A game that started with high comedy ended with dark drama for the Mets, who lost two-out-of-three to arguably the worst team in baseball. And of course, they wasted another terrific starting pitching performance in the process.
The comedy took place in the first three hitters of the game. After Brandon Nimmo led off by taking a called third strike from Reds starter Sal Romano — a Connecticut native who you think would be delivering pizzas in North Jersey — Wilmer Flores struck out and Asdrubal Cabrera bounced a ground rule double over the left centerfield wall. Not so fast, said Reds manager Jim Riggleman. According to the lineup card given to the umps, Cabrera was supposed to hit second and Flores third. So the third out came because the Mets batted out of order. As a bizarre consequence, Jay Bruce, the undisputed cleanup hitter and an innocent bystander, was charged with a time at bat and a groundout to the catcher.
Zack Wheeler was able to shake that off, and set about being brilliant. He worked around a single and a walk to escape the first inning scoreless. He gave up a leadoff single to Alex Blandino in the second. That was it for the next four innings. For their part, the Mets grabbed a quick run in the third when Nimmo banged out a triple behind center fielder Billy Hamilton and Cabrera — in his proper spot — grounded out to first baseman Joey Votto. There the score stayed until the bottom of the sixth. Jesse Winker worked out a walk leading off and Jose Peraza dropped a bunt single in front of Flores at third. Votto then smoked a liner in front of Bruce and the game was tied. Wheeler then settled, striking out two to end the threat. He was pinch-hit for in the seventh. His final line: six innings, four hits, one run, three walks — two of them in that sixth — and seven strikeouts. After that third inning uprising, the Mets’ bats went largely silent. They left two on in the fifth and one on in the eighth. That was it. Robert Gsellman came in and continued Wheeler’s brilliance, breezing through the Reds’ lineup in the seventh and eighth. Seth Lugo did the same in the ninth and was pinch hit for in the futile top of the tenth. AJ Ramos came on for the bottom half and after getting behind 2-1 on Adam Duvall, left a 92 MPH fastball over the plate. Duvall cracked it over the left field fence for the game and the series. The Mets have fallen victim to that classic conundrum for a mediocre-to-bad team: when the pitchers pitch, the hitters don’t hit and vice-versa.
A much needed day off tomorrow before a three-game weekend set in Philadelphia. It’ll be Steven Matz vs. Jake Arrieta on Friday night from Citizens Bank Ballpark.