NEW YORK -- A case of the first-start jitters just may have gotten to 24-year-old Chris Flexen in his first Major League start of the season on Sunday afternoon, but the Mets' bullpen faltered as well. Flexen gave up five earned runs on five hits in three innings in the Mets' 9-0 loss to the Rays at Citi Field.
Things got off to a rough start for Flexen as he gave up a single to Rays leadoff batter Joey Wendle and walked Jake Bauers two batters later. C.J. Cron stepped up to the plate in the next at-bat and crushed a three-run home run to left-center field to open scoring for Tampa Bay.
"I think it's just lack of command," Flexen said. "I'm not throwing enough quality strikes when I need them. I'm falling behind guys and I'm left with nothing to do but come back over the middle of the plate, and that's where I'm getting burned a lot."
Flexen gave up two more runs in the third inning with RBIs from Daniel Robertson and Mallex Smith. He was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the third inning and reliever Chris Beck took the mound in the fourth inning. Beck gave up two runs in three innings and walked four batters.
"When you have a guy like that come up, the main thing is to throw the ball over the plate and to give yourself a chance. And the frustrating part is that we didn't throw enough strikes today to even give ourselves a chance," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. "It's not so much about who's up here, but when you're up here, you have to do the right things and you have to throw the ball over the plate and we just didn't do that today and we're not going to win no matter who's pitching."
The Mets, for the second straight game, could not get the offense going. Rays starter Nathan Eovaldi was perfect through six innings until Brandon Nimmo broke it up in the bottom of the seventh with a single to right field. Eovaldi left the game after seven innings having given up the one hit and having struck out nine.
The Mets went through three more relievers on the day, giving up two more runs. Tyler Bashlor pitched in the seventh, Paul Sewald in the eighth and Tim Peterson in the ninth.
With a doubleheader Monday against Philadelphia, Callaway indicated that all of the bullpen should be available to pitch except Beck, who went three innings on Sunday.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Nimmo broke up Eovaldi's perfect game to lead off the seventh inning with a base hit through to right field.
"I was extremely aware of it," Nimmo said when asked about Eovaldi's bid for a perfect game. "Credit to him for pitching well, but you never want to get no hit, you never want to be a part of that."
The Mets start a four-game series against the Phillies at Citi Field on Monday with a doubleheader, with first pitch at 4:10 p.m. ET. Zack Wheeler, who is 3-1 with a 2.82 lifetime ERA in eight career starts against the Phils, will take the mound for the first game. Wheeler will oppose right-hander Zach Eflin. Corey Oswalt will start Game 2 of the doubleheader for the Mets. It will be only his second career start after pitching four innings on July 4 at Toronto, allowing two runs on five hits in the Mets' 6-3 win over the Blue Jays. Philadelphia will start right-handed ace Aaron Nola.