MLB: Washington Nationals at New York Mets

Game recap September 22: Only nine more of these to go


In the latest installment of Mets-ian injury luck, Jacob deGrom was pushed back from his Friday night start against the Nationals with a stomach ailment. Instead, Robert Gsellman took the mound against the NL East champions. Gsellman had a great start in Atlanta his last time out, but has been very disappointing after a promising rookie cameo at the end of 2016. For the Nationals, Edwin Jackson and his 6.38 FIP took the mound. They also left literally every position player of note on the bench, running out what was very clearly a post-clinching lineup as they coast into a matchup with the Cubs in the NLDS.

Suffice to say that this series is far from what we all expected and hoped for at the start of the season. This could’ve been a high stakes, tension filled fight for the division late in the season, with both sides matching aces (think back to that three-game series where this happened on Sunday Night Baseball) as they attempt to lock up the division. Instead, rather than struggling to keep our heads on straight and our hearts in our chest for three games, we’ll have to struggle for reasons to watch.

2015 feels so far away, doesn’t it?

Game Recap

Gsellman got off to a good start against the Nationals’ reserve lineup, setting them down in order in the first inning with a strikeout. He lost his control in the second however, as two walks and a HBP (with a wild pitch mixed in) loaded the bases with nobody out. In one of the better displays of composure we’ve seen from a Mets pitcher of late, Gsellman bounced back to work out of it, inducing pop ups from Adrian Sanchez and Pedro Severino before striking out Edwin Jackson to leave the bases loaded.

Perhaps encouraged by their starter’s effort, the Mets got on the board immediately afterwards. Travis d’Arnaud lead off with the bottom of the second by yanking a fastball up around his shoulders down the left field line for a solo home run. Dom Smith followed with a single, but the bottom third of the Mets’ order couldn’t do anything with that baserunner. Nevertheless, the Mets had a 1-0 going to the third.

Unfortunately, Gsellman’s troubles returned in the third. With one out, former Met Alejandro de Aza lined a ball to center field that Juan Lagares misjudged, and it rolled to the wall for a triple. Gsellman then hit Howie Kendrick to put two runners on for Adam Lind, who launched a down-and-in fastball over the right-center field wall for a three-run home run. In a flash, a 1-0 lead was a 3-1 deficit.

The Mets put together a small rally in the bottom of the third as they were seemingly ready to respond. Nori Aoki singled on a bunt ground ball and stole second, and a walk to Asdrubal Cabrera two batters late put runners on first and second with one out. This is the 2017 Mets though, so of course Brandon Nimmo hit a ball hard to de Aza that was caught on the fly and turned into an inning-ending double play.

Gsellman bounced back after the home run, striking out two in a 1-2-3 top of the fourth. He pitched well in the fifth as well, but was undone by some poor defense and worse umpiring. de Aza reached on a fielding error by Amed Rosario with one out, and after a blatantly missed strike three call to Howie Kendrick, the Washington second baseman drove an RBI double to right-center field to stretch the lead to 4-1. Adam Lind was walked intentionally to give a righty-righty matchup against Victor Robles, but he launched a two run triple to left-center, increasing the deficit to 6-1. In an inning that should have been over in three batters, the Nationals scored three runs.

After this rally by the Nats, the Mets managed to answer. Lagares laid down a very nice bunt single, stole second, then scored on a single from Aoki. Jose Reyes and Cabrera followed with singles of their own, pushing another run across the plate and putting men at first and second with one out. Brandon Nimmo worked a six pitch at bat (shocking) but struck out, bringing Travis d’Arnaud to the plate. d’Arnaud got another fastball up in the zone from Jackson that he liked, and he lined a three-run home run to left-center to tie the game at six.

Chasen Bradford replaced Gsellman in the sixth and struck out one in a scoreless inning. In the bottom half, the Mets took the lead against Joe Blanton. Juan Lagares doubled to left with one out and moved to third on a wild pitch. Nori Aoki drove him in with a double to deep right-center over Victor Robles, who was playing quite shallow against the typically slappy outfielder. Lagares’s run gave the Mets a 7-6 advantage at the end of the sixth.

