Saturday, July 25, 2020

It Was Good Until It Wasn't

This was one of those games that made me wonder why I missed baseball so much while it was gone. The offense was still out of sync, but the pitching was really great for 8-2/3 innings. Unfortunately, everything went to hell for that last inning and a third, and the winning streak ended at one.

Steven Matz pitched a really solid game. His curveball was a bit inconsistent but generally effective. He kept the Mets in the game until their offense put together their one effective inning to plate a pair of runs in the fifth. If Matz can continue to pitch close to this level for the rest of the season he might finally live up to the potential he showed when he first came up.

The Mets offense was non-existent for the first four innings, but finally broke through in the fifth. Michael Conforto hit a one-out opposite field double to get things going, then Amed Rosario tripled to right-center on the next pitch. After Nimmo was hit by a pitch, Jeff McNeill did a nice job lifting a sacrifice fly to bring home Rosario with the go ahead run. I remember thinking after that inning that the Mets offense might build some momentum after that solid inning, but they were barely a factor again.

Matz did what a good starting pitcher should do after finally being handed a lead. He struck out the side in the top of the sixth in convincing fashion to end his night. Alonso, Cespedes and Cano were due up in the bottom of the inning, and I thought that this was a real chance to take control of the game. Not so much: strikeout, strikeout, pop out. The offense was back in their coma.

Jeurys Familia was the first man out of the bullpen for the Mets, and he looked really good. His splitter and his slider were working, but what was really impressive was the hard sinker. It ha..d that really sharp downward bite that was missing so often last season. He retired Freeman, Ozuna and Duvall, and none of them made hard contact.

After the Mets wasted a leadoff single by Conforto in the bottom of the seventh, Dellin Betances was next out of the bullpen for the Mets. He was throwing a great slider, but didn't seem to have confidence in his fastball. His velocity was in the mid-90s but he wasn't locating it well. He got a couple of outs, but then gave up a single to Austin Riley. Justin Wilson was brought in to face Matt Adams and gave up a single that put runners on the corners, but then struck out Acuna to end that threat.

After the Mets failed to score in their half of the eighth, Diaz came in to start the ninth. Gary Cohen pointed out that Diaz had never saved games in consecutive days last year, which gave me a little ache in the pit of my stomach. Diaz was throwing the ball great, though. He struck out Albies, then got Freeman to fly out. He fell behind Ozuna, but came back to get the count full.  He threw an outside fastball that Ozuna was able to line the opposite way for a home run.

Honestly, it wasn't a bad performance, it wasn't even that bad of a pitch on the home run, but he blew a huge save when he was a strike away from getting it done. Now it just remains to be seen whether he has the stones to shake it off or if he'll lose his confidence again like last year.

As bitter as that was, the Mets had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth. As they did in the bottom of the seventh, Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeill came up in the bottom of the ninth with 2 on and 1 out and failed to plate a run. So Diaz and Hunter Strickland will go down as the goats of this game, but the offense deserves a lot of the blame, too.

This was a tough loss, particularly in such a short season, but there's another game tomorrow. Let's stop the bleeding now.

Please stay safe, be well and take care. May all your save opportunities be successful.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

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