|Jacob deGrom of the Mets pitching to Atlanta's Josh Donaldson with the 1969 pennant on the field for the big weekend. Photo by Jason Schott.|
The Mets lost a tough one to the Atlanta Braves, 6-2, at Citi Field on Friday night, the opening of a weekend in which their honoring the 1969 World Championship team.
This was the Mets' sixth straight defeat as they fell to a season-high nine games under .500 at 37-46, 12 games behind Atlanta (49-34) for first place in the National League East.
Mets Manager Mickey Callaway said in a radio interview in the afternoon that they need a "miracle," and then clarified after the game, "That was more of a play on words with the 50 year anniversary and all that, so it doesn't have to be a miracle, but we need to get it going. We have not put ourselves in a good spot to this point. We do have a lot of games left, but if we don't change what's been happening, you know, at some point, if it keeps on going this way, heck, it will take a miracle.
"We've got to start now. We need to start tomorrow, start tonight, go home, think about what's been going on and make sure that we come in tomorrow with a plan and work the plan."
This game featured a solid pitching matchup as the Mets' Jacob deGrom took on Atlanta's Mike Soroka.
DeGrom has owned Atlanta in his career, as he had an ERA of 1.88 in 19 starts against the Braves heading into this one. Only one pitcher ever has thrown 15 starts against Atlanta and had a better ERA, Whit Wyatt at 1.64. In his prior nine starts before Friday, deGrom owns a 1.47 ERA, allowing just 10 earned runs in 61.1 innings.
Soroka entered with a record of 8-1 with a 2.07 ERA. His Major League debut came against the Mets on May 1, 2018 and he allowed one run over six innings to earn the win in a game Atlanta won, 3-2. His only other win last season came in Atlanta against the Mets, when he shut them out and allowed just one hit over 6 1/3 innings in a 2-0 Braves win.
This season, he pitched against the Mets on June 17 in Atlanta, and allowed three runs and six hits over six innings in a 12-3 win.
Atlanta got to deGrom early, as Austin Riley launched a two-run home run to deep left in the second and then Ronald Acuna, Jr., singled and came home on a Josh Donaldson sacrifice fly in the third to make it 3-0.
Soroka retired the Mets in order over the first three innings, and six of the nine outs were groundballs.
The first Met to get anything going against the 21-year old righthander was Jeff McNeil, who led off the fourth with a 12-pitch at-bat, which resulted in a strikeout.
Next up was Pete Alonso, who launched one to left field to put the Mets on the board with his 28th home run of the season, a solo shot that made it 3-1.
Robinson Cano then reached on an infield hit, but Michael Conforto flew out to left field and Todd Frazier popped out to first to end the rally.
In the fifth, Atlanta got two on against deGrom when Soroka singled and Freddie Freeman walked, but he got out of it by getting Donaldson to fly out to center.
DeGrom was pulled after the sixth, and he allowed three runs (all earned) on six hits and two walks, with seven strikeouts.
Wimer Font came on for the Mets in the seventh, and retired the Braves in order.
Soroka was still in for the seventh, and Frazier laced one down the line in left, and then Dominic Smith lined one down the right field line to give them back-to-back singles to open the inning.
After Amed Rosario struck out, Tomas Nido hit a seeing-eye single through the ride side to score Frazier and make it 3-2 Atlanta, and that was all for Soroka.
Anthony Swarzak, who was traded by the Mets to Seattle as part of the Edwin Diaz/Robinson Cano deal, came on for Atlanta.
First up for the big right-hander was J.D. Davis, who was pinch-hitting for Font. Davis hit a dribbler along the third base line, and he beat it out at first to load the bases. McNeil then struck out and Alonso flew out to left field to end the inning.
In the eighth, Robert Gsellman came on for the Mets, and he allowed singles to Freeman and Donaldson and then hit Riley with a pitch to load the bases with two outs.
Johan Camargo then laced one to left field, off the base of the fence, and that cleared the bases to make it 6-2 Atlanta.
Callaway spoke of the latest Mets' bullpen meltdown, "Two nights in a row, Gsellman was great and then tonight, you know, it wasn't as bad as it looked. You're facing the best hitter on the planet in Freeman to start the inning, I mean, that guy gets on every time, and then a ground ball, then hit batsman, then one bad pitch, he was trying to go down and away and left it right over where that guy (Camargo) likes the ball, and it gets over the outfielder's head.
"So, it is someone every night it seems, but it's happened, we've got to control it. The one thing that I'm focused on right now with our relievers is getting ahead. We need to throw more strikes - even when we get outs, it takes a long time, right. We're throwing 20, 22 pitches an inning even if we put up a zero. Font did a great job tonight, (Stephen) Nogosek did a great job tonight (1-2-3 ninth) of controlling their pitches and attacking and making them hit the ball.
"Kind of focused on a little bit more on 1-1 strikes just to get ahead; we've walked way too many guys out of the 'pen, think we're leading the league in walk percentage and we're very low in 0-0 and 1-1 strikes, and when you do that, you're not going to have success, I don't care who you are. That's the one thing we're focused on, and I think that that's going to help us out if we can really start to put all of our energy into that instead of what's happened.
"What's happened in the past shouldn't dictate what's going to happen today. I realize that it can - it can get in your head and it can get into the psyche of a group that, 'oh, here we go again,' but we shouldn't allow that to happen. Whatever's happened in the past we have to go out today - it's a new day - and understand what we have to do with our strengths, what we have to do against the hitter, and know that we have to get ahead."
After extending the lead in the top of the eighth, Atlanta closed out the Mets with ease as A.J. Minter pitched a scoreless bottom half of the eighth and Luke Jackson threw a one-two-three ninth.