Things you should know about tonight's game...
1) Zack Wheeler allowed three runs over six innings, but received no help from his offense. The right-hander walked the bases loaded in the first but escaped with the help of a double play. He allowed a single run in the third and two more in the fourth on several soft hits from the Nationals. Wheeler (1-1) scattered seven hits, walked three and struck out two.
2) The Mets scored both of their runs in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Asdrubal Cabrera and groundout from Yoenis Cespedes. Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares and Cespedes had two hits apiece for New York, which went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base.
3) New York had runners at the corners with one out in the sixth and seventh innings but did not score either time. Jose Reyes, who is now 0-for-17 this season, struck out as a pinch-hitter in the sixth for the second out and Todd Frazier did the same the next inning.
4) Recalled earlier in the day, Gerson Bautista made his Major League debut with a scoreless ninth. He allowed a hit, walked one and struck out a batter.
4) Gio Gonzalez (2-1) improved to 15-5 in his career against the Mets and 11-1 with a 1.78 ERA in 16 starts at Citi Field.
Postgame reaction from Michael Avallone...
The problem with losing a game like last night is not that it can spiral out of control, despite what the talking heads and irrational fans want you to think. It's that a normal, ho-hum loss like tonight becomes magnified and a little harder to swallow. Instead of going for a sixth straight series win to open the season, the Mets will now be trying to avoid a three-game sweep after hitting their first true slump of 2018.
Wheeler certainly wasn't as dominant as he was against an admittedly weak Marlins team, but he kept New York in the game. Truth be told, outside of his three-walk top of the first, Wheeler was more than solid. He was BABIP'd to death on a trio of soft singles in the fourth, so as so often is the case in baseball, the number don't necessarily tell the entire story. However, one issue that is of concern and continues to plague the Mets is the stolen bases. Opposing teams are now 21-for-22 and three of them led directly to runs. New York lost, 5-2, so ... do the math. The catchers carry some of the blame to be sure, but 90 percent of this is on the Mets' pitchers. They're slow to the plate and they just don't hold runners on very well as a staff. It's a problem but I'm not sure how fixable it truly is.
New York's situational hitting was abysmal. They had runners at the corners and one out in consecutive innings and both times came away empty thanks to strikeouts by Frazier and Reyes, who is still 0-for-2018. There were those questioning why Mickey Callaway went with Reyes as a pinch hitter during that spot in the sixth with the likes of Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo and Adrian Gonzalez available on the bench. But Nats manager Davey Martinez would have certainly brought in a lefty, creating a less favorable matchup. I can't fault Calloway for expecting a veteran of 15 years to at least make contact instead of whiffing.
It was just that type of night. The Mets had chances but couldn't cash in. As with every team, they'll win 60 and lose 60... it's those other 42 games that determines a playoff team from a second-division club. As long as they stay healthy, the Mets will be fine...
Highlights from the game...
News and notes...
New York has dropped consecutive games for the first time this season and three of four overall. It was their first series loss after winning five straight to open the year. They have surrendered at least five runs in four of their last five games.
The Mets are 6-16 against the Nationals at Citi Field since the start of 2016.
Frazier went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts, ending his six-game hitting streak. He failed to reach base safely for the first time in 10 games.
Lagares went 2-for-2 with a walk against Gonzalez, bringing his career average against the lefty to .413 (19-for-46).
Wheeler fell to 2-8 in 11 career starts against the Nationals and 0-6 at home. The 27-year-old is 8-16 with a 4.88 ERA in 31 career starts at Citi Field compared to 14-8, 3.06 on the road.
Jay Bruce returned to the starting lineup after being held out the last two days. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
Bautista was one of three pitchers New York received from Boston in exchange for Addison Reed last season. New York optioned Hansel Robles to Triple-A Las Vegas prior to Tuesday's game in a corresponding move.
The Mets (12-4) will try and avoid a three-game sweep by the Nationals (9-9) at Citi Field on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. on SNY.
Steven Matz (1-1, 3.77 ERA, 17 Ks, 1.19 WHIP) closes out the series looking to win consecutive starts for the first time since he reeled off a seven-game winning streak from April 17-May 25, 2016. The 27-year-old has won five times in 30 starts since, including an 11-start winless stretch that ran from July 3, 2017 until his victory over Milwaukee last Friday. Matz limited the Nats to one run and struck out a season-high eight in five innings during a no-decision on April 7. He is 1-2 with a 1.85 ERA in five career starts against Washington.
Tanner Roark (1-1, 3.50 ERA, 18 Ks, 1.00 WHIP) tries to bounce back after a hard-luck loss last Friday against the Rockies where he allowed two runs -- one earned -- in six innings. Powered by a pair of homers, including Adrian Gonzalez's grand slam, the Mets scored five runs on five hits and four walks in five innings against Roark, who took a no-decision in the loss on April 8. The 31-year-old is 7-2 with a 3.13 ERA in 18 appearances, including 12 starts, against New York.