MLB: Oakland Athletics at New York Mets

Game recap July 21: Michael Conforto Home Run Hour


The struggling Steven Matz, following up two starts in which he allowed 12 runs in 5.1 innings, took the mound against the rebuilding Oakland Athletics. Paul Blackburn, a rookie running a 3.66 K/9 and surviving on a .230 BABIP, opposed the Mets. It’s tough to dress up a matchup between two mediocre pitchers (probably a generous categorization for Matz at the moment) and two bad teams, especially with both fan bases more tuned in to trade rumors than the actual games. But hey, Michael Conforto was starting, so we’ve got that going for us.

Game Recap

Matz didn’t get off to a great start, allowing the first three Athletics to single and immediately putting the Mets in a 1-0 hole. He was bailed out by a ground ball double play off the bat of Khris Davis, putting a runner at third with two outs, and Matz completed the inning by striking out Matt Chapman to limit the damage. Despite that rough start, Matz settled down, working around a couple singles but holding the A’s to just the one run for the first four innings.

The Met offense was largely stymied the first time through the batting order, with the first hit coming from Matz himself with two outs in the third. Conforto immediately capitalized, launching a monstrous two run home run to the Shea Bridge to flip the score and give the Mets a 2-1 lead.

That lead would disappear in the fifth, as Matz ran into more trouble. With one out, Rajai Davis singled and stole second despite being caught by a pick off. Marcus Semien then singled in the tying run and stole second himself. Semien moved to third on a single from Ryon Healy, then scored on a sacrifice fly from Khris Davis, putting Oakland back in front 3-2.

After not getting through five innings in his previous two starts, giving up three runs in five innings was a step up for Matz, albeit an underwhelming one. Still, it was surprising when Terry Collins pinch hit for him in the bottom of the fifth, handing the game off to the bullpen even with Matz at only 83 pitches. He finished with five strikeouts (a step up from his pitiful strikeout rates since returning from the DL), allowing nine hits and three runs.

Curtis Granderson came up empty as a pinch hitter and the Mets didn’t score in the bottom of the fifth, but they’d jump back on top in the sixth inning. Asdrubal Cabrera walked, Yoenis Cespedes singled, and Lucas Duda reached on an infield single that took a bad hop and hit Oakland 1B Ryon Healy in the face (he left the game, but seemed to avoid any serious injury). That loaded the bases with one out for T.J. Rivera, who lined a single into center to score two runs. Rajai Davis’s throw went to third, where Duda was tagged out, but Matt Chapman’s subsequent throw to second base skipped into right field and rolled all the way to the warning track, allowing Rivera to round the bases and score. At the end of the play, the Mets had a 5-3 lead.

Paul Sewald tossed a scoreless seventh, and the Mets added more cushion in the bottom half. With a runner on, Michael Conforto hit a second two-run home run, this one a line drive down the right field line. Since the All Star Break, Conforto is batting .323 with four home runs and two doubles, and continues to remind both the front office and Terry Collins that he shouldn’t be part of any sort of ridiculous outfield rotation.

With a 7-3 lead heading to the eighth, the Mets seemed to be in a good spot, but the bullpen managed to keep things interesting. Erik Goeddel entered and retired only one of the four batters he faced, allowing a run and departing with runners on first and third with one out. Terry Collins called on Addison Reed for the five-out save, who walked Rajai Davis on a borderline pitch, then allowed an RBI single to Marcus Semien to cut the Met lead to 7-5.

Perhaps realizing that Reed didn’t have his best stuff, Collins called on Jerry Blevins to escape the mess. Blevins pitched brilliantly, inducing a pop out from Yonder Alonso and striking out Khris Davis to escape the inning. Blevins stayed in for the ninth and worked another clean inning, recording his fifth save of the year and his first five-out performance since 2013 (against the Mets, when he was still a member of the Washington Nationals).

Thoughts from the Game

It’s been a while since we’ve had a good Terry Collins rant, but here we go. Addison Reed pitched 1.1 innings on July 19, another inning on the 20th, and was called upon for a five-out save last night. He’s already one of the most overused pitchers in baseball, and as the Mets should be showcasing him for other teams, Collins is continuing to run him into the ground. Most reasonable teams won’t decide Reed isn’t worthwhile because of one bad outing of course, but risking an injury or even the slightest drop in value at this point is needlessly reckless on top of being tactically moronic.

There’s not much else to discuss from this game. Steven Matz still seems off, and even with the strikeouts back, he was still extremely hittable. Perhaps he’s still hurt, or perhaps the gradually mounting list of injuries are finally having a cumulative effect. Or it’s just a rough patch, because pitching is hard, man.

Other Met News

Yoenis Cespedes’ comments deserve some mention here, even if any rational fan realizes that any sort of controversy is nonsensical. Cespedes isn’t pulling a Kyrie Irving and asking for a trade; he’s merely stating some affection for the place where he got his start in the major leagues and expressed a desire to retire there. In the short term, there’s no reason to think he’s not totally committed to the Mets, and he has expressed his love for both this city and this team multiple times in the past.

As for his comments on Bob Melvin and that being perceived as throwing Terry Collins under the bus, I say good. Maybe players noting that Collins is a bad manager would wake ownership up.

Photo credit: Brad Penner – USA Today Sports

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