back to their bases. It was that kind of day for the Mets—whether due to poor performance or bad luck, they looked like they were destined to lose just about every step of the way.
And lose they did, as the Mets once again failed to score or even threaten during those final couple of innings against the Nationals bullpen. Tommy Hunter threw two scoreless innings at the end of the game, but that doesn’t really matter, does it? The end result was still a 7-1 defeat and an embarrassing series loss. As mentioned at the top, baseball can be a very random game. That randomness means that it was always a possibility that the Mets would lose a series against one of the bad teams they were facing in September. Still, the main reason why the Braves have been able to hang on in this division race is because they defeated the bad teams with an almost lethal precision, and they’ve shown no signs of slowing down on that. If the Mets want to secure the NL East title that they’ve been fighting for all year, they need to make sure they’re doing a better job of beating the pitchers that they’re supposed to beat and beating the teams that they’re supposed to beat. They will get the chance to do that beginning tomorrow as they begin a series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big Mets winner: Daniel Vogelbach, +9.8% WPA
Big Mets loser: Carlos Carrasco, -40.9% WPA
Mets pitchers: -42.0% WPA
Mets hitters: -8.0% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Daniel Vogelbach single in the second, +11.1 WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Keibert Ruiz two-run single in the third, +20.1% WPA