The Mets dropped the first three games of their series with the Cubs, most recently with an excruciating 14 inning loss Saturday night. Steven Matz took the mound against Jon Lester as the tail-spinning Mets looked to avoid the sweep. You can basically ignore all of that though, because Kevin Plawecki was batting cleanup – that should tell you all you need to know about how this game was going to go.
Steven Matz was brilliant. Facing a Cubs lineup without Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, Matz went seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks while striking out seven. He ran his scoreless inning streak to 15 before coughing up two runs in the seventh (we’ll get back to that in a moment). He also made a great play to thwart a suicide squeeze in the third. It was the best Matz has looked all season, lowering his ERA to 3.42.
But about that seventh inning. Matz gave up a hard ground ball single to Javier Baez to start the inning, then a soft line drive to Willson Contreras that put runners on the corners. The Cubs then executed one of the most brilliant base-running moves you’ll see. On one pitch, Contreras bluffed a steal to second, quickly stopping and returning to first. That drew a courtesy throw from Matz before the next pitch. He didn’t make a hard throw, and Baez sprinted home as soon as the ball left Matz’s hand to steal the first run of the game.
That was annoying, but things got worse. Contreras moved to second on the previous play, then advanced to third on a infield single that Luis Guillorme made a fantastic play on to keep in the infield.With one out, Ben Zobrist hit a pop up that Guillorme went back on and struggled to find. It was clearly a ball that Jay Bruce should have called him off on, but Bruce, for whatever reason, did not. As Guillorme lunged backwards to make the catch, Contreras tagged up and scored on a sacrifice fly that was at most 120 feet away from the plate.
Matz got out of the inning without any more damage, but it was frustrating to watch a young, athletic team take advantage of a squad that is, once again, sleepwalking through a game on Sunday. Paul Sewald relieved Matz with two scoreless relief.
The strong pitching performance was entirely wasted by another pathetic offensive display. Jon Lester walked the first two batters of the game, then struck out the next three. The Mets didn’t manage their first hit until the sixth (a single from Plawecki), a bases-loaded opportunity that was also squandered when Adrian Gonzalez grounded out. A leadoff single from Michael Conforto in the ninth was quickly erased on a double play ground ball from Gonzalez as well, and a pop-up from Guillorme ended the shutout loss.
Mets starters have a 1.41 ERA over the past six games. They have one win. They managed 20 hits and and six runs in four games against the Cubs. It’s been 17 innings since the Mets have scored a run (MIchael Conforto’s solo home run in the sixth inning on Saturday). Their record is now 27-30.
Thoughts from the Game
Last offseason’s free agent market was brutal for one-dimensional corner bats. Lucas Duda, Logan Morrison and Yonder Alonso all received relatively small deals. J.D. Martinez, who is one of the best pure hitters in baseball, didn’t sign until February and only got 5 years/$110 million despite three straight seasons with a tAV of at least .304.
In the same offseason, the Mets raced out to give Jay Bruce a 3-year, $39 million contract. Jay Bruce, who hasn’t been able to play defense for half a decade (since having knee surgery) and is an, at-best, slightly above league-average bat. Jay Bruce, for a team whose two offensive stars are corner outfielders. The signing was a predictably disaster, and it’s been exactly that so far this season. Worse still, Mickey Callaway seems to have doubled down on Bruce, throwing Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes under a bus on Friday and leaving Bruce, who is a much bigger problem on both sides of the ball, unscathed.
This isn’t some complex analysis that requires new age stats or SQL skills. All one needs to do is look at Bruce’s stats page for the past five years and watch him play defense for three innings. That the Mets front office got to watch him for basically a whole season and couldn’t come to this very obvious conclusions is mind-bogglingly inept.
Side note, I really should rename this section of my recaps to “Lukas rants about some stupid s*** the Mets did.”
Other Mets News
Todd Frazier is expected to rejoin the team before Tuesday’s game against the Orioles, perhaps the only team in baseball as ineptly run as the Mets. Hopefully some games against Baltimore can get the team somewhat righted before next weekend’s Subway Series.
Photo credit: Anthony Gruppuso – USA Today Sports