It was a game that began with plenty of promise: Jacob deGrom coasted through seven and a third of innings by throwing a dozen strikeouts, the Mets’ offense supplied adequate support for their starter, and the Nationals looked hapless without their stars in Anthony Rendon and Daniel Murphy.
Here’s a brief rundown that I begrudgingly made to assure you that the past couple of innings did indeed happen.
It began after deGrom gave up two singles to Moises Sierra and Michael A. Taylor to begin the inning. deGrom’s pitch count was already at the century mark, and it seemed reasonable to pull him with a five-run lead and five outs to go. Seth Lugo came in to pitch for deGrom and subsequently walked Howie Kendrick to the load the bases, leaving Jerry Blevins to enter the game with a match-up advantage against Bryce Harper. Harper added to his already-notorious reputation of a Met killer by hitting a single into right to plate two runs.
Manager Mickey Callaway opted to sub in A.J. Ramos for Jerry Blevins with two men on and a now-shrunken three-run lead. Ramos was able to strike out a struggling Ryan Zimmerman to put up two outs in the eighth inning. Seemed like the early-inning rally was just an aberration, if Ramos can just get this final out, the Mets will be home free. In response to striking out Ryan Zimmerman, A.J. Ramos allows a single to Pedro Severino to load the bases, and then walks in a run against former Met Matt Reynolds.
Mickey Callaway saw how Ramos is clearly struggling, and subbed in Jeurys Familia to complete a four-out save with the bases still loaded. Familia looked absolutely dreadful, he allowed Wilmer Difo to drive two runs in, including the game-tying run. In the very next at-bat, Familia hit Moises Sierra, who was batting for the second time that inning, to juice the bases once again. The coup-de-grace came in the form of a walk to Michael A. Taylor to allow Matt Reynolds to score the game-winning run.
Familia was able to get Trea Turner to fly out to end the inning, but the damage was already done. Soon after, Nationals reliever Brandon Kintzler was able to blank a team that had his number so far this season. Then Ryan Madsen came in to hammer the final nail in the coffin.
Given how fantastic the Mets’ bullpen began the season, it was expected they would regress to the mean and pitch at a vincible pace. But no one expected a bullpen that looked so indomitable just days prior would collapse so quickly. Late-inning collapses happen all the time to teams, but they rarely unravel in a fashion where the trailing team doesn’t force the issue and the bullpen ends up snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. This game will likely have no effect on this team two or three months later in the season, and the Mets can put this game in their rear-mirror if they end up winning this series or else they could allow this heartbreaking loss to compound into something more harrowing.
Photo Credit: Kathy Willens/Associated Press