With less than one week remaining, we can finally say goodbye and good riddance to the season. The 2017 campaign left Mets fans with nothing but frustration, despair, and kept everyone wondering if it was really possible for things to get worse. Ravaged by injuries, we were deprived of the opportunity to watch a Mets team that in turn was burdened by their own high expectations. With his contract set to expire and retirement expected, it’s not the way we wanted to see the Terry Collins era end, but at this point change is something that will be welcomed with open arms. The Mets opened their final homestead of the season with a doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves. The afternoon started out pretty sour, but after dropping to a season-worst 24 games under .500, the Mets rallied in Game 2 to come out with a split. Here’s what you need to know from both matchups with the Braves.
Frankly, there wasn’t much good to talk about from Monday’s first game. Juan Lagares gave us a pleasant surprise with a perfect day at the plate, going three for three with a run scored. The former Gold Glove center fielder seems to be finishing 2017 strong, with seven hits in 15 at-bats over his last four games. Any signs of life from Lagares are a welcomed sight, as there is still a fair amount of uncertainty regarding how this outfield is going to look in 2018. Other than Yoenis Cespedes, the rest is up for grabs thanks to Michael Conforto’s injury and subsequent surgery. Many are still holding out hope that Lagares can be the player he was in 2014, although I wouldn’t put too much stock in a guy who tends to wind up on the disabled list as often as he does.
The entirety of the Mets offense was fueled by Tomas Nido in this contest. Nido, the 23-year-old catcher from Puerto Rico, cracked a double in the bottom of the seventh to drive in Phil Evans and Lagares. The extra-base hit was the first of Nido’s career and the RBIs were his second and third. Given the inconsistency the Mets have shouldered at the catcher position, it’s safe to assume that the job is open in 2018 and with a strong finish over the last week of regular season play, Nido may just do enough to toss his name in the ring and be a dark horse candidate to win the job next spring.
Receiving the spot start for this afternoon’s game was Chris Flexen, who last started on Sept. 3. The 23-year-old started well, limiting the Braves to one run (an Ozzie Albies solo home run) over his first five innings, but eventually ran into trouble in the sixth. After loading the bases, Flexen was pulled in favor of Josh Smoker, who allowed all three runners to score. Flexen finished with an unimpressive line of three hits, three walks, four strikeouts, and four earned runs.
Yesterday was just one of those games where the performance of the bullpen left you with nauseous feeling. Josh Smoker’s box score line looks pretty clean, but he was fortunate in that the three runs he allowed were charged to the starter. Every reliever who followed surrendered at least one hit and earned run. In total, Erik Goeddel, Kevin McGowan, and Jacob Rhame surrendered six hits, five earned runs, and three walks. It’s hard to blame the bullpen for the loss today given the lack of offense and rough effort from Flexen, but they certainly ensured the Mets wouldn’t fight their way back into this one.
If reading this hasn’t caused you enough pain already, every player in the Braves starting lineup recorded a hit, including their starting pitcher, Lucas Sims. Sims, a rookie from Lawrenceville, Georgia, shut the Mets out through the first six innings of this afternoon’s game, so feel free to add him to the list of no-name pitchers to dominate the Mets.
As demoralizing as Game 1 of this doubleheader was, the Amazins rallied back in the second game, avoiding becoming a season-worst 25 games under .500. Seth Lugo put forth one of his best efforts of 2017 and notched his seventh win on the season, a sentiment that is even more impressive when you recall the fact that he has been battling a partially torn UCL in his pitching elbow. Lugo shut the Braves out over his six innings, allowing only two hits and no walks while striking out seven.
Jerry Blevins and Chasen Bradford contributed accordingly, keeping the Braves off the board for a combined two innings. Under normal circumstances their effort may seem a bit pedestrian, but when you contrast them to how awful the bullpen was yesterday afternoon, it’s nice to see the relievers do their jobs correctly.
Travis d’Arnaud had a night to remember (only because there are not too many to be had these days), knocking two hits in three trips to the plate and walking once. Following Asdrubal Cabrera’s RBI groundout in the third, d’Arnaud was able to extend the lead to 2-0 when he singled to center field to score Lagares. Facing Jose Ramirez (not to be confused with Cleveland’s MVP candidate), d’Arnaud launched one over the left-center field fence to extend the Amazins’ lead to 3-0. This would prove to be the deciding run after the Braves etched across two runs in the ninth. Monday night’s effort is a momentary sigh of relief for d’Arnaud in the midst of another disappointing season. Sit back and smell the roses, Travis, because you very well may not be a starter anymore come spring training.
Brandon Nimmo and Matt Reynolds each had a solid night at the plate. Nimmo cracked two doubles and a single in four plate appearances and Reynolds singled twice. While Reynolds ultimately has cemented his fate as a utility-man, Brandon Nimmo is starting to open some eyes on whether he can be an everyday player. Last night’s effort raised his batting average to .274 and his OBP to a .393 clip. Numbers like that are at least worth the discussion of whether Nimmo could have a starting job in 2018.
2017 is just not Jeurys Familia’s year. Between the blood clot issue and his struggles on the mound, you can count on the fact that he’s eager to start the 2018 season and wipe the slate clean. Monday night’s outing was a textbook example, as he came very close to blowing a three-run lead. Despite surrendering an RBI single to Jace Peterson and an RBI groundout to Matt Kemp, Familia avoided a complete meltdown en route to his fifth save of the season.
Despite a measured level of success with the Las Vegas 51s, Travis Taijeron has failed to get it going at the Major League level. An 0-3 effort tonight lowered his batting average to a crisp .159. Not that Taijeron factored into the Mets’ long term plans at all, but his September cup of coffee put him in a position where he had more to gain than to lose. Unfortunately, some players are just stuck in the purgatory that is being too good for Triple-A, not good enough for the MLB.
The Mets take on a familiar face in R.A. Dickey tonight with a resurgent Rafael Montero toeing the rubber at 7:10 p.m.
Photo credit: Andy Marlin – USA Today Sports