After losing two games to the Nationals and having the third mercifully rained out, the Mets come into St. Louis for their last series before the All Star Break. Jacob deGrom, on a fantastic run after some early season troubles, took the mound opposite Cardinal ace Carlos Martinez. It should have been a matchup of two All Stars if not for deGrom being snubbed, so this game offered deGrom the opportunity to show the NL what sort of mistake they made.
Instead of getting dominated by Carlos Martinez like they usually do, the Mets jumped out to an early lead in the first. Curtis Granderson and Asdrubal Cabrera drew walks and Yoenis Cespedes bounced a single through the left side to load the bases with no outs. Two batters later, T.J. Rivera was hit by a pitch to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. Unfortunately, the Mets squandered a chance at a bigger inning when Cabrera made an ill-advised attempt to score on a fly out from Lucas Duda.
Jose Reyes led off the second with a home run to give the Mets a 2-0 lead, and for a while it looked like that would be more than enough for Jacob deGrom. After his no-hit bid was spoiled by a ball lost in the lights last time out, deGrom set down the first six Cardinals in order, including two strikeouts. Such electric stuff prompted some premature reactions, like this one from yours truly:
Have an odd feeling about deGrom tonight. Totally meaningless and most likely wrong, but you never know…
— Lukas Vlahos (@lvlahos343) July 8, 2017
Jinxing a no-hitter is of course nonsense, but if it was a real thing I certainly committed a cardinal sin there (no pun intended). On queue, Randal Grichuk and Paul DeJong lead off the bottom of the third with back-to-back home runs to tie the game at two. deGrom got the next three Cardinals in order, but the Met lead was gone, as were Twitter fantasies of a no-hitter.
The Mets were right there to pick up their ace in the top of the fourth. Reyes lined a one-out double, scoring one batter later on a single from Travis d’Arnaud. deGrom then hit a grounder that should have been a double play, but Matt Carpenter was too far from second base in bunt defense to turn it. Granderson promptly made the Cardinals pay, lining a double down the right field line to give the Mets another two-run lead.
deGrom couldn’t make that lead stand up either, as he continued to struggle with the long ball. Just as in the third inning, the first two Cardinals hit home runs, as Dexter Fowler and Jedd Gyorko hit solo home runs to tie the game at four. It was the first time deGrom had ever given up four home runs in a game, and he managed to do it in a span of seven batters to boot.
Once again, however, the Met offense picked their ace up. With one out in the fifth, Jay Bruce launched his 22nd home run of the year to give the Mets a 5-4 lead. deGrom induced an inning-ending double play in both the fifth and sixth, and the Mets got him another insurance run in the seventh when T.J. Rivera drove in Cespedes with a double.
For the third time, deGrom had a two-run lead in the seventh to go with a surprisingly low pitch count despite giving up the four home runs. This time, he made the lead stand up, working around a two-out double from Paul DeJong to keep St. Louis off the board. Though he fought his command, frequently missing over the plate, this was one of those trademark gutty starts from deGrom (to quote Keith). He went seven innings, struck out five, and allowed eight hits, with a fluky four of them leaving the yard.
Jerry Blevins entered for the eighth inning, but his struggles continued as he allowed a leadoff single to Matt Carpenter. Paul Sewald came in and poured some gasoline on that fire, allowing a single to Stephen Piscotty to put the tying runs on with none out. Dexter Fowler then hit a ball that should have been a double play, but Cabrera had trouble on the transfer. A sacrifice fly made the game 6-5, but Sewald got the next out to preserve the Met lead.
After a relatively quiet top of the ninth interrupted by a broken umpire’s mask, Addison Reed was called upon for the save. Luke Voit hit a rocket on the first pitch he saw, but Granderson was playing deep and got back on the ball to make the catch. Grichuk also attacked the first pitch, and he too hit the ball hard to center field, but Granderson was once again positioned perfectly. To wrap things up, Reed struck out Paul DeJong after a nine-pitch battle, securing his 15th save of the year as well as a win for deGrom in his fifth consecutive start.
Thoughts from the Game
Don’t let Cabrera’s 0-for-4 night fool you, because he hit every ball hard. After walking in the first, he hit a line drive right at second baseman Matt Carpenter, then a hard ground ball that shortstop Paul DeJong made a sprawling play on. Next, he hit a deep laser to right that Stephen Piscotty made a fantastic play on as he crashed into the wall. And finally, Luke Voit robbed Cabrera on a hard ground ball in the eighth. He may be unhappy about playing second, but he’s been mashing since coming back from the DL, batting .326/.420/.535 over that span.
On a more team-wide note, the Mets are somehow back on the very fringes of contention again, as a recent swoon by the Rockies has put the 39-45 Mets within 9.5 games of the second wild card (Editor’s note: Lukas, stop it). Selling still seems to be the right move however – there are three teams between the Mets and Colorado (Atlanta, St. Louis, Chicago) and the Brewers, Diamondbacks, and Rockies are all probably due for some regression, but I see no real reason to believe the Mets are due for any positive regression either, and they simply cannot compete with the elite teams of the NL. Selling off assets and reloading for a better shot at next season is a better course of action that flailing desperately for a remote chance to get swept in the NLDS.
Other Met News
On the injury front, Michael Conforto is set to make his return to the major league club this afternoon after a rehab game with St. Lucie. That’d be great news if not for the fact that Conforto reportedly “felt something” during his start, but the Mets plan to play him anyway. Later reports had Conforto saying he felt great and that his hand just stiffened up (to be fair, he did go 3-for-4), but that’s hardly the most reassuring message. Hopefully the Mets don’t wind up pushing Conforto through an injury like we saw them do for much of last season.
After the Mets “made a strong effort” to bring back Bartolo Colon, the former Met elected to sign a minor league deal with the Twins instead. The Mets aren’t a contender, but the Twins are barely hanging in there, so that might not a factor in his choice. Perhaps he just didn’t want to hit, or the Twins offered him more money, or any other of a number of reasons. As someone who never quite understood the infatuation with Colon, I’m not particularly broken up about not getting to watch a 44-year-old, washed-up starter the rest of the season, but I get that plenty of Met fans are at least somewhat disappointed.
On the prospect side, Amed Rosario ranked second on BP’s midseason top 50 list released earlier this week, while Dom Smith missed the cut. Smith also hit his fourth home run in July on Friday, and leads the minor leagues with 115 hits (PCL caveats apply).
Photo credit: Jeff Curry – USA Today Sports