Yu Darvish outpitched Max Scherzer as the Mets opened the nominal second half of the season with a 4-1 loss to the San Diego Padres at CitiField last night.
Atlanta won last night, so the Mets lead in the NL East is 1.5, two in the loss column.
Scherzer was not as sharp as we’ve come to expect, yet he only gave up two runs on five hits in six innings pitched with eight strikeouts.
The three time Cy Young Award winner came out breathing fire as he struck out the first two hitters he faced. After setting down the first five hitters, four on strikeouts, Padres first-baseman Eric Hosmer doubled to left center for San Diego’s first hit. After a walk, Scherzer retired Trent Grisham on a grounder to first.
The Padres touched up Scherzer (6-2) for two runs in the fourth. Former Yankee Luke Voit led off with a hard single to left and scored on Hosmer’s two run home run to left center field that gave San Diego a 2-0 lead.
Darvish cruised through the first three innings, giving up only a one out single to Starling Marte and facing one batter over the minimum. The veteran right hander pitched seven solid innings, giving up one run on Luis Guillorme’s RBI double with two out in the seventh, while allowing only five baserunners. Darvish (9-4) walked one and struck out nine.
With the way Darvish was throwing, Scherzer had an inkling that Hosmer’s blow would be pivotal. “Got caught there in the fourth inning. Gave up a single and a homer, felt like that was a big blow at that point,” Scherzer said. “I was able to keep it together, I was able to pitch six innings but like I said, I got outpitched tonight.”
Darvish kept the Mets off the board until the seventh. Jeff McNeil walked with one out and scored on Luis Gullorme’s double to make it a 4-1 game. Darvish, who gave up one run in seven innings with one walk and nine strikeouts, finished his night by getting Mets DH Travis Blankenhorn on a grounder to short.
The eight strikeouts by Scherzer moved him past Curt Schilling and Bob Gibson for 15th place on the all time strikeout list. “That [Gibson] was my dad’s favorite pitcher, I’m definitely going to give that ball to him. For me as a kid growing up, he was one of my idols.” Scherzer, who is a St. Louis native, struck out Padres catcher Austin Nola to finish his night in the sixth and move past the Cardinals all time great.
Joely Rodriguez relieved Scherzer to start the seventh and gave up a leadoff home run to Trent Grisham to give San Diego a 3-0 lead. They added a run later in the inning thanks to some shoddy defense by the Mets.
With the bases loaded and one out, Nomar Mazara hit a sharp grounder to Pete Alonso who threw home for the force. Pat Mazeika, who replaced the injured Tomas Nido, tried for the 3-2-3 double play but he hit Mazara who was legally in the base line to allow Jake Cronenworth to score the fourth run.
Padres reliever Nick Martinez had an easy eighth, retiring the Mets in order. With one out in the ninth, Alonso was hit by a pitch from Padres closer Trevor Rogers. McNeil hit what appeared to be a game ending double play ball to second, but Padres second baseman C.J. Abrams booted it putting runners on first and second and bringing the tying run to the plate.
The next batter, Eduardo Escobar hit a line drive toward the gap in right center field. Defensive replacement Esteury Ruiz nearly overran the ball, but he recovered in time to make the play for the second out. Pinch hitter Mark Canha ended the game by forcing McNeil at second as Rogers earned his 27th save.
Nido got hurt in the second inning when he was hit by Scherzer’s fast ball on the wrist that went for a passed ball. “He got crossed up, fastball hit him flush on the wrist,” Mets Manager Buck Showalter said. “He [Nido] couldn’t swing the bat.”
Before the game, the Mets acquired left hand hitting 1B/DH Daniel Vogelbach from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for right hand pitcher Colin Holderman.
Vogelbach will provide a nice option to be the left handed part of a platoon. The 29-year old has a much better OPS (.817) against right hand pitching than he does against left handers (.489). “He’s been a really good, solid left handed hitter, especially against right handed pitching,” Showalter said.
The Mets’ lineup has been efficient but the power numbers, beside Alonso, have not been there. The Mets need much more production from the DH spot, particularly from the left side to support Alonso in the lineup. GM Billy Eppler has known Vogelbach and feels he can be a help. “Grabbing Daniel, we’re able to get a power bat in here,” Eppler said.
Vogelbach, who is listed at six feet, 270 lbs. hit 30 home runs for the Seattle Mariners in 2019. The beefy left handed hitter can draw walks but he is your typical slugger in that he will strike out a ton. That didn’t deter the Mets from pulling the trigger on what is a precursor for what’s to come before the August 2nd trade deadline. “He’s hit everywhere he’s been,” Eppler said, “and that’s what we’re going to ask him to do when he gets over here.”
In 15 games with the Mets, the 26-year old Holderman was 4-0 with a 2.04 ERA.