MLB: Washington Nationals at New York Mets

Game recap April 22: Not a no-hitter

What Happened, In One Weird Stat Line: Jacob deGrom set new career highs in both whiffs (27) and walks (6) as the Nationals won 3-1.

deGrom’s Return:

deGrom was scratched Friday with a stiff neck. He started Saturday by making the Nationals look stiff on a series of high 90s fastballs. Adam Eaton went down swinging. Then Trea Turner whiffed in his first start since coming back from the disabled list. Bryce Harper walked but Ryan Zimmerman couldn’t catch up to the fastball away with his long swing. deGrom added another strikeout in the second and struck out the side in the third. He looked dominant – although he may not be the biggest Bull Durham fan.

Harper walked again to lead off the fourth and Daniel Murphy smoked a one-out single up the middle. Then deGrom lost some steam, just missing a 2-2 pitch to Anthony Rendon and eventually walking him. Matt Wieters lined a single to right for the Nationals’ first run. Murphy thought it could be a lineout and got a bad break off second. Washington sent him home anyway, and now Murphy has a “Dancing With The Stars” audition reel.

The Nats helped deGrom escape the fourth, but they weren’t so giving in the fifth. Michael Conforto got turned the wrong way on a liner at him, and it went over his head for a double. Turner hammered a mistake pitch for an RBI double to the center field wall. Harper was intentionally walked. Now that teams can just signal to first for a free pass, the SNY crew didn’t even have time to discuss whether it was the right call before Zimmerman lined a hanging slider to left. deGrom got in more trouble in the sixth before Josh Edgin came in to strike out Harper with two on and two out.

Mets Mystified By Another Lefty:

With David Wright out for the entire season so far and injuries to both Yoenis Cespedes and Wilmer Flores, the Mets’ lineup is awfully left-hand dominant. They struggled against soft tossers like Adam Conley even with those two right-handed bats. On Saturday, the Mets couldn’t get a hit against Gio Gonzalez until the sixth inning. The veteran lefty walked Conforto and Jay Bruce in the first, then retired Neil Walker on a 3-2 pitch. Gonzalez threw 30 pitches in the inning and looked vulnerable, but Neil Walker was the first of 13 straight outs on a series of weak contact.

Jose Reyes broke up the streak with a pinch hit walk to lead off the sixth. Juan Lagares singled a bad change up the middle for the Mets’ first hit. With two runners on, Gonzalez started pitching for strikeouts. Conforto chased a high fastball after taking a borderline strike and Cabrera singled to make the score 3-1 with the tying run on first, but Gonzalez came roaring back with two strikeouts. The Mets couldn’t get another runner the entire game.

Different Bullpen Use:

The Mets came in to Saturday’s game with Jerry Blevins leading all of baseball with 11 appearances through the first three weeks. Addison Reed, Fernando Salas and Hansel Robles were next with 10 appearances each. As I mentioned earlier, Terry Collins went to Edgin first in a high leverage at bat against Harper. Robles took the seventh, and he was so efficient that he worked the eighth too. Blevins came in again to face the top of the order in the ninth, putting two on before striking out Harper and Murphy on curveballs.

Meanwhile, Dusty Baker went from Gonzalez to Blake Treinen in the seventh. Treinen walked too many batters and quickly lost his spot as closer. Giving him Rene and T.J. Rivera – two relatively free swingers – is probably a good way to rebuild his confidence. Hard throwing lefty Enny Romero came out to face Reyes, Lagares and Conforto in the eighth. Baker left him in to face Cabrera and Bruce before giving the ball to Kodi Glover for a one-out save. It feels like Dusty Baker is using his bullpen more creatively than Terry Collins. Might be a good time to stock up on canned goods, just in case.

Conforto Gets a Chance vs. LHP:

Somehow Michael Conforto’s platoon split last year turned in to Terry Collins refusing to give Conforto a chance, despite the fact that he only started five games against lefties last year. With the Mets’ thin roster, Collins had no choice but to give Conforto a chance against Gonzalez Saturday. He didn’t have a great game (0-3, BB, 2 K) but neither did anyone else in the lineup. It’s hard to see how much better Conforto can get until he gets a chance.

What’s Next?

The Mets are on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball again. Hopefully no one in the broadcast booth will try to interview Mr. Met during a high leverage part of the game this time.

Photo credit: Anthony Gruppuso – USA Today Sports

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