I love doubleheaders. I wish Major League Baseball would utilize them more regularly instead of just contingency plans for weather issues. Thanks to a rainout on April 22, the Mets were scheduled to play two games against the National League East-leading Atlanta Braves. Currently four games out of the division lead, Monday offered a unique opportunity for the Amazins’ to cut the deficit in half. Sitting here writing this after game one of two, I can tell you that was a foolhardy assumption after the Mets just dropped their fourth game in a row. Atlanta defeated the Amazins’ in the first game of today’s twin-bill by a score of 4-3. The Mets took the lead into the ninth inning after Seth Lugo allowed Atlanta to tie the game in the eighth, but Atlanta rallied back when Charlie Culberson launched the game-winning two-run blast over the left-center field fence. Forget the fact that they wasted another stellar effort from Jacob deGrom, today’s game was simply the definition of a gut punch. Here’s what you need to know.
The deGromination Continues
Tim Britton wasn’t kidding when he asserted that Jacob deGrom has pitched his way to the top of the National League. deGrom pitched his heart out in a game that included two rain delays, tossing 115 pitches over seven innings. The Mets ace surrendered five hits and three walks, with the only blemish on his performance being a home run he surrendered to Tyler Flowers in the seventh inning. However, he astounded us all after working out of two serious jams including first and third with one out in his final frame. With Monday’s outing, deGrom lowered his season ERA to a National League-leading 1.52. Amazingly enough, the Mets are only 5-6 in games that deGrom takes the mound. We are simply not worthy of a pitcher of deGrom’s caliber. Success in this cruel game starts at the top of a team’s rotation and if the Mets cannot find ways to win games that deGrom pitches effectively, there isn’t much hope for long-term success.
I Still Cannot Believe We Got a Live Body for Harvey
The offensive hero of Game 1 was none other than Devin Mesoraco, responsible for all three of the Mets’ runs in one form or another. Mesoraco opened the scoring with a bases-loaded walk in the first inning, scoring Brandon Nimmo. Then, after singling to open the fourth inning, Mesoraco scored all the way from first on a Luis Guillorme opposite field double. After the bullpen allowed the Braves to tie the game in the ninth, Mesoraco blasted his sixth home run of 2018, a solo shot to left-center, to give the Mets a 3-2 lead and a chance at a victory. Unfortunately, the lead didn’t hold up.
Jay Bruce, Nimmo and Michael Conforto, the key cogs in this lineup, all finished hitless in the first game, while Amed Rosario and Asdrubal Cabrera each knocked a single. An interesting thing to note: Jose Bautista laced a single to left field in the fifth and now has five hits in a Mets uniform. Bautista had a grand total of five hits in 37 at-bats as a member of the Braves in 2018. Joey Bats continued to have productive at-bats and drew two walks in his first two trips to the plate Monday as well. It’s still pretty early to tell, but maybe the Mets are about to catch a patch of luck in terms of his production.
Bullpen Woes Personified
Seth Lugo relieved deGrom in the eighth and struggled immediately, surrendering a bunt single to Ozzie Albies. Freddie Freeman followed with a single and the Nick Markakis scored Albies with a sacrifice fly. Lugo rebounded, striking out the next two batters to escape the eighth without any more damage and after the Mets regained the lead, Mickey Callaway sent him out to bat with the intention of him returning to the mound in the ninth. With a second game hanging over them, I understand Callaway’s interest in squeezing what he can out of Lugo to preserve the bullpen for later today. But you cannot leave your closer in the pen in a one-run game. Lugo came out for the ninth and immediately walked Johan Camargo. He was able to induce a flyout from Dansby Swanson but blew the game on the next batter. Charlie Culberson was the hero for the Braves this afternoon, the same Charlie Culberson that hasn’t hit a regular season home run in two years and has seven career home runs in six MLB season. Yeah, so that happened. Lugo’s final line on the day: 1.1 innings pitched, three runs, three hits, one walk, two strikeouts and one big fat L. Not what you would normally expect from your best relief pitcher.
Photo credit: Dale Zanine – USA Today Sports