The New York Mets (40-35) fell to the Washington Nationals (45-32) by a score of 11-4 on Monday night in DC. With the loss (and obviously, the Washington win), New York fell 4 games back in the division, while also falling half a game behind the now-second-place Miami Marlins.
The Mets had a nice start to the game, getting a run in the top of the first against Nationals pitcher Joe Ross. Curtis Granderson led off with a single, moved to third when Yoenis Cespedes hit a ball through a hole opened up by a shift, and scored on a well-hit sacrifice fly by Neil Walker. James Loney hit another ball well against a pitcher who was clearly missing his best stuff, but Ben Revere ranged back to make a nice catch and end the frame. Still, the Mets had given an ace a run to work with.
But it quickly became clear that Noah Syndergaard did not have his best stuff either on this night. Ben Revere led off with a single and swiped the first of many bases the Nationals would steal in the game. A pair of walks then loaded the bases with none out. Syndergaard got out of the jam on a force-out at the plate (thanks to a nice play by James Loney) and a double-play ball, keeping the lead intact despite failing to keep his pitch count low.
The Mets tacked on another run in the next inning, with Brandon Nimmo‘s first career hit setting things in motion. Another single from Travis d’Arnaud put runners on the corners and Granderson drove in the run with a liner that Bryce Harper just failed to reach. A walk loaded the bases for Cespedes, but the Mets could not blow the game open as Ross fanned the Met slugger.
Thor had a much cleaner second inning, striking out three around a lone single. And a few minutes later, the Mets seemed to be in complete control of the game. Neil Walker singled to lead things off and Loney doubled to set the stage for Wilmer Flores, who drove in a pair with a base-hit. Nimmo then beat out an infield single for his second hit to put runners on 1st and 2nd with none out and the Mets up 4-0. But the team could not capitalize further. After Flores moved to third on a sacrifice fly by d’Arnaud, Flores was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a Syndergaard bunt, and Granderson grounded out to end the inning.
From that point on, it was all Nats. Revere led off the bottom of the third with another single, stole another base, and Werth walked again after a seven-pitch at-bat. Harper then singled to drive in Revere and stole second. Harper was then thrown out at third on the next play as Werth scored to make it 4-2. Wilson Ramos singled and a wild pitch put runners on second and third before a strikeout put Thor an out away from escaping the inning with the lead. But with 2 out, Anthony Rendon hit a slow grounder that somehow got through the hole on the right side (Loney could have had it) and the game was tied. Rendon then stole second and scored to give the Nats the lead on a Danny Espinosa single, before Syndergaard finally put out the fire.
That’s how the game was lost. The Mets wouldn’t score from that point on. Ross settled in a bit, the Mets’ bats faded, and Washington began to pile on. Sean Gilmartin got pounded, allowing 5 runs on 7 hits in 2 innings, and the Nationals added another run against Erik Goeddel in the sixth to make it 11-4 before Goeddel tossed a scoreless 7th and Antonio Bastardo pitched a clean 8th to stop the onslaught. The Mets managed several singles against Ross and the Nats bullpen, ending up with an impressive 14 by the game’s end, but didn’t make anything of it.
That was as rough as it gets. The team appears set to cut the gap in the division to 2 games, and it ends up at 4 games. The struggling offense gave their best pitcher a solid lead and it ended up being a blowout in the other team’s favor. The success and the meltdown both came so early that most of the game was spent wondering how this could happen.
But even when the Mets went up 2-0 and 4-0, the lead didn’t seem as safe as it usually would, because Thor was clearly, as they say, “battling” tonight. It was like watching Jacob deGrom in Game 5 of the NLDS, without the happy result. Because Thor pulled the rabbit out of the hat in the 1st inning, but couldn’t do it the 2nd time he got into trouble. I completely agree with the decision to pull him early, after 71 high-stress pitches (pitches which the human arm isn’t built to throw— not that Thor is human).
The Nationals ran all over the Mets tonight. The Mets are the worst team in the league at holding runners and Washington knew it coming into the game. They made us pay. Every single was essentially a double, and there were far too many singles. The Nationals had 17 hits tonight, 14 of which were singles (The Mets, to their credit, had 14 hits of their own).
The Mets had an ineffective pitcher on the ropes early and didn’t make him pay. 4 runs is a nice tally early in the game, but it could have been more, and as we saw, the Mets could have used more. For all the complaining about home runs in the Mets fan community, a home run after a pair of singles does a lot more damage than another single. But the Mets also could have done with some better luck, and, in the top of the third, better baserunning.
Wilmer Flores being thrown out at the plate was the turning point in this game. I’m not sure if it was a safety squeeze or a sacrifice bunt, but Flores is not fast enough to take many risks, and he already got burned doing so last week against the Braves. It wasn’t a great bunt if the goal was to get Wilmer home, and he almost made it, but we ended up doing Ross a huge favor on that play.
Speaking of the Braves, this is why the Mets need (or needed) to fatten up on those teams. If we had taken 5 of 7 from the Braves in our recent meetings, we’d have been tied going into the series and only 1 game back after this bummer of a contest. Now, we’re 4 games back, and really need to win at least 1 of the next 2 before a 4-game set with the Cubs, 3 games with the Marlins and a huge 4-game series with these Nationals before the All-Star Break.
Congrats to Brandon Nimmo on a solid game and his first two hits— the first of many to come. Tomorrow is a new day, and let’s hope it’s a much better one for our Mets.