Game recap September 18: Bullpen blowup


The Mets are already eliminated from postseason contention. The Phillies are mathematically still in it but realistically out of the race. For this game, the most important thing for the Mets would be getting to Aaron Nola, so that they can actually help Jacob deGrom’s Cy Young resume in a roundabout way. Steven Matz would lead that effort, coming off a solid start against Miami and looking to close out a solid, albeit unspectacular, season strong.

Game Recap

Matz was very clearly off in this game from the get-go. In the first, he walked three Phillies, consistently missing off the plate inside to righties. Despite walking the bases loaded, Matz worked out of the jam without allowing a run. He gave up a single and another walk in the second, but worked around that jam too. Still, with Matz seemingly off his game and one of the best pitchers in baseball on the mound for the Phillies, things weren’t looking good.

That is, until Matz came to the plate with one out in the top of the third. After homering in his last start, Matz set his sights on Aaron Nola, got a hanging curveball over the plate and lined it into the flowers on top of the left field wall. It was a significant home run for multiple reasons (see below), but most importantly, the Mets had a 1-0 lead.

In the fourth, they’d stretch the lead to 2-0. After Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier struck out swinging to start the inning, a single from Brandon Nimmo and a weakly hit, poorly played (by Rhys Hoskins in left field) double led to another run. In two innings, the Mets had built a lead and seriously damaged the Cy Young candidacy of one of deGrom’s biggest opponents — giving up a home run to a pitcher is bad enough, and anyone who allows an extra-base hit to Dom Smith (.219/.252/.321, 2.5% BB, 32.8% K) should be immediately disqualified.

Handed a two-run lead, Matz settled in. He started hitting his spots a bit more, working around a single in the third and setting down the Phillies in order in the fourth. Unfortunately, his pitch count was elevated from his early-inning command problems, and the fifth inning looked like it was probably his last. That issue was compounded by a one out walk to Hoskins. Undeterred, Matz capped his outing in spectacular fashion, making what might be the web-gem of the year to catch a ball behind his back and turn an inning-ending double play. He departed after five innings in line for the win.

The 2018 Mets team being what it is — that is to say, bad — Matz wouldn’t get the win. After the Mets left the bases loaded in the top of the sixth, Jerry Blevins and Drew Smith managed to give up five runs without recording an out in the bottom half of the inning. The Mets found themselves in a three-run hole 18 pitches after they had a two-run lead.

Watching the rest of the game as very much an exercise in futility. The Mets managed only one more run, while a cavalcade of unremarkable relievers worked around a couple Philly baserunners to keep things close enough to be interesting but not actually matter. Amed Rosario ended things with a weak bounce out to first, and the Mets had their 81st loss of the year.

Thoughts from the Game

Here are some fun facts about Steven Matz’s home run:

  • He dedicated it to Jacob deGrom in his Cy Young battle
  • Matz became only the third Met pitcher to homer in back-to-back starts, joining Tom Seaver and Ron Darling.
  • This was the first time the Mets have lost a game in which their starting pitcher went deep since 7/24/96, when Jason Isringhausen went deep and lost, breaking a 19-game winning streak.

Other than that, I don’t have much to say about this game. Much like you, most of us have checked out at this point of the year. I spent most of this game doing work stuff and making babka (chocolate, because Jerry could not be more wrong about cinnamon in this context). Out of the three activities, only the babka wasn’t a total disaster. Then again, hitting 1-for-3 puts me in the hall of fame, so I can’t really complain.

Other Met News

The Mets are leaning towards shutting Zack Wheeler down for the rest of the season. Wheeler has been brilliant for much of this season after a slow start, and he’s now tossed 182.1 innings with a 3.31 ERA.It’s tough to describe how big an improvement that is for the former top prospect, who missed two whole season with Tommy John before tossing only 86.1 innings last season. With some struggles in his past two starts, shutting Wheeler down now makes sense, as he’s fully established his place in the Mets rotation for 2019.

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