A cold, unsettling mist fell over Citi Field last night. As television cameras turned to fans bundling up in the seats, Jerry Blevins walked in a run to start the baseball discomfort. The Mets’ reliable lefty just needed one more out to escape the seventh with a lead. He got a pop up. Everyone watching had just enough time to think of Luis Castillo and the nightmarish start to 2017 before Asdrbual Cabrera lost the ball in the lights. Now the game was tied, and it was up to the Mets’ bullpen to outlast the Brewers? After imploding in Milwaukee a few weeks ago?
The Brewers got three scoreless innings from their two best relievers. Meanwhile, Terry Collins turned to Josh Edgin and the struggling Addison Reed. After they both threw scoreless innings, it was Josh Smoker’s time for extra innings. He started off shaky but got stronger as he pitched after serving as a starter during his minor league stint. The Brewers turned to failed starter Wily Peralta for the 12th. T.J. Rivera singled, Michael Conforto walked, and Jay Bruce hit a line drive single past the shift for the game winning run.
With all of the Mets’ young pitching prospects over the last few years, it’s hard to get excited about the starting debut of Tyler Pill. He’s 27 years old – too old to be a prospect. He started the year in Double-A after failing his first time in Triple-A. Pill is a deception and command pitcher who rarely tops 90 miles an hour. He doesn’t have a crazy spin rate like Seth Lugo’s curveball. At best, the Mets hope he’s a perfectly cromulent number 5 starter. After watching Tommy Milone and Rafael Montero try to hold down the last rotation spot, Pill feels like a genuine improvement. If he’s bad, he’ll put fans to sleep instead of aggravating them with walks and drawn out innings!
Pill must have missed the “boring command pitcher” memo, since he drilled Keon Broxton with the second pitch of the game. Thankfully, Broxton and the Brewers realized this was a first-time starter facing nerves, not a Bryce Harper-level beef that required benches clearing or beanball retaliation. Pill kept missing with too much running movement in the first. Travis Shaw pulled a two out bloop just over a leaping Lucas Duda for the first run. Then Pill fooled Domingo Santana on a 3-2 curveball for his first big league strikeout.
A closer look at Pill’s minor league stats tells us why we shouldn’t read too much in to a pitcher’s minor league ERA right now. Pill posted a career-best ERA to start this season but every advanced metric points to trouble ahead. The Brewers got runners on second and third in back-to-back innings before Pill worked out of the jam. Eric Thames got a leadoff “triple” in the fifth as Bruce misplayed a single and let it bounce to the wall. The rookie started pitching in a lot more, getting out of the jam without allowing another run. Kyle Hendricks’ success may suggest that some command pitchers may be able to sustain high rates of stranding runners, but Pill hasn’t shown that before 2017.
The Mets got on the board quickly in the fifth when Curtis Granderson doubled to left-center and Asdrubal Cabrera doubled the very next pitch to right center. Travis d’Arnaud singled to tie the game and bring up Pill. The rookie was a two-way player in college and hit over .350 in the minors, but he failed to bunt or even drive the ball deep enough for a sacrifice. Conforto and Jose Reyes both walked – Reyes getting a go-ahead RBI – but Bruce bounced in the shift for a double play. Duda’s two-run homer in the sixth looked like it could be enough for the Mets before the bad fielding came crashing down.
In the sixth inning, Fernando Salas got to bat on his birthday. It’s been four years since he last swung the bat, but he managed to get his first big league hit.
— TheRenderMLB (@TheRenderMLB) May 31, 2017
Jacob deGrom takes the mound as the Mets look to win the first three games in the four-game series.
Photo credit: Brad Penner – USA Today Sports