Saturday, July 15, 2023

Mets Miss Opportunity For Defining Win Over Dodgers

Will Smith (center) being greeted by David Peralta after he scored in the ninth inning, as Mets pitcher Grant Hartwig (93) walks back to the mound. Photo by Jason Schott. 


Some losses hit differently, even in the long slog of a 162-game baseball season, and that was the case for the Mets with their 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night at Citi Field.

This defeat left the Mets with a record of 42-50, and they have now lost four in a row after they opened July with a six-game winning streak that kindled hopes that this team had a run in them. 

The Mets are now nine games out of a Wild Card spot, behind the San Francisco Giants, who are 51-41, and 19 1/2 games behind the Atlanta Braves (61-30) in the National League East.

This game began with some promise for the Mets, as they got a quality start from Kodai Senga, who went six innings, and he allowed just one run on four hits and two walks, with nine strikeouts. He ended his night by getting out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the sixth by striking out J.D. Martinez, who had 23 home runs on the season, and getting David Peralta to ground one back to him for a force out.

Kodai Senga striking out J.D. Martinez with the bases loaded in the sixth inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

The only run Los Angeles got off him was a solo home run for Mookie Betts, a shot to the right field corner that just cleared the fence for his 27th home run of the season, with two out in the third inning.

The Mets' leadoff hitter got that run back when their leadoff hitter, Brandon Nimmo, opened the fourth with a massive shot into the black in center field. That gave him 14 home runs and 42 RBI on the season.

That was the only blemish on a superb outing for Los Angeles starting pitcher Tony Gonsolin, who went five innings, and allowed just one run on two hits and a walk, with three strikeouts. The one goofy thing about him being pulled after five innings was that he threw just 54 pitches, 33 of which were strikes.

The game was still tied at 1 in the top of the eighth when the Mets turned to Adam Ottavino, and the inning began with first baseman Pete Alonso making a great diving stop of a hit by Will Smith.

Max Muncy then hit one to nearly the same spot, but it got by Alonso and second baseman Luis Guillorme for a single, the ultimate seeing-eye single. 

Martinez lined a single to right, which sent Muncy to third base, so the Dodgers were all set up with runners on first and third and one out.

David Peralta was up next, and Ottavino did his job, as he got him to hit one to first, and Alonso fired to second base, but the throw was high, so shortstop Francisco Lindor had to take an extra couple seconds making sure he touched second, and that was just enough time for Peralta to beat the throw at first.

Muncy scored on it to put the Dodgers up 2-1, and the Mets challenged the play, but it was upheld. 

Chris Taylor then singled to keep the inning alive, and Jake Marisnick was hit by a pitch to load the bases before Miguel Rojas bounced into a force out to end the inning.

The Dodgers turned to left-hander Caleb Ferguson for the bottom of the eighth, so the Mets played the match-ups and sent up right-handed hitter Tommy Pham for Daniel Vogelbach.

Pham drew a walk, as he laid off two close pitches, and then Francisco Alvarez lined a rocket up the gap in left field to give them runners at first and third with nobody out. 

Taylor, who entered the game in the seventh, did a great job getting to that ball before it got to the fence, kept what would have likely been a Mets run off the board.

The Mets then played the match-ups again, as they sent up Mark Canha for D.J. Stewart, and he popped up the first pitch he saw to first base for the first out of the frame.

That fueled Ferguson, who proceeded to fire three straight four-seam fastballs by the left-handed hitting Brett Baty and then got another lefty Guillorme to strike out swinging. This is where Starling Marte not being an option off the bench due to not feeling well hurt the Mets.

Despite that horrendous end to the eighth inning, the one bright spot for the Mets looking to the ninth is they would have the top three in their order - Nimmo, Lindor, and Jeff McNeil - coming up, so if they held L.A., they would have another chance to tie it.

Instead of showing some urgency in the moment and turning to their closer David Robertson - defying the convention that you don't bring in your closer when you're trailing in the game - they turned to Grant Hartwig, who appeared in eight games heading into this one.

Betts greeted him with a single before he struck out Freeman, but Will Smith then laced a double up the gap in right center field to give L.A. runners at second and third with one out.

Then, a moment happened that will make this one a touchstone in a season that couldn't get on track, the one game that could change the direction of the Mets going forward the rest of the season. 

Muncy hit a mile-high pop-up towards third base, and Baty got under it, but never looked like he was totally sure where it was. As it came down, Baty lurched ahead for it, and it landed in front of his glove, and then bounced back up and hit him in the face.

The result was that Betts scored to make it 3-1 Dodgers, while Muncy was safe at first and Smith remained at second base.

Martinez followed with an RBI dsingle to bring home Smith and make it 4-1, but he was thrown out by Nimmo trying to turn it into a double.

Peralta made up for that by lining a single to left to bring home Muncy and open up a 5-1 lead, and that was all for Hartwig.

Mets Managet Buck Showalter returning to the dugout after the pitching change in the ninth inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

Dominic Leone came on, and he got Taylor to fly out to right field to end the long, deflating inning in what was, by that point, a deserted Citi Field.

The Dodgers turned to their closer, Evan Phillips, for the bottom of the ninth even though it was not a save situation anymore. 

Phillips got Nimmo to ground out to first base, struck out Lindor, and got McNeil to ground out too short to end it. 

SUNDAY: The first pitch of Sunday’s series finale has been moved back to 5:10 p.m. due to rain. Parking lots will now open at 2:10 p.m. and gates will be open at 3:10 p.m.

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