|Jacob deGrom firing a pitch for the Mets on Sunday. Photo by Jason Schott.
The Mets came up short on Sunday, as the Washington Nationals salvaged the final game of their three-game series, 7-4, at Citi Field on Sunday.
The Mets (61-57) were denied a perfect 7-0 homestand, but they still won this series with Washington (62-55), and trail them by just 1 1/2 games for the top Wild Card spot.
Mets Manager Mickey Callaway said of his team proving itself this weekend, "That was a big series. We had heard the chatter, we understand the schedule. You can't do anything about the schedule except go out and play it to the best of your ability, and we did that this series. Very solid team on the other side. We took two out of three, took the series, 6-1 on the homestand. I don't think you can ask for a better homestand than that...
"They got the timely hits today - seven runs, all with two outs. That's kind of what we've been doing to win games, and they did it today."
This third and final game of the series saw another superb pitching matchup as the Mets Jacob deGrom, who entered with a 7-7 record and a 2.77 ERA, faced off with Washington's Anibal Sanchez (7-6, 3.67).
The Nationals come out on a mission against deGrom in the first, as Trea Turner led off with an infield single, and then with one out, Anthony Rendon singled and Juan Soto worked out a walk to load the bases.
deGrom then struck out slugger Matt Adams for the second out, and then got Asdrubal Cabrera to hit a grounder to first, and that it when the inning took a turn.
Pete Alonso got to it, deGrom ran over to cover first, but hesitated a little bit, and Alonso's throw sailed right past him, allowing Cabrera to reach.
deGrom then raced over to retrieve the ball by the Mets dugout, and fired it to the plate, but catcher Wilson Ramos could not handle it, allowing Rendon to score, and because it got away, Soto raced in to make it 3-0 Nationals. All three runs were unearned because of Alonso's error.
Callaway said of that play, "I think Jake thought, even he said he should have had that. Nobody's fault, but there's a lot of years of experience in that dugout, and not one of us have ever seen a ball not leave the infield with bases loaded and all three runs score. So, that was kind of tough, you know, something that never happens happened on that play, but we just have to make the play next time."
deGrom then hit Geraro Parra with a pitch, and on the 34th pitch of the inning, got Kurt Suxuki to fly out to left to end the long inning.
Sanchez retired the Mets in order in the bottom of the first, and deGrom returned the favor in the top of the second.
In the bottom of the second, after Alonso flew out, J.D. Davis and Ramos got singles, and then with two two outs, Joe Panik laced a single to right field to score Davis.
deGrom was up next, and he laid down a perfect bunt to the third base side that got by Sanchez to Rendon, who made a valiant throw to first, but deGrom beat it to load the bases.
Jeff McNeil was up next and he hit a rocket down the first base line to score Ramos and Panik and tie the game at 3.
Rosario then hit a rocket right back to Sanchez to end the threat.
Rendon led off the top of the third with a hit and deGrom retired the next eight, capped by a Michael Conforto running catch to the track in right center field to grab a fly ball from Eaton for the second out of the fifth. Rendon broke the stretch with a single before Soto hit one to Panik, and he made a great play on it for the third out.
The Mets had a big chance in the bottom of the fifth when McNeil led off with a walk, and then with two outs, Alonso got a single before Davis flew out to right to end the threat.
That was all for Sanchez, who went five innings, allowing three runs (all earned) on seven hits and a walk, with three strikeouts, all of which were Conforto.
deGrom did not come back for the sixth, and his final line read: 5 innings, 3 runs (none earned), four hits, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts on 101 pitches (65 strikes).
Callaway said of deGrom, "Jacob battled hard today. He didn't have his best stuff, but man, did he battle. You know, gave up what, three unearned runs and battled through five innings on a high pitch count."
It was his shortest outing since July 14 at Miami, when he also went five inning. He pitched seven innings apiece in the four starts in between.
Luis Avilan came on for the Mets, and he allowed singles to Cabrera and Suzuki that were around two strikeouts before being pulled for Brad Brach, who came on to make his Mets debut to face Brian Dozier, who was pitch-hitting for Sanchez.
Brach was making his Mets debut after being signed on Thursday. He was released by the Cubs early last week, and he got Dozier to fly to right to get out of trouble.
Robert Gsellman came on for the Mets in the seventh, and after getting Turner to fly out to left to open the inning, he allowed singled to Eaton and Rendon, and that was all for his day.
Justin Wilson came on to face a trio of lefties, starting with Soto, who walked him to load the bases. He then struck out Adams (his fourth K of the day) for the second out.
Cabrera was up next and he dunked one into the right field corner to score two and make it 5-3.
"I thought Wilson threw the ball really good," Callaway said. "For Cabby to even swing at that pitch, much less get a double, was kind of mind-boggling. It wasn't even a strike, first pitch, wasn't even a strike."
There was a chance Soto could have come home, but he got a late stop sign and appeared to hurt his ankle. The Mets picked up on this, and Panik threw him out trying to get back to third to end the inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, McNeil doubled off Matt Grace, who came on to get the final out of the sixth with a strikeout of Luis Guillorme.
Hunter Strickland was next out of the Nats bullpen, and he allowed a single to Rosario before Conforto hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score McNeil and make it 5-4.
Alonso then got hit by a pitch in the arm to give the Mets two on and one out for Davis, who struck out looking.
Daneil Hudson came on to face Wilson Ramos, and he lined out to left to end the inning.
Jeurys Familia came on for the Mets in the eighth and he struck out the side to keep it a one-run game.
Edwin Diaz came on for the ninth, and he struck out Turner to start it off, walked Eaton, then struck out Rendon looking.
Victor Robles, who came on for Soto in the seventh, was up for the first time and he hit a two-run shot to give the Nats some breathing room and make it a 7-4 game.
Sean Doolittle came on for the ninth looking to avenge his blown save Friday night when he coughed up a three-run lead, and he did the job as he retired the Mets in order.