|St. Louis' Dexter Fowler rounding third base on his game-winning home run. Photo by Jason Schott.
For the second straight night, the Mets' bullpen blew a late lead, as Jeurys Familia gave up four runs in the eighth inning as the St. Louis Cardinals went on to win 9-5 on Friday night at Citi Field.
This came after St. Louis won the completion of Thursday night's game, 5-4, in 10 innings, to start the evening. The Cardinals made that possible when they scored two against Mets closer Edwin Diaz in the ninth and then another run in the 10th.
Mets Manager Mickey Callaway said of why he thinks Familia, whose ERA is now 6.91, has been unable to find any consistency this season, "It's hard to diagnose that. We have a plan, he's been working hard on the plan. He's been committed to the things we're doing and, seemingly, he turned the corner with a few good outings, and then he took a step back tonight, obviously, so we have to keep on working the plan."
Callaway then said something very telling about how concerned they really might be about Familia: "This guy's with us for three years," a direct reference to the contract he signed to return to the Mets in the offseason. "We're going to not give up on him, he's not going to give up. We're going to continue to work diligently every day to help him improve. That's what you have to do, that's what we'll do and we're committed to that...
"Familia is a key piece of our bullpen; he's going to be for three years. We have to continue to work hard with him and put him in the right place like we were talking about, and try to get him going the best we can."
Callaway then said of the bullpen as a whole, "We've got to continue to improve because we're just not getting the job done as a collective group."
The Mets are now 33-36, which means, with just two games left on this homestand, they will not be able to reach .500 before their 11-game road trip against three of the National League's best teams, with three in Atlanta, four at the Chicago Cubs and four at the Philadelphia Phillies.
Callaway said of the fact that they're still putting it together in mid-June, "We're always going to try to figure things out if things aren't going well. That's our job - we'll come in every day and diligently do our jobs trying to put guys in a better position to have success every single day if they're not having it."
Steven Matz was on the mound for the Mets in this one, and he entered this game on quite a run at Citi Field. The Mets had won the last seven straight games that Matz has started at home.
Over his prior 15 home starts, Matz had 12 quality starts, posting a 2.54 ERA (26.0 earned runs in 92.0 innings) and a 1.08 WHIP while striking out over a batter per inning (96 strikeouts in 92.0 innings) in that span.
The game started with Cardinals leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter lacing a double. He stayed right there as Matz struck out Paul DeJong, got Paul Goldschmidt to fly out to center field, and Marcell Ozuna to hit a fly ball to left field.
In the bottom of the first, the Mets got a run against Cardinals starter Ponce de Leon, as Todd Frazier golfed a low pitch into left field for an RBI single to make it 1-0.
St. Louis tied it in the third when Tommy Edman got a double, his first Major-League hit, was bunted over by de Leon, and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Carpenter.
In the top of the fifth, with one out, Dexter Fowler singled and then Edman hit what should have been a routine grounder to Frazier, who couldn't handle it, so everyone was safe and St. Louis had runners at first and second base.
The pitcher de Leon's spot in the order was up next, and even though he settled in and held the Mets
to that lone run through four innings, they sent up Jose Martinez as a pinch-hitter.
Martinez launched one to right field, into the bullpens, for a three-run home run to give St. Louis a 4-1 lead.
This marked the first time Matz allowed more than three runs in a home start in over a calendar year, with the last instance coming on May 19, 2018.
Matz got one of those runs back in a hurry as he hit a high fastball to left field for a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the fifth against St. Louis reliever Tyler Webb.
In the sixth, Matz retired the Cards in order and struck out Ozuna and Harrison Bader in the process.
That was the last inning Matz would pitch, so his final line read: 6 innings pitched, 3 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), 2 walks, 6 strikeouts, 113 pitches (72 strikeouts).
The 113 pitches he threw in right in line with what Mets Mickey Callaway said on Thursday night was the pitch count for his starters, 115 pitches.
Robert Gsellman worked around a Kolten Wong single to get through the seventh and keep it a two-run game.
St. Louis turned to Andrew Miller in the seventh, and the Mets rallied. Carlos Gomez, who entered in the top of the inning, was hit by a pitch, then McNeil and Conforto singled.
That was it for the big lefty, as St. Louis turned to John Gant for Mets slugger Pete Alonso, who hit one to the hole between first and second base.
Kolten Wong, who took over there for defense, got to it, turned and threw it low, and it got away at second, allowing Conforto to reach, so everyone was safe and the Mets had a run as Gomez scored to make it 4-3.
Dominic Smith was up next, and he struck out, followed by Frazier, who grounded one to third, and Carpenter was charging and he fired home to nab McNeil for the second out.
Wilson Ramos came to the Mets' rescue as he got a single to right to score Conforto and Alonso, who slid through home plate, providing the exclamation point on the go-ahead run as the Mets went up 5-4.
Jeurys Familia came on for the Mets in the eighth, and DeJong launched a home run to the left field corner to tie the game at 5.
After he retired the next two hitters, Yadier Molina (who else?) dropped one into center field that got by Gomez, and he made it to second. Bader was up next and he drew a walk.
Fowler followed with a three-run bomb into the bullpen in right to make it 8-5 St. Louis.
St. Louis tacked on another insurance run in the ninth when Kolten Wong homered off Hector Santiago to make it 9-5.
John Gant, who closed out the seventh for St. Louis, shut the Mets down in the final two innings to earn the victory and improve his record to 6-0.
Callaway said of what kind of effective these late-game meltdowns can have on a team, "I think in the moment, obviously, it brings you down, but one thing I've noticed about this team, I'm sure you guys have noticed it, they don't give up. We were down tonight, we come back, score three runs, put us ahead and obviously we give them right back. I'm sure everybody's feeling pretty crappy right now, but they'll come in tomorrow like they always do, come in, battle and grind away...
"Our guys will come in tomorrow with enthusiasm and be ready to win a game. That's just the makeup of that team. that's what they've done all year, and we've got to climb back out of it, try to get to .500 and then kind of break that seal and move forward."