Paul Sewald replaced Chasen Bradford with 1.2 scoreless innings of work (with some help from Lagares on a diving catch), striking out one, and Jerry Blevins finished the eighth by inducing a fly out from Daniel Murphy. That set the stage for A.J. Ramos, making his first appearance since blowing a three-run lead in Miami on Tuesday. This outing didn’t start much better, as Ramos walked Wilmer Difo and gave up a hard line drive to de Aza. Aoki made his latest impressive contribution to the Mets to help out, making a fantastic diving catch to turn that line drive into an out.

Ramos wasn’t as lucky to Howie Kenrick, who dinked a single in front of Aoki to put runners on first and third with one out. That led Terry Collins to yank his struggling closer for Josh Smoker. Smoker did his job, inducing a pop up from Adam Lind for the second out, setting the stage for Jeurys Familia’s first save opportunity since returning from the disabled list. Familia did his job, striking out the only batter he faced to secure the win.

Thoughts from the Game

Victor Robles is really, really fast. Like, Billy Hamilton fast. I know that last tidbit is probably not true, but it certainly feels like it watching him fly around the bases.

I remain confident that the A.J. Ramos trade is a move the Mets will regret. Ramos is in line for about $10 million dollars next season, and he simply isn’t worth that much. His consistent issues with control have prevented him from registering an elite or even particularly good cFIP as a reliever over the last couple seasons, and his ERA has risen to match. Add in that the Mets gave up a pitcher who was probably better than any player they received in their “hard sell” and things look even worse.

The clear benefit to Ramos is that he is a one-year commitment, amtching the current front office’s long standing disdain for handing out long term contracts to relievers. When building a team for the long haul, this is a good strategy, as relievers are volatile and unreliable in addition to not being a huge chunk of value compared to other spots on the roster. This Mets team is headed for a downturn, however, and the Mets should be doling out big contracts to actually elite relievers, since the long term consequences don’t matter – the team is going to be bad in two or three years anyway.

But no, the Mets will continue to be cheap and delusional about their place on the win curve, and we’ll be stuck having a heart attack anytime Ramos enters the game.

Other Met News

Whisperings from Jon Heyman and elsewhere over the past week have hinted heavily that Terry Collins will not be back next season. Some with the team are convinced he wants to retire, while others simply won’t make any comments about his job security (never a good sign for any manager, let alone one with an expiring contract).

Needless to say, every Met fans should have Handel’s Messiah going off at 120 decibels in their head. Collins has managed the most games of any Mets manager and won the second most games, leading the team to two consecutive playoff appearances in 2015 and 2016 for only the second time in team history. Despite those credentials, Collins has been a detriment to the team more often than not, constructing questionable lineups, refusing to play young players, and making horrendous decisions with his pitchers. Any comments with regard to his ability to manage a clubhouse well seems moot as well given some of the issue the Mets have had (such as with Asdrubal Cabrera).

Where the Mets turn for their next manager is an open question. Smart money is with the usual suspects that have long been rumored to be next in line, such as Bob Geren, Chip Hale, and Dick Scott. Recent reports have suggested the front office wants to bring in someone more familiar with analytics, though bringing up Mike Matheny as an example of such a manager is concerning (Matheny consistently makes many of the same mistakes Terry does). Pedro Lopez has long been considered another internal candidate as a coach who has done well with Mets prospects at multiple levels of the minor leagues. Unfortunately, those of us hoping for a more new age, out-of-the-box hire (oh what I would do to make John Baker the manager for 2018) are probably not going to get our wish, but at the very least we should get an upgrade over Terry Collins’ particular brand of ineptitude.

In other news that I have less to rant about, Noah Syndergaard is scheduled to make a one inning start today, after which Matt Harvey will take over. It’ll be Thor’s first appearance since tearing his lat on April 30. Throwing him out there for an inning is about as low risk as things can get, so if it has a positive psychological impact, there’s very limited drawback.

Photo credit: Andy Marlin – USA Today Sports

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