MLB: New York Mets at Los Angeles Dodgers

Game recap June 22: The wheels come off

Dodgers 6, Mets 3

The Mets could not get out of Los Angeles fast enough, but it seemed they needed to first plumb the depths of different ways to lose before they went, suffering a sweep to the Dodgers in a game that wasn’t so much a replay of the 2015 playoffs (“Clash of the Titans”) as it was a peek at what the 1962-1963 seasons might have felt like (“Home Alone”).

Awkwardly, last night the Mets got the kind of starting pitching that Terry Collins dreams about when he naps in his rocker on his front porch, shotgun draped across his lap, waiting to chase the neighbor kids off his lawn. Steven Matz went six innings, throwing over 100 pitches, and yielded only three runs. It was especially impressive as he clearly did not have his best stuff, escaping jams in almost every inning, but managed to strike out eight and left the game with a no decision.

Another bright spot was Curtis Granderson, continuing his annual mid-summer revival, reaching base in his first three at-bats, leading off with a home run off Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu — his second leadoff home run in as many nights — followed by a double in the third and a walk in the fifth. (He should have walked again in the seventh, but home plate umpire [and player favorite] Angel Hernandez called the Mets center fielder out on strikes on a ball that was clearly out of the zone.)

In a series that had been defined by offensive outbursts (at least, as far as Los Angeles was concerned), there were some defensive gems: Jose Reyes preserved the one-run lead in the bottom of the second with a really nice stab at  a ball heading back through the middle, pivoting and beating Yasiel Puig with his throw by half a step. On the other side, Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger made a lovely play on a wild throw by shortstop Chris Taylor in the fourth, switching feet and catching the throw in foul territory, placing himself in danger of being run over by a hustling Reyes to get the out.

There’s a form to writing these recaps, because there’s a comfortable rhythm to baseball itself. As the innings pass, you start teasing out the stories of the night: it becomes clear who’s going to have a special night, who’s decidedly not, and even then you can count on being interrupted by a surprising defensive play. But there’s been another touchstone to these recaps this season: the “the wheels came off …” graf; there is inevitably a moment, for studs and scrubs alike, where the Mets starter seems to forget the tenets of pitching, and that seems to seal the team’s fate for the night.

For much of the night, it was a tight back-and forth: Former Met Justin Turner took revenge on his former club with a two-out, game-tying solo homer in the third. While Matz managed to keep phenom Cody Bellinger in the yard, Enrique Hernandez followed with a two-run home run, giving the Dodgers a 3-1 lead. Travis d’Arnaud clawed a run back with a solo homer in the top of the fourth, and Matz navigated trouble in the bottom of the inning, stranding a runner at third. Matz’s tap dance through the minefield was necessary, as Duda would tie the game with a two-out RBI double in the sixth off Dodgers reliever Chris Hatcher.

And then the wheels came off.

Joc Pedersen welcomed Paul Sewald to the game on his first pitch with a go-ahead home run in the seventh. With two on and one out, Sewald yielded to Jerry Blevins, who walked the bases loaded before walking Dodgers reliever Pedro Baez on four pitches. Blevins then walked Austin Barnes, turning a one-run contest into a three-run rout without bat touching ball. It was the kind of sequence you really relish staying up into the wee hours of the morning to witness. Fernando Salas entered to restore order, facing Puig with the bases loaded and two out, and coaxing a groundout from the Mets’ new enemy.

It was perhaps a moral victory that the Mets managed to get the tying run to the plate in the eighth — spurring Dodger manager to bring in Kenley Jansen for a four-out save; Reyes reached on a Cody Bellinger error to load the bases, and Old Man Terry tapped Michael Conforto to pinch hit with the bases loaded and two out — but this week, as far as the Mets are concerned, there were no victories. Conforto fouled out behind the plate on the first pitch he saw. Jansen returned to the mound and put the Mets down in order for an uneventful ninth.

The team heads to San Francisco today to face the hapless Giants, Seth Lugo (1-1) against Ty Blach (4-4). One of the two teams, presumably, has to win.

Photo credit: Richard Mackson – USA Today Sports

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