Sunday, June 18, 2023

Mets Comeback Against Cardinals Falls Short

Pete Alonso twisted in front of the plate after he struck out in the seventh inning. Photo by Jason Schott.


The Mets lost a heartbreaker, 8-7, to the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday afternoon at Citi Field, as Nolan Arenado had two home runs, including the game-winner in the ninth. 

After their crispest win of the season on Friday night, the Mets lost, 5-3, on Saturday, and this one-run game today, in which they battled back from an early deficit to tie it before losing it late.

The Mets are now 33-38, and they missed out on a golden opportunity against possibly the most-disappointing team in baseball, the Cardinals, who entered this weekend with a record of 27-42. 

Now, the Mets hit the road for a crucial six-game road trip against the two teams who were in the World Series last season - three in Houston against the champion Astros (39-32) from Monday-Wednesday, and then three next weekend in Philadelphia, as they take on a National League pennant winner that's now 38-34, and has won 13 of 16 since they were swept by the Mets on June 1. (for comparison, the Mets since then are 3-11)

The Mets got one bit of good news before the game, as they activated first baseman Pete Alonso off the injured list. Alonso was recuperating from a wrist injury after he was hit by a pitch in Atlanta on June 7. It was not a happy homecoming, as he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, and committed an error in the seventh inning.

The start of this game was not much of a surprise based on the pitching matchup, as the Mets' Carlos Carrasco entered with a record of 2-3 with a 5.71 earned run average (ERA), while St. Louis' Matthew Liberatore was 1-2 with a 5.14 ERA coming into it.

In the top of the first, Brendan Donovan opened with a double, and then with one out, Arenado launched one way back into the stands in left field for a two-run home run.

Nolan Arenado pointing to the sky after his home run. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Mets got one back in the bottom of the first when Francisco Lindor also hit one deep into the left field seats for his 13th homer of the season.

Then, in the second, the Mets' defense betrayed Carrasco, as Eduardo Escobar, in what is now a rare outing at third base, made a wild throw on a routine grounder from Andrew Knizner, allowing him to reach with one out.

That opened the floodgates, as Tommy Edman singled, and then Donovan got an RBI single, followed by a two-run double from Paul Goldschmidt that brought them in, with Donovan running through home plate like he was completing a race. 

Brendan Donovan running through home plate to score in the second inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

That made it 5-1 Cardinals, but Carrasco managed to strike out Arenado and Nolan Gorman to get out of the inning.

Liberatore retired the first two Mets hitters to open the second, and then he hit Jeff McNeil with a pitch. Escobar then launched one to the warning track in center field, and Edman got leather on it, but couldn't corral it.

Escobar raced to third base on what was ruled a triple, and McNeil scored. Mark Canha, who was hitting ninth in this one, drew a walk.

Then, Brandon Nimmo laced one into the left field corner to bring in Escobar and Canha and cut the Cards' lead to 5-4, but he was thrown out at third base trying to stretch it into a triple. It was a perfect relay from left fielder Jordan Walker to shortstop Paul DeJong, the cutoff man, who fired it to Arenado with plenty of time.

Brandon Nimmo being thrown out at third base in the second inning, as Nolan Arenado received the throw and applied the tag. Two photos by Jason Schott.

St. Louis got one of those runs back in the third, as DeJong blasted one of the facade of the second deck in left field to make it 6-4.

Carrasco came out for the fourth inning, and he walked the first batter, Edman (9th in the Cards' lineup), and that was all for him. Mets Manager Buck Showalter got quite a cheer as he went to pull him, and conversely, Carrasco was showered with boos as he went to the dugout.

John Curtiss came out of the bullpen, and he allowed a single to Donovan before he got Goldschmidt to fly out to right field, followed by Arenado hitting into a double play.

Liberatore appeared to settle into this one, as he retired the Mets in order in the third, and got the first two outs in the fourth.

Then, McNeil was hit by a pitch for the second time, and once again that ignited the Mets. Escobar drew a walk, and then Canha got an RBI single to pull them within, 6-5. It was not a complete repeat of the second inning rally, as Nimmo struck out to end the frame.

The Cardinals got the run back against Curtiss in the fifth, as Jordan Walker hit one the other way to left field for a solo homer that made it 7-5. The way Walker swung on what would be his fifth homer of the season made it all the more impressive, as the torque of his body went toward the left side of the field, while he took a pitch on the outside corner to right field.

Chris Stratton entered for St. Louis in the fifth, and he allowed a one-out walk to Lindor. Alonso then struck out, but Lindor took second base on what would be strike three.

Next up was designated hitter Tommy Pham, who blasted one into the bullpen in right field for a two-run homer, and the Mets finally tied it up at 7. It was his seventh home run, to go along with 27 RBI on the season.

Tommy Pham celebrating with Brandon Nimmo after he crossed the plate on his home run. Photo by Jason Schott.

Amazingly, it stayed that way for the next few innings, as the bullpens settled things down. For the Mets, Curtiss threw 2 2/3 innings before Dominic Leone got the final out of the sixth inning, Brooks Raley worked around a walk and an Alonso error to pitch a scoreless seventh, and then David Robertson pitched a perfect eighth inning.

Instead of keeping Robertson in for the ninth after he threw all of eight pitches, then turned to Adam Ottavino (who at this point is no doubt their set-up man for the ninth.

Goldschmidt led off by flying out to right field for the first out, and Arenado, who was hitless in three at-bats since the first-inning homer, was up next. 

Incredibly, he tore into one to left field, and though it didn't go as deep, was basically the same spot as the first one. This gave him 15 homers and 48 RBI on the season.

Jordan Hicks came on to close it out, and he got Daniel Vogelbach, who pinch-hit for Canha, out on a fly ball to center field, and then after Nimmo singled, finished off the Mets by getting Starling Marte to bounce to second base for a double play. That gave Hicks the save, his second of the year.

Drew VerHagen, who pitched 1 2/3 innings in which he retired all five Mets he faced, would earn the win, which have him a record of 4-0 on the season.

Father's Day was commemorated on the scoreboard. Photo by Jason Schott.

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