Monday night was brutal. There is no other way to put it. It was a bad loss, but it also felt like a slap-across-the-face wake-up call that this season isn't going to be all wins and salt and pepper shakers.
Intuitively I knew this to be true, because that's how baseball works. But, I was happy living while watching the Mets dominate in fantasy land for as long as possible. However, that bliss had to eventually end, and it ended Monday night...
Remove or keep in deGrom?
In the top of the eighth inning with one out, the Mets up five runs, and the Nationals with runners on first and second base, I would have left deGrom in to face Howie Kendrick, who struck out in three previous at-bats against deGrom. I also have faith deGrom's ability to command an inning could have goosed Kendrick in to hitting in to an inning-ended double play.
New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) throws in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field in New York, April 16, 2018. DeGrom struck out 12 in 7 1/3 innings, the longest outing by a Mets pitcher this season. (Photo: Gordon Donovan) #NewYorkMets #WashingtonNationals #CitiField #MLB #baseball #photography #photojournalism #topStories #vsco #vscocam #photogrid #photo #vsconyc #instagramers #instagrammers #instamood
Then, depending on the situation, I would have given thought to whether I wanted deGrom or Seth Lugo facing Bryce Harper. Instead, Mickey Callaway removed deGrom for Lugo, who walked Kendrick. Callaway then wisely lifted Lugo for his left-handed specialist, Jerry Blevins, to face Harper, who singled to right field, drove in two runs, tightened the score and opened the flood gates.
DeGrom is this team's strategic ace. Noah Syndergaard may have the best pure stuff on the staff, but -- at this point in their careers -- deGrom has the better command of his toolbox. And, in a spot like Monday night's eighth inning, with Kendrick up and two runners on with one out, regardless of the score, deGrom is the man for the job -- especially when the bullpen is taxed and had been struggling the last few days. At the very least, Callaway or Dave Eiland should have gone to the mound to check in with deGrom to see the look in his eye and how he was feeling.
To be fair, deGrom was looking tired. His slider was sluggish and he threw several stressful pitches in the previous at-bat. That said, at 103 pitches, he's earned my trust to throw another five-to-10 pitches to a guy that had 1 hit in 20 at-bats against him, including three strikeouts earlier in the night.
It's also the Nationals in the other dugout. I understand it's April and possibly foolish to push deGrom on a cold night so early in the season. But, having swept the Nationals in D.C. last week, it would have been great to win Monday night in dominant fashion. Instead, the Mets go to Citi Field Tuesday having lost two of their last three games and a dent in their confidence, off which the Nationals will have a bit of renewed swagger.
What happened to the bullpen?
First off, the Kangaroo Court would have tortured Lugo for issuing that four-pitch walk to Kendrick, which then loaded the bases for Harper. Lugo has been so great this year, and he's allowed a hiccup. But, wow, that's no good.
In general, every reliever in a Mets uniform last night struggled to find the strike zone and, when he did, it was a pitch hung out over the plate. If you go back and rewatch to see where the catcher's mitt was, where the pitches were thrown and the velocity, it is no surprise the Nationals went on a run-scoring spree.
In the end, Lugo, Blevins, AJ Ramos, Jeurys Familia, and Hansel Robles faced 13 batters, let up five earned runs and recorded just five outs.
The silver lining is that there is nothing in their recent history to suggest this will continue, or at least continue for them all at the same time again on the same night. Hopefully, they got this all out of their system on the same cold evening and they'll get themselves back on track starting later on Tuesday...
That said, if the Mets are going to get to October and advance in the postseason, I still think Sandy Alderson will need need to trade for another heavyweight reliever.
Cabrera going for third...
In the bottom of the ninth inning, with one out and Michael Conforto representing the tying run at the plate, Asdrubal Cabrera tried to steal third base off a wild pitch in the dirt. However, the ball didn't bounce far enough from home plate to make it difficult for the catcher to find it. And, as a result, Cabrera was thrown out. So, instead of Conforto hitting with a 1-0 count, one out and a runner on second, Conforto is hitting 1-0 with two outs and no one on, down two runs in the ninth.
It was actually a closer play at third than it probably should have been. However, this is a huge no-no. Cabrera knew it (based on his reaction before and after the ump's call) and he was likely called out on the basis of poor judgement as much as anything else. It's a foolish move, but he's been so good this season taking the extra base and pushing momentum that I can understand why it happened. It's not something you expect from a veteran. But, this type of aggressive base running is partly why the team entered the day 12-2, so it's hard to totally wig out on Cabrera for trying to do more of what had been working to date. That said, Cabby, don't do it again...
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!