MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at New York Mets

Game recap June 2: Harvey Day


Coming off two straight losses to the Brewers, the Mets sent out Matt Harvey against Gerrit Cole on Friday night. The Mets beat up on Cole last Saturday, hitting three home runs and scoring four runs total in only five innings. Harvey, meanwhile, performed decently against the Pirates his last time out, allowing only one run over six innings while striking out four and walking two. After a pair of starts during which his results tangibly improved (despite persistent struggles with his command), Harvey looked to get the Mets back on the winning side of the ball and continue his climb back to being a cromulent major league starter.

Game Recap

Harvey got off to a rough start, giving up a walk, a single, and another walk to the first three batters of the game to load the bases. David Freese then drove in a run with a ground out, quickly giving the Pirates a 1-0 lead. Harvey bounced back by striking out both Josh Bell and Andrew McCutchen to escape the jam however, a pair of at-bats that were about as impressive as he’s looked all season.

Harvey carried that success forward, striking out two more in the second (though one of those was against the Pirates starter Gerrit Cole) and tallying a fifth strikeout in the third, that one on only three pitches. Meanwhile, Lucas Duda gave the Mets the lead with a two-run home run in the bottom of the second, a 420-foot moonshot into the Coca-Cola corner for his second home run off of Cole this week.

Unfortunately, Harvey couldn’t sustain the strong results, as he once again loaded the bases in the top of the fourth before recording an out. After Jordy Mercer popped out, Elias Diaz drove in all three runners with a double to give the Pirates a 4-2 lead. Harvey managed to escape the inning without further damage, but he was once again struggling with his control.

The Mets offense got back to work in the bottom of the fifth in support of their struggling ace. Travis d’Arnaud lead off the inning with a single, and after a failed sacrifice attempt, Michael Conforto tied the game with his 14th homer of the year. The two-run shot into the Party Citi deck was the ninth of his 14 homers hit to the left of centerfield this season. The Mets weren’t done either, as Neil Walker drove in another run with an RBI triple (a gift from Gregory Polanco, who misplayed a sinking line drive) and Duda capped things off with his second homer of the game, a near carbon copy of his home run in the second. By the time Gerrit Cole escaped the inning, the Mets had put up a five spot and had a 7-4 lead.

That was not to last, and you’d better buckle in for what happens next. Harvey started the inning by giving up a long home run to Josh Bell, then walking Andrew McCutchen. At that point, he was replaced by Paul Sewald, who had less than nothing last night. Seven of the next eight Pirates reached base (single, three-run home run, strikeout, single, RBI double, single, HBP), leading to seven runs. While the Pirates had a 1.000 BABIP against Sewald, he was giving up rockets to just about every hitter he faced, as his pitches were just flat and his command was nonexistent. Neil Ramirez was finally brought in to stop the onslaught, but the Pirates had a 11-7 lead they would not relinquish.

Little of note happened for the remainder of the game, as the Mets managed only one hit after their five-run outburst in the fifth. Josh Harrison homered off of Ramirez in the eight to stretch the Pirate lead to 12-7, but the Mets never even put together a mild threat against Wade Leblanc, Juan Nicasio, Daniel Hudson, or Felipe Rivero.

The loss drops the Mets back to seven games under .500 at 23-30. After winning four straight against the Pirates and Brewers over last weekend and the start of this week, the Mets have followed that up with three straight losses. The bullpen talent continues to be lacking, and the management skill of that bullpen continues to be beyond pathetic. Robert Gsellman takes the mound opposite Tyler Glasnow tonight in what could be Gsellman’s penultimate start before moving to the bullpen when Steven Matz and Seth Lugo return to the majors.

Thoughts from the Game

Glad you’ve tuned in because I’m about to bring you, you guessed it, another rant about Terry Collins. In this installment, I question how any major league manager, someone paid a significant amount of money to maximize the talent of the players he is given, fails to notice that his reliever has literally nothing working on a night and hangs him out to dry. Three or even two batters into his outing, it was evident that Sewald had no control and no stuff, and the Pirates were unsurprisingly beating him up. Rather than lifting him and keeping the game somewhat close (perhaps when the Pirate lead was still one rather than three), Collins slept at the wheel as the Pirates used Sewald as a punching bag.

This is the second time a Met pitcher has been sacrificed this season, as Jacob deGrom sucked it up on Wednesday after the Mets spent all of their bullpen in an extra-inning win on Tuesday. However, if your bullpen is stretched so thin that you have to leave a heavily struggling pitcher out on the mound in close games two times in one week, additional arms need to be called up (and in all fairness, that’s on management, not Terry). Really though, if Collins weren’t so insistent on burning out his best arms in games where the Mets are up by five, outings like the one Sewald had tonight are more manageable. Instead, Fernando Salas, Jerry Blevins, and Addison Reed are all among the league leaders in games played, and a young, potentially promising arm has to take a beating for no good reason, to say nothing of the fact that it essentially knocked the Mets out of the game.

Truthfully, the Mets have gotten what they deserved out of this unit. They chose not to supplement what was a flimsy bullpen in the offseason, one made even flimsier by employing one of the worst tactical managers in the game. Yes, the bullpen has been hit by injury and underperformance, but that’s a big part of what makes relief pitching so volatile, and building a contender with such a glaring weak spot (well, several glaring weak spots in the case of the Mets) is just poor roster building strategy.

Other Met News

In other bad baseball decisions, Michael Conforto is not in the top 15 NL outfielders in All Star Game voting. He’s been hurt mightily by not being included on the original ballot because he was not a starter at the beginning of the season, but one would hope there would be enough competent fans to notice how well Conforto is playing right now. He’s posted the fifth highest TAv in baseball so far this season (trailing Freddie Freeman, Mike Trout, Buster Posey, and Ryan Zimmerman, one spot ahead of Bryce Harper) and the ninth highest BWARP. There’s an argument to be made that Conforto should be a starting outfielder for the NL, but instead he might not even make it as a reserve.

Photo credit: Noah K. Murray – USA Today Sports

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