The dreary, rainy weather that spotted this game reflected the mood of Met fandom, as Noah Syndergaard and Stephen Strasburg squared off in the wake of Matt Harvey’s decision to undergo season ending surgery. Syndergaard, who has dealt with injury problems of his own, was dominant against the Cubs his last time out. The outing prior to that, however, was his three-inning blow up in Washington. Thor looked to bounce back against the Mets’ main division rival and improve his case to start the All-Star Game for the National League.
The Nationals struck first when Clint Robinson launched a two-run home run in the second after a walk to Wilson Ramos (Syndergaard’s first walk at home since May). Anthony Rendon would then work a walk, but Thor struck out Danny Espinosa and Stephen Strasburg to limit the damage. In the third, the Nationals did some more damage, this time on an RBI double from Daniel Murphy, who continues to abuse his former team. The Nats continued to threaten after Bryce Harper walked to put runners on first and second with one out, but a double play from Wilson Ramos ended that threat.
Even though the Nats only had a three-run lead, it looked nearly insurmountable with the way Stephen Strasburg started the game. He tossed four hitless innings to start the game, allowing only Curtis Granderson (who walked twice) to reach base. In the fifth, the Mets finally broke through with a leadoff home run from Asdrubal Cabrera. Brandon Nimmo then singled to bring the tying run to the plate, but Rene Rivera, Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes were unable to even advance the runner and the inning ended with the Mets still down 3-1.
Of course, after the fifth inning, the score was probably the last thing on most Met fans’ minds. Yoenis Cespedes exited the game with what the team called a strained right quad in the fourth inning, and Syndergaad was pulled in the middle of an at-bat in the fifth inning. The team waited several innings to provide any update on Syndergaard, but they insist that the issue is not at all related to his elbow. Instead, Thor was lifted with “arm fatigue,” whatever that means. With Matt Harvey already done for the season and Steven Matz constantly teetering on the edge of surgery, Met fans will be holding their breath until Thor gets back on the mound. It’s probably for the best if he doesn’t pitch in the All-Star Game at this point.
Seth Lugo entered in relief of Syndergaard and tossed a very solid two innings. He walked two and struck out Murphy, continuing to display a very sharp curve ball (one that is among the league leaders in terms of spin rate, per StatCast). With Logan Verrett and/or Sean Gilmartin likely pressed into the starting rotation until any acquisition is made, Lugo has a chance to carve out a stable role in the Mets bullpen, and he’s off to a very solid start.
Jerry Blevins relieved Lugo with two outs in the seventh and Danny Espinosa at second base. After falling behind 3-0 on Ben Revere, Blevins came back to strike him out; he has now stranded 30 of 32 inherited runners this season. He’d remain in the game for the eighth, working around his own fielding error to keep the game within two runs.
Meanwhile, Strasburg bounced back nicely after the fifth, allowing no hits and one walk over the six and seventh innings. The Mets’ hitters were probably relieved when Shawn Kelley replace Strasburg in the eighth, and they immediately threatened after a leadoff double from Flores and an infield single from Reyes put runners on the corners with none out. Unsurprisingly, in true 2016 Mets form, they failed to score, as Oliver Perez induced a pop out from Granderson and Blake Treinen got Juan Lagares to ground into a double play.
Erik Goeddel pitched a 1-2-3 top of the ninth to give the Mets one last chance against Jonathan Papelbon. Alejandro De DFAza lead off and struck out, then proceeded to complain about an obvious strike. Kelly Johnson and Cabrera followed that up by weakly flying out to left field to end the game. The win drops the Mets to four games back of first, though they still cling to the first wild card spot.
After the rough news on Harvey the over the last two days, this certainly wasn’t the game Met fans were looking for. Watching the Nats erase the Mets’ progress in the standings from Thursday’s great comeback win while also having the team’s two best players leave with injury is incredibly disheartening. The next two games against the Nationals are critical, as the Mets need to win at least one and probably both in order to keep their hopes in the division alive.
Baseball Prospectus is hosting BP Night at Citi Field on Saturday, including a team panel with GM Sandy Alderson and TJ Barra, manager of baseball R&D; a media panel featuring Mets beat reporters Anthony DiComo and James Wagner and Nationals beat reporter Chelsea Janes; and a BP and friends panel including former editor-in-chief Ben Lindbergh, managing editor Bret Sayre, minor league editor Craig Goldstein and BP Mets writers Jeffrey Paternostro, Jarrett Seidler, Mike Vorkunov and Maggie Wiggin. Logan Verrett, replacing Matt Harvey, gets the start against Max Scherzer. It’ll be a party. Seriously, guys. Wait, where are you going?
Photo credit: Brad Penner – USA Today Sports