Bullpen day falls apart in Mets' loss

May 15th, 2021

It was a bullpen day for the Mets, and it didn’t work out on Saturday afternoon as they lost to the Rays, 12-5, at Tropicana Field. New York has lost its last two games and dropped its record to 18-15.

Entering Saturday’s action, the bullpen was a strength for the Mets. It was 8-3 with a respectable 3.04 ERA. Those numbers took a hit against Tampa Bay.

Right-hander Drew Smith was the opener for New York, and he allowed an unearned run in the first inning. With Manuel Margot in the batter’s box, Joey Wendle stole second base, and Yandy Díaz scored on a throwing error by catcher Tomás Nido.

By the third inning, however, the Mets took a 4-1 lead off Rays left-hander Shane McClanahan, who earned his first big league win by pitching 5 1/3 innings. José Peraza hit a three-run homer to give New York a two-run lead. An inning later, Pete Alonso hit a mammoth home run over the left-field wall to increase the lead to three.

Left-hander Joey Lucchesi entered the game in the third inning. The Mets were hoping he could pitch the bulk of the game. Lucchesi retired the side in order, but he had a tough time getting hitters out the next inning. Before anyone knew it, the Rays batted around and scored five runs. Willy Adames had the biggest blow off Lucchesi with a two-run double.

Lucchesi is having a season he would like to forget. After Saturday’s game, his ERA was 9.19. Lucchesi knows he has to do better on the mound.

“Things didn’t go my way,” Lucchesi said. “I kind of used up the ‘pen. I was trying to help those guys out. I just didn’t do my job. I have to do a better job. I have to find my rhythm and I know I will. It’s tough. It is what it is. I have to keep moving.

“... I have to keep trusting myself. I know personally I’m really good, but I’m not showing it right now. I just have to man up and get out of this rut. I know I can do it. I know there are haters out there, but whatever. I’m going to keep pushing myself and do the best that I can next time out.”

Sean Reid-Foley replaced Lucchesi in the fourth and was no better. He allowed run-scoring hits to Austin Meadows and Randy Arozarena to make it a 6-4 Rays lead.

The Mets made it a one-run game in the top of the eighth inning, when Francisco Lindor hit a solo shot over the left-field wall off left-hander Jeffrey Springs. It was Lindor’s third home run of the season. Two of those home runs have come off left-handers.

But the Rays put the game out of reach in the bottom of the eighth. Reliever Jeurys Familia entered the game with the bases loaded and no outs, but he couldn’t limit the damage that was created by right-hander Jacob Barnes. Díaz drove in two runs when he hit a ball that went over the glove of Lindor at shortstop. And Wendle drove in two more with a double. Brett Phillips also drove in two runs with a double.

“Really nice,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We left some guys on base, and we had some chances early, but the guys really came through to separate the game in the eighth. If anything, just the value of sometimes putting the ball in play, putting some pressure on the defense, it felt like that really showed up.

“Familia is really tough to square up and hit hard, and I know we found some holes against him, but you’ve got to like the way the guys pieced together some innings and came up with some big runs and drove the ball well.”

Mets manager Luis Rojas said he is comfortable with having another bullpen day in the future.

“You feel like you know what you are going to get. I thought there were some wrong pitches at times -- whether it was the pitch selection or pitch location,” Rojas said. “… We didn’t get the same response that we would have been getting from our bullpen. We have been using guys in different situations the last two weeks, and they have responded really well. Today, [that is] not the case.”