Friday, July 14, 2023

Mets Downed By Dodgers Despite Valiant Verlander Effort


Freddie Freeman lining one over a leaping Pete Alonso for a two-run double in the fifth inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Mets were shutout by the Los Angeles Dodgers, 6-0, on Friday night at Citi Field, in the first game of the second half of the season.

Heading into the All-Star break, the Mets had won six of eight games, and with Justin Verlander on the mound, the hope was they would consider the momentum they had developed in July.

Verlander worked around a pair of walks in the first inning and got out of trouble by striking out J.D. Martinez. 

In the bottom of the first, against Dodgers starting pitcher Julio Urias, the Mets appeared to get right out of the gate from Brandon Nimmo, as he lined one to right field that was called a home run.

Nimmo initially thought it was a double, and had to be told by the second base umpire it was a dinger. 

Then, after Nimmo returned to the dugout and the umpires convened to ask for the replay center to look at it. 

It was ruled a double, as it hit the top of the fence and bounced back onto the field.

So, Nimmo ended up at second base, as he originally thought, and he would stay there, as Tommy Pham and Francisco Lindor struck out. Pete Alonso drew a walk to keep the inning alive, but Starling Marte hit a lazy ball to right field for the third out.

That wound up being a massive turning point, as that was the start of a stretch that Urias retired nine in a row, until Marte was hit by a pitch in the fourth.

Meanwhile, Verlander settled in as well, as he retired the minimum from the second through fourth innings. The only runner he allowed - James Outman on a walk with two outs in the second - was erased on a pick off as he raced for second before Verlander threw the pitch, so he just had to turn and fire to second base to nab him.

Verlander retired the first batter of the fifth, David Peralta, on a liner to left field, and then he started to lose the plate as his pitch count got into the 80s.

Jason Heyward, Outman, and Miguel Rojas - the seventh, eighth and ninth hitters in Los Angeles' order - each drew walks to load the bases.

The lineup turned over, and Mookie Betts got an RBI single followed by a rocket from Freddie Freeman to right field to bring in two more, and all of a sudden, the Dodgers were up, 3-0.

Verlander then struck out Will Smith and got Max Muncy to fly out to left field to keep the inning from spiraling out of control.

That was all for his night, and David Peterson, who had a couple of good starts before the All-Star break, came on in relief for the sixth. He walked Martinez to open the inning, and then with two outs, Outman singled to keep it alive before Rojas got an RBI single to make it 4-0.

The Dodgers tacked on another one in the eighth when J.D. Martinez crushed one to the back of the Mets bullpen for a solo shot, his 23rd home run of the season.

With Drew Smith on in the ninth, Outman doubled and came in to score when Smith grounded into a force out, and that made it 6-0 Dodgers.

Urias got the win to improve to 7-5 on the season, with a 4.35 ERA (earned run average), as he threw six shutout innings, and allowed just one hit and one walk, with seven strikeouts.

Yency Almonte pitched a perfect seventh, with a strikeout; Caleb Ferguson did the same in the eighth, and Ryan Brasier completed the trio of 0s across with a K to finish it off.

Incredibly, Nimmo's double was the only hit of the night, meaning the Mets' first hitter of the game produced their only hit.

In retrospect, that reversal from home run to double turned into a massive turning point because, if Verlander got the lead early, could have been a different ballgame.

Verlander fell to 3-5 with a 3.72 ERA, as he allowed three runs (all earned) on two hits and six walks and six strikeouts. The six walks is what stands out and shows that the Dodgers knew that they would have to wait him out to get runners on base and, eventually, the hits would come, which was how the fifth inning played out.

The Mets fell to 42-49, and are now eight games out of a Wild Card spot behind the San Francisco Giants, who improved to 50-41 with their 6-4 win over the Pirates in Pittsburgh.

This was the Mets' 49th loss, and in comparison to last season, when they lost the opening game of their series with the Dodgers on August 30, that was their 48th loss. Their 49th would not come until a few days later, on September 3, when their record was 85-49.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers improved to 52-38, and are now in sole possession of first place in the National League West, over the Arizona Diamonbacks, who lost in Toronto, 7-2, to the Blue Jays.


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