Jake, Battle and Roll: Things Looking Up For the Mets in Second Half

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Did you ever dream that the Mets would not have Jacob deGrom throw one pitch for the first three and a half months of the season and yet, they’d still be in first place with a 58-35 record and a 2.5 game lead on the defending World Champion Atlanta Braves at the All Star break?

If you’re a Met fan, you’re not dreaming.

The Mets closed a tremendously successful first half of the season with a loss that could be chalked up to just one of those days, but frustrating nonetheless.

The Cubs snapped their nine game losing streak and denied the Mets a four game sweep at Wrigley Field as they scored twice in the eighth to claim a 3-2 win.

Drew Smith entered in the eighth to protect a 2-1 lead but he gave up a leadoff infield single to Cubs rookie Christopher Morel. The next batter, Willson Contreras found a hole with a ground ball up the middle for a single, as Morel took third. Ian Happ hit a little dribbler between the mound and first base that allowed Morel to score the tying run from third and Contreras to take second.

With two out, Nico Hoerner hit a sharp single to centerfield. Brandon Nimmo’s throw home was late as Contreras scored the go ahead run. “Ground balls found holes,” Mets Manager Buck Showalter said. “Like last night they went to a fielder and we turned a double play. Second one there [Contreras hit], a couple of steps over. We’re in a different spot, it’s a double play.”

Smith felt he was a victim of some bad luck. “It sucks but I think I’ve had worse outings this year. I thought I exceuted some good pitches,” he said.

Luis Guillorme singled with one out in the ninth against Cubs’ closer David Robertson but pinch-hitter J.D. Davis ended the game by hitting into a 5-4-3 double play.

The Mets took a 1-0 lead in the first when the Cubs’ blew a rundown play that resulted in a double steal. Francisco Lindor was at first and Starling Marte was on third with one out. Cubs’ pitcher Adrian Sampson picked off Lindor at first base, who tried to stay in the rundown to allow Marte to score from third. Lindor not only allowed Marte to score, he totally avoided the tag and was safe at second but was stranded when Jeff McNeil flied out.

The Cubs tied the game at one in the fourth. An error by Eduardo Escobar on a potential double play set up a bases loaded situation against Mets starter David Peterson. The Mets left hander walked Patrick Wisdom to force in the tying run but he struck out David Bote and Cubs’ rookie Nelson Velazquez to snuff out the rally.

The Mets took a 2-1 lead in the fifth. Pete Alonso singled in Brandon Nimmo for his Major League leading 78th RBI.

The Mets were looking to pad their lead with two out in the eighth. With Lindor on second, Escobar singled to left, and the Mets shortstop was correctly sent home to try and score the third run. To his credit, Cubs’ left fielder Velazquez charged the ball perfectly and fired a one hop throw home to nail Lindor and keep the Mets’ lead at one run.

The Mets go into the break feeling good about themselves. Despite Sunday’s loss, the Mets went 5-2 on a pivotal road trip that took them to Atlanta and Chicago. “I’m really proud of coming in here and winning two series on the road.,” Showalter said. “This time of year when everybody’s tank is being challenged.”

Lindor was 2 for 4 and extended his hitting streak to 11 straight games. Lindor finished the first half with 66 RBIs and is looking forward to the playoff run. “We played good ball the first half,” the Mets shortstop said. “We showed a lot of professionalism, a lot of days that we bounced back well. Very pleased with the way we played the first half.”

There’s more good news up ahead as Jacob deGrom is scheduled to throw a simulated game on Tuesday in Port St. Lucie, which could put him in line to make his season debut next Sunday night against the San Diego Padres at CitiField.

The Mets could have deGrom make one more rehab start but did Showalter tip his hand when he said, “I told all our starting pitchers where they’re pitching post break.”

Does that include deGrom? Has Buck and the front office already made the decision? Stay tuned.

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