After a truly horrendous start to the season, Matt Harvey bounced back with a 0.64 ERA in his past two starts and looked to extend his recent resurgence against the Brewers. Junior Guerra, a 31-year-old rookie with a 3.61 ERA claimed off waivers from the White Sox this offseason, started for the Brewers. Alejandro De Aza started in left field in place of the struggling Michael Conforto, and the newly acquired Kelly Johnson made his 2016 Met debut at second base.
Harvey came out firing, striking out four in the first two innings. He touched 96 and 97, inducing swinging strikes on his fastball, slider and curveball. While he may have been more effective in terms of ERA recently, Harvey’s strikeouts were still missing. Tonight’s showing was very promising for those hoping for the elite version of Harvey to return, rather than the merely competent one.
While Harvey started off strong, the Met offense stayed quiet. Curtis Granderson led off the game with a walk, but was erased on a double play ball from De Aza. Johnson led off the third with a double, but was tagged out on a very odd double play grounder from Harvey. In the bottom of the third, the Brewers nearly scored on a grounder that pinballed off Harvey and Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop. After review, however, Aaron Hill was called out at home and the game remained tied at 0.
Granderson led off the fourth with a single and James Loney followed two outs later with a single, but the Mets failed to score. In the fifth, the Mets loaded the bases with two singles and an intentional walk, but again failed to score after De Aza grounded out. This was the story of the night, as the Mets’ struggles with runners in scoring position continued.
Meanwhile, Harvey stayed strong, setting down the Brewers in order in the fourth. In the fifth, former (and football player) Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a one-out triple, then scored on a sacrifice fly from Ramon Flores to give the Brewers a 1-0 lead. The Mets wouldn’t trail for long though – Yoenis Cespedes led off the sixth with a solo shot to tie the game at 1.
Harvey came back out for the sixth and dominated, striking out Jonathan Villar and Scooter Gennett and inducing a soft, broken bat line drive from Ryan Braun for the third out. Despite Keith’s protestations, Braun would be Harvey’s last batter. The Dark Knight finished with six innings, eight strikeouts, two walks, two hits and only one run allowed, easily his best start of the year.
The seventh and eighth innings were relatively quiet. Hansel Robles worked around two walks in the bottom of the seventh, while the Mets wasted a two out double from Cespedes in the eighth. In the ninth, the Mets loaded the bases with none out against Brewers closer Jeremey Jeffress. Unfortunately, the offensive ineptitude continued; Kevin Plawecki popped out, Neil Walker struck out, and Granderson grounded out to end the inning still tied at 1. Truly pathetic.
The Brewers had an excellent opportunity in the ninth as well. Jonathan Lucroy walked with one out and was replaced by pinch runner Keon Broxton. Broxton then stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error, putting the winning run 90 feet away with one out. Nevertheless, Jim Henderson worked his way out of the inning with a strikeout and a ground out to send the game to extras.
The top of the 10th was quiet for the Mets before the Brewers again threatened in the bottom half of the inning. Jim Henderson remained in the game only to depart after walking Ramon Flores with a blister, replaced by Jerry Blevins. Flores moved to second by a bunt from Martin Maldonado, but then made a truly boneheaded mistake on a ball in the dirt. Plawecki kept the ball close, but Flores beat the (weak) throw. However, he used an unnecessary hook slide, came off the base, and was tagged out. Blevins struck out Villar on the next pitch and the inning was over.
In the top of the 1th, the Mets finally broke through on one of the most bizarre and incompetent plays you’ll ever. Cabrera led off with a single before Wilmer Flores doubled to put runners at second and third with none out. Johnson was walked intentionally to load the bases with none out for Plawecki once again. The catcher, who had a truly horrible game, popped out yet again, bringing up Matt Reynolds. Here’s what happenned next:
Reynolds hit a line drive to shortstop Jonathan Villar, who knocked it down.
Wilmer Flores, standing at second at the start of the play, returned to the bag.
Villar flipped to second baseman Scooter Gennett for a force out on Johnson, who started the play at first.
Wilmer Flores came off the bag and began running towards third.
Scooter Gennett chases down Johnson in a run down, even though Johnson was already out.
The final result: Reynolds safe at first, Flores safe at third, Cabrera scores, two outs.
There were several confusing factors on the play, most notably the odd signaling from second base umpire Ramon De Jesus. The Mets also would have scored on the play anyway, and Curtis Granderson made the next out, so no damage was done by the Brewers botching the play.
So after all that, the Mets were up 2-1 and Jeurys Familia was coming on. He wasted no time, inducing a weak ground ball from Scooter Gennett, then blowing away Ryan Braun and Keon Broxton to finally end the game. The Mets were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left eleven men on base, but the Brewers were somehow worse.
The Phillies couldn’t help the Mets out and lost to the Nationals last night, so the Mets remain 2.5 games back of first in the East. Logan Verrett makes a spot start today against Wily Peralta as the Mets look to take game three of this four-game set.
Photo credit: Benny Sieu – USA Today Sports