After going through seven members of their bullpen Friday night in a 14 inning marathon loss the Mets needed a good effort from Zack Wheeler in their second of three games Saturday night at Citi Field with their division rival Braves. What they got was not what the doctor ordered. Wheeler showed a lack of command and control beginning in the second inning. Two straight walks to open the inning and then a blistering line drive double by newly acquired Francisco Cervelli that netted two runs.
Fortunately Cervelli got caught in a run-down and Wheeler was able to get the number eight and nine batters out in later what became a devastating 9-5 loss.
Then in the third inning his wheels really fell off as he gave up a “Chicken” home run to Ozzi Albies that hit high up on the right field “Fowl Pole.” Two batters later, he served up a 96 mph meatball to Josh Donaldson on a line drive blast to left center for another home run and just like that, the Mets were down by four runs before they even got to bottom of the third inning.
Again, not what the Mets needed to see out of this guy who at one time was thought to be a real stallion. Now this soon to be free agent looks more like he is headed to the glue factory. With Max Fried mowing down a team that seemed to have lost its way at the plate over the last two games, it looked like the Mets were on a one way train to Palookaville.
But then as if 69 Mets miracle dust fell from the sky in the bottom of the fifth inning. With one out, Jaun Lagares lined a double to deep left center was moved to third on a sacrifice by Wheeler and then two singles by Amed Rosario and Joe Panik set the stage for the big guy. Peter Alanso unloaded on Fried. Sending a monster home run to the right side of the Apple in center giving the Mets a one run lead.
The stadium erupted into a frenzy as they watched their shoo-in for rookie of the year clear the bases with his franchise tying record of 41 home runs.
But then the miracle dust settled into the infield grass and Wheeler gave up his fifth run and even though it was unearned, we now had another tie and the thought of having another game go into the wee hours of the night began to settle in with the crowd of 38,300. But nothing to worry about as we saw the ugly reality of players who are playing in the major leagues with a lack of baseball instinct.
First we saw Jeff McNeil get thrown out at third in the bottom of the seventh with none out on a ball hit in front of him which is a Cardinal sin. Braves shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria having baseball instinct knew to throw to third for the easy out.
Then in the top of the eighth inning, the Braves pushed across the go ahead run on a routine ground ball single to center scoring Rafael Ortega with Billy Hamilton moving from first to third. But wait, seems like Lagares wasn’t paying attention in baseball instinct 101 class either as he lobbed the ball back to the infield. Hamilton seeing that raced home to give the Braves a two run lead.
Third base coach Ron Washington said “He is too fast to allow that to happen. If you are going to give him an inch, he will take a mile.”
He had baseball instinct. We will see outfielders throw home to try to cut down a runner when they have no shot at getting an out at the plate, allowing the batter runner to advance to second. On and on it goes.
Is it that players are being rushed too soon to the big leagues today? They should go through player development and make all these mistakes in the minors where not too many people will see them. Doing things like this in front of 30 to 40 thousand screaming fans and getting booed is not good.
Tonight’s game saw the return of former NY Yankee Francisco Cervelli who just signed with the Braves after being released by the Pirates Thursday. He went 3 -for- 5 with 3 RBI’s was on base four times and gunned down Amed Rosario at second following the McNeal blunder. Welcome back to NY Francisco.
Added to this frustrating Mets loss was Edwin Diaz departing in the 9th inning due to muscle tightness. He will be seen for further medical observation Sunday morning. The latest collapse to Diaz was not attributed to a mental breakdown of giving up another home run ball. Freddie Freeman hit number 35, a fastball down the middle that added to the agony of a lost evening for the Mets.
“I don’t really understand why it happened,” Diaz said through an interpreter. “When I felt like I was starting to get it going something like this happens.”
So where do the Mets go from here? How about one more with the Braves, three with the Cubs. Then six with the Phillies, three with Washington and then the Dodgers shortly after that. They are not making it any easier for themselves playing like this.