The Mets are bad. The Phillies are worse. At this time of the year, that leads to some pretty boring games, and the matchup of Seth Lugo and Nick Pivetta didn’t really do much to change that perception.
On the other hand, there are plenty of prospects in the major leagues for mediocre teams at this time of year. That’s certainly the case in this one, with Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, and Jorge Alfaro in the lineup for the Phillies, and Amed Rosario and Dom Smith, making his major league debut, in the lineup for the Mets. Hope springs eternal for fans of bad teams in August and September, and there’s something wonderful about that part of baseball. Not as wonderful as contending for the World Series of course, but something that makes these games enjoyable at times.
Seth Lugo did not have his best stuff Friday night, and the Phillies jumped on him early. Cesar Hernandez lead off the bottom of the first with a single and Odubel Herrera doubled two batters later to put runners on second and third with one out. Rhys Hoskins, already batting in the cleanup spot one day after his debut (hope you’re taking notes, Terry: it’s okay to bat your young guys high in the lineup) walked to load the bases. The next three Phillies each drove in a run, as Nick Williams singled, Maikel Franco grounded into a force out, and Tommy Joseph singled, giving the Phillies a 3-0 lead.
Michael Conforto chipped away at that Philly lead in the top of the second, launching his 25th home run to the deepest part of the ballpark to leadoff the inning. For Conforto, it was his ninth home run hit to the left of center field, second most in the majors behind only Joey Votto. Votto is not only the best first baseman of the past two decades but one of the best hitters of all time, ranking 5th in tAV among all hitters (behind Mike Trout, Mickey Mantle, Barry Bonds, and Willie Mays), so that’s certainly some impressive company for Conforto. Now seems a good time to remind you that the Mets wanted Conforto to start the year in Las Vegas.
The Met comeback continued in the third. Rosario led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, and Neil Walker walked to put runners on first and second with two out for Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes has been struggling, but if there’s any place for a Met hitter to get right these days, it’s definitely Citizens Bank Park. Following that trend, Cespedes absolutely destroyed a fastball up and away for a three-run home run, giving the Mets a 4-3 lead. It was Cespedes’ 150th career home run, making him the seventh Cuban-born player to reach that milestone.
Unfortunately, Lugo was still struggling. Nick Williams singled to lead off the bottom of the third. Two batters later, Tommy Joseph bashed a double off the left-center field wall to re-tie the game at four. Lugo would allow an additional single and walk to load the bases, but escaped the inning without allowing any further damage. Through the first three innings, the struggling right hander allowed eight hits, three walks, and four runs.
Dom Smith got his first major league hit in the fourth, hitting a weak ground ball that found his way into center field for a single. He was promptly erased on a double play off the bat of Rene Rivera. In the bottom half of the inning, Lugo bounced back with first 1-2-3 inning of the night.
Rosario got things started again in the fifth inning, leading off with a single and moving to second on a sacrifice bunt. Rosario would score on a well-hit RBI single to left field from Walker, who would in turn move to third on a wild pitch and a throwing error. Cespedes followed that with another opposite field single, giving the Mets a 6-4 lead. Conforto would walk, to put runners on first and second with two outs, but Wilmer Flores flew out to end the threat.
Lugo seemed to settle into a bit of a groove, recording another 1-2-3 inning in the fifth. At 104 pitches, it seemed his night was done, but in a very Terry move, Lugo was left in to start the sixth. Aside from the poor tactics of this move in terms of helping the Mets win the game (which isn’t really relevant at this point of the season), pushing a struggling pitcher who’s already playing with a partially torn UCL is exceptionally stupid. Lugo induced a groundout from former Met Ty Kelly but then walked Cesar Hernandez, ending his outing.
Josh Smoker replaced Lugo, and immediately induced what should have been a ground ball to first. Instead, Smith had the ball go under his glove to put runners at second and third with one out. A ground out from Odubel Herrera would score one of those runs, which was charged to Lugo and ended his line. Lugo finished with 5.1 innings, allowing eight hits and four walks en route to five earned runs. He did strike out eight, a new career high, but the outing saw his ERA balloon to 4.85
With two outs and a runner on third, Terry proceeded to make another terrible move, electing to double switch Smith out of the game and insert Asdrubal Cabrera. I am one of bigger detractors of Smith, but taking your No. 2 prospect out of his debut in a meaningless September game is beyond stupid. The Mets are a bad team that should be looking to the future, not bending over backwards to play mediocre veteran infielders that are not part of the team’s future. Leave Smoker in to face an extra batter and keep your young players in the game.
Paul Sewald entered as the other half of that double switch and escaped the threat in the sixth with the Mets’ 6-5 lead still intact. He followed that up with a scoreless seventh, working around a single from Maikel Franco. The top of the eighth was highlighted by Wilmer Flores forgetting how many outs there were and being thrown out at third after starting his trot towards the dugout.
Jerry Blevins entered for the bottom of the eighth and got off to a good start by striking out Daniel Nava. Things unraveled a bit from there however. Cesar Hernandez hit a game tying solo home run, and Freddy Galvis and Odubel Herrera followed that with softly hit singles on well thrown curveballs to put runners on first and second with one out. Hansel Robles entered to douse the fire, but the Met lead was gone.
Not to worry though, this is still a game in Philadelphia, and those have gone exceedingly well for the Mets in recent years. Rosario lead off the ninth with his first major league home run, driving a fastball from Hector Neris out to right-center field in what was an extremely impressive bit of hitting. Cabrera and Walker followed with a double and a single respectively, but Cespedes and Conforto failed to drive in either as an insurance run.
With the Mets leading 7-6, A.J. Ramos entered looking for his second save in a Met uniform. The right hander had his stuff working last night, as he needed only nine pitches (eight strikes) to set the Phillies down in order. The win improves the Mets to 52-61, but drops them to eighth in the reverse standings with Atlanta’s loss to the Cardinals.
Thoughts from the Game
There have been a lot of hot takes on Dom Smith’s weight, and he had some interesting comments of his own. Smith has struggled with his weight on and off as a prospect, but he believes that being in a major league clubhouse with easy access to more nutritious food will help. It’s certainly a fair point, and raises the question of why major league teams don’t invest more in providing proper nutrition to their minor league players. Teams invest millions of dollars in their development pipelines, and by most analyses prospects are worth even more than that. It seems like a relatively easy calculation to deem helping those assets develop healthy eating habits a good investment, but the Mets (and no other team to my knowledge) has taken that step.
For Seth Lugo, this was another bump in what has been a very rough season. In his past four starts, Lugo has allowed five runs, three runs, five runs, and three runs, and after beating his FIP by a significant margin last season, he is now roughly in line with his mediocre mid-4’s FIP. Lugo might rock an excellent spin rate on his curveball, but he doesn’t strike many batters out and allows too much hard contact. At this point, it’s tough to count on Lugo for much next season.
Other Met News
Jerry Blevins was reportedly pulled off waivers after an unknown team made a claim. Given the value of a good left handed reliever to a contender at this part of the season, this is hardly surprising. At the same time, there’s an argument to be made that the Mets failed to capitalize on an opportunity to improve their team, both now and at the deadline. Blevins has been noticeably worse for a decent stretch, and relievers are nothing if not fickle. At the same time, the seller’s market was terrible this season, and the left-handed relief market is trash this offseason (as if the Mets would spend on relief pitching anyway). If the goal is to compete in 2018, holding on to Blevins is just as defensible as moving him.
Photo credit: Bill Streicher – USA Today Sports