Wednesday seemed like it was just another day in the life of the 2017 New York Mets. The day started out with the news that everyone’s favorite relief pitcher, Rafael Montero, was returning to New York to re-join the Mets. A little later on, things got even worse when the corresponding roster move was announced. Josh Smoker was placed on the disabled list with a left shoulder strain just one day after he threw 81 pitches in long relief, a number he had only flirted with a few times in the minor leagues over a month ago. His previous high pitch count at the MLB level this season was 48, and that came on May 30. Since his recall, Smoker’s pitch counts had been mostly between 15-35 pitches. Out of nowhere, the Mets pushed him to 81, and he got hurt.
So, the Mets, in a season chock-full of downright embarrassing injury management, had mismanaged another player’s health to the point of injuring him. And as a result, Rafael Montero was back on the MLB roster for some reason, getting what must be his 357th opportunity in the big leagues. This was already one of the most Mets days of the year, and the game hadn’t even started yet.
And one pitch into the game, the Mets were losing 1-0. Anthony Rizzo took Matt Harvey deep on the first pitch he threw. Six pitches into the game, the Mets were losing 2-0. The next batter, Ian Happ, knocked one out against Harvey as well as the Dark Knight seemed lost right from the start. Throughout most of the outing, he could barely throw harder than 90-91 mph. He was locating his secondaries and getting strikeouts, but the velocity was not there at all, and it was dropping precipitously throughout the course of the outing. By the fourth inning, Harvey was only sitting in the high-80s, which is utterly frightening. He then left one of those meaty fastballs over the plate to Kyle Schwarber, who promptly crushed a home run that astronomers are still trying to calculate the light-year distance of.
And that’s not all. Earlier in the game, the Mets had also lost Neil Walker to injury. The second baseman pulled up while running down to first on a drag bunt in the third inning. He was helped off the field and was replaced by Lucas Duda. This, of course, came back to bite the Mets in the bottom of the fourth, when they had the bases loaded and the pitcher’s spot coming up. They were pulling Harvey at that point, but didn’t actually have anyone to bat in his place. You see, Duda, Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, and Rene Rivera made up the Mets’ bench last night. Duda was already in the game at that point, Cespedes needs a 30-minute warm up in order to be game ready nowadays and hadn’t done that yet, and Rivera was the back-up catcher. So that left just the one obvious option to pinch-hit:
Yes, Steven Matz. For some reason, Terry Collins decided that being down three runs with the bases loaded in what had already become a bullpen game wasn’t high-leverage enough to use one of his best hitters in Conforto, so he sent up a pitcher instead.
So, to summarize, pitchers were pinch-hitting in bases loaded spots in the fourth inning while Gary, Keith, and Ron laid into the Mets for their roster contruction, players were getting hurt, one of the starting pitchers was reeling, the team was getting outclassed on the field, and Rafael Montero was ACTUALLY BACK IN THE MAJOR LEAGUES AGAIN. This was a mess. This was a mess only the 2017 Mets could forge upon themselves.
But then, things started to change. Things stopped getting messy and started getting…fun. Things started to go the Mets’ way again. The game quickly turned from a disaster into the most entertaining game of the year. Cold off the bench, Matz bailed out his manager and front office with an RBI infield single. Juan Lagares then followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-3. The Mets wouldn’t score anymore in that inning, but they did manage to inch closer.
Paul Sewald came in relief of Harvey and tossed two smooth innings in relief to keep it a one-run game. This allowed Lagares to knock in the tying run on an RBI triple in the sixth inning. Suddenly, things weren’t looking so bad for New York. But they still needed nine more outs from their bullpen, which was a risky proposition.
Fernando Salas came in for the seventh and did his job. He gave up a hit, but got two outs to get it to Jerry Blevins, who fooled Anthony Rizzo on a 3-2 breaking ball to strike him out and end the frame. Blevins went back out for the eighth and continued to dominate, setting down the Cubs in order with two strikeouts. He retired all four batters he faced.
And in the bottom of the eighth, the Mets finally took advantage. Curtis Granderson led off the inning with a solo shot into the right field corner to give the Mets the lead—his 300th career home run. But the offense didn’t stop there. They kept piling hits on the Cubs’ bullpen, and a few batters later, Lucas Duda did what Good first basemen do and golfed a three-run homer—also into the heavily-sponsored right field corner—and put the game out of reach. The Mets would get one more run in the inning on a T.J. Rivera RBI single before finally being retired. All in all, New York put a five spot on the Cubs’ bullpen to take a 9-4 lead.
Addison Reed had an uneven ninth inning, loading the bases by giving up three singles, but worked out of trouble and didn’t allow a run to score. As surprising as it may seem, Reed has not allowed a run since May 27.
OTHER NEWS OF THE DAY
With Walker now likely headed to the disabled list, no moves have been announced yet, but it certainly looks like Gavin Cecchini is on his way to New York.
Matt Harvey said he felt “fatigued” and “tired” during his outing yesterday. He is scheduled to see a doctor today.
After winning five of six, the Mets now turn to their archrival Washington Nationals in hopes of getting back in the race with a four-game series. The Mets currently sit at 30-34, 8.5 games behind the Nats—who are having their own struggles—and this series can either get them right back in the race or effectively knock them out and get them thinking more about 2018. Robert Gsellman taken on Gio Gonzalez in Game 1 tonight at 7:10 p.m.
Photo credit: Brad Penner – USA Today Sports