The Mets split another series against a bad team. They had two games where their starter didn’t get past the third inning. Someone else just went on the DL. Lucas Duda, the Good first baseman, has been dealt. So go the Mets in 2017.
With things pretty much in the same depressing state they’ve been in all season, the Mets headed up to Seattle to start a three-game set with the Mariners. The resurgent Rafael Montero, owner of a 3.34 ERA and a 3.31 FIP since being recalled on June 15, got the opening game start, as he continues to build his case for a significant role on the 2018 Mets. Ariel Miranda, a 28-year-old left hander with a 4.30 ERA, got the start for the Mariners, who are fighting for a second wild card spot.
The Met offense got off to a fast start against Miranda. Asdrubal Cabrera singled with one out in the first, and after Yoenis Cespedes struck out, Jay Bruce squeaked a two-run home run just over Mike Haniger’s glove in right field, giving the Mets a quick 2-0 lead. Michael Conforto added to that with a laser beam of a home run in the third, and Wilmer Flores drove in Cabrera with a sacrifice fly to give the Mets a 4-0 lead.
With his offense providing plenty of support, Rafael Montero cruised early on. He struck out two in a perfect first inning, and worked around a leadoff walk to Nelson Cruz in the second. The first hit Montero allowed was a solo home run to Mike Zunino in the bottom of the third, but he bounced back to strike out Jean Segura and induce a ground out from Ben Gamel to preserve a 4-1 lead going to the fourth.
Montero was similarly strong in the fourth inning, again working around a walk but keeping the Mariners off the board. Not so much in the fifth, however, when everything fell apart. Mitch Hangier doubled and Jarrod Dyson singled to put runners at the corners with no outs. Montero followed that up with a walk, a wild pitch to score a run, and another walk to reload the bases. He seemed to be righting the ship, striking out Ben Gamel on three pitches and inducing a sacrifice fly from Robinson Cano, but a two-out walk to Nelson Cruz reloaded the bases. With the Met lead reduced to 4-3, that was all the rope Terry Collins would give Montero.
Josh Edgin entered against lefty Kyle Seager, but gave up a two-run single that gave the Mariners a 5-4 lead. Edgin would only get one batter, as Collins again went to the bullpen for Hansel Robles, who struck out Danny Valencia to finally end the inning. The Mariners sent nine men to the plate, with three of them walking and four coming around the score.
The two runs that scored on Seager’s single were charged to Montero, who allowed five runs in 4.2 innings of work. He walked five and struck out five, in what was an outing that started strong and ended very disappointingly. After running into some trouble, Montero seemed to revert to being afraid of throwing a strike. Whether that’s a mental block for him or just a lack of control is tough to determine, but he’ll need to learn to readjust and work out of jams if he wants to have a shot at a back of the rotation spot next season.
In the sixth inning, the Mariners put together a small two-out rally after Mike Zunino and Jean Segura (who got caught on replay trying to sell a HBP on a ball that hit his bat) singled. Jerry Blevins relieved Robles and struck out Ben Gamel to escape that threat, then pitched a clean seventh inning to send the game to the eighth with the Mets still trailing 5-4.
Conforto quickly changed that. In his first game back in his hometown, Conforto launched a second laser beam home run to right field, this one tying the game at five. David Phelps relieved Mark Rzepczynski, and the Mets hammered him as they usually do. Cabrera singled, as did Bruce, and Flores beat out a potential double play ball to keep the inning alive with runners at the corners and two outs. Neil Walker in his first start back off the DL then lined a single down the left field line to give the Mets a 6-5 lead. Curtis Granderson added one batter later with an RBI single of his own, this one a line drive off the glove of Danny Valencia. Jose Reyes popped out to strand two baserunners, but the Mets had already scored three times and taken a 7-5 lead.
Paul Sewald, who seems to have firmly cemented himself as the eighth inning guy at this point, entered to protect the new Met lead and promptly got himself in some trouble. Danny Valencia singled and Mitch Haniger singled to put runners on first and second with no outs. Then, the Mariners did the Mets a favor and had Jarrod Dyson bunt, moving the runners to second and third but giving Sewald a free out. Sewald followed that up with a strikeout and a ground out, stranding two Mariners in scoring position and sending the game to the ninth.
Addison Reed was called on for the save (at least Terry didn’t find a way to use him for more than three outs) and things immediately got interesting. Ben Gamel hit a slow ground ball that Walker seemed to have corralled on a dive, but he couldn’t make the transfer. That brough Robinson Cano to the plate as the tying rone, but Reed induced a double play, then got a fly out from Nelson Cruz to end the game.
Thoughts from the Game
Despite the disastrous fifth inning, I still see improvement from Rafael Montero. He’s attacking the strike zone more often and seems to have improved the control of his slider. He had legitimately excellent hitters like Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz badly fooled on change ups as well tonight. It’s not fair to judge anyone on their best moments alone, but even a long relief / spot starter profile would be quite useful for the Mets next season and an objectively good outcome for Montero given how poorly he started his career.
On the other side of the ball, Michael Conforto continues to amaze. With his two home runs tonight (his 20th and 21st), Conforto joins David Wright as the only Mets 24 or younger to hit 20 or more home runs before the end of July. Both home runs last night were hit off of left handers as well, giving him five on the season. Conforto has been an above-average hitter against left-hand pitching (significantly better against right-handed pitching of course) and been only a very slight negative in center field this season. Truly an outstanding year for a player the Mets didn’t even want on the major league roster in April.
Finally, it’s worth acknowledging Addison Reed here, as he records what might have been his final save in a Met uniform. Since being acquired in what was basically a salary dump from the Diamondbacks in 2015, Reed has been a revelation. Striking out more than a batter per inning and running an ERA in the low 2’s. He’s been one of the best success stories for both Sandy Alderson and Dan Warthen, and it’ll be a shame to see him go.
Other Met News
The biggest news of the day was the Mets’ acquisition of Marlins closer A.J. Ramos. Merandy Gonzalez and Ricardo Cespedes went to Miami in the deal. Ramos has one more season of arbitration eligibility and will likely be making $9 or $10 million next season given his extensive closer experience and how arbitration panels typically reward such numbers.
The prospects in the trade really aren’t of note – Gonzalez has a middle reliever ceiling and has lost some velocity as the season went on, and Cespedes is close to a non-prospect. However, I am still not a fan of this deal. Ramos is having a down season, but can be a decent reliever even while walking five batters per nine innings. If the Mets are willing to pay a reliever $9 or $10 million per season, they should go sign an actually elite reliever. Guys like Wade Davis or, more realistically, Jake McGee can post better numbers without walking the ballpark and will cost only slightly more on a yearly basis. Worrying about the back end of those contracts isn’t worthwhile either given that the Mets’ window is only open for a little bit longer.
Photo credit: Joe Nicholson – USA Today Sports