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Bullpen buckles vs. LA after Wheeler deals

@ladsonbill24
September 16, 2019

NEW YORK -- The Mets' playoff odds took a hit on Sunday night at Citi Field, with the Dodgers winning a bullpen battle in the late innings to edge New York, 3-2. The loss puts New York four games behind the Cubs for the second National League Wild Card spot.

NEW YORK -- The Mets' playoff odds took a hit on Sunday night at Citi Field, with the Dodgers winning a bullpen battle in the late innings to edge New York, 3-2.

The loss puts New York four games behind the Cubs for the second National League Wild Card spot. The Cubs pounded the Pirates, 16-6, earlier Sunday at Wrigley Field.

Box score

Over the past week, the Mets relied on relievers Justin Wilson and Seth Lugo in the late innings, and they had been coming through, until Sunday.

The Mets entered the eighth inning with a 2-1 lead, but Wilson couldn't hold it. Jedd Gyorko led off with a walk and advanced to second when Wilson's cleats were caught in the dirt on his delivery, which was ruled a balk. Gyorko advanced to third on a wild pitch, and two batters later, Chris Taylor doubled to right-center field, sending Gyorko home.

"Any time the leadoff guy gets on late in the game, it hurts. I would have liked for Gyorko to earn his way on, of course. ... You have to keep them off base," Wilson said.

With the score tied at 2, the Dodgers took the lead off Lugo. With one out, Enrique Hernandez doubled. After striking out pinch-hitter Edwin Rios, Lugo allowed a Gyorko single up the middle, scoring Hernandez.

"I made my pitch, and [Gyorko] found the hole," Lugo said. "I was trying to go with it. It happens, that's baseball."

With just 13 games left in the season, the Mets can't afford to lose much ground. It would help if Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil can hit their way out of slumps. They were hitless in the series against the Dodgers.

The Mets now travel to Colorado to play a three-game series against the Rockies, who have already been eliminated from postseason contention. Mets manager Mickey Callaway believes his team can turn it around and gain ground.

"When their backs are against the wall, they do special things. They proved that time and time again, and I think they are going to prove that," Callaway said. "We have to go and take care of business in Colorado. It's a tough place to go, tough travel night. There are no excuses. We are going to wake up, come out and swing the bats, and get the job done."

The disappointing relief overshadowed a great outing from Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler, who looked like a pitcher determined to play in the postseason. He delivered seven solid innings of one-run ball with nine strikeouts.

Wheeler was at his best when the Dodgers had runners in scoring position. In the sixth inning, Joc Pederson led off with a double and represented the potential tying run. But Wheeler went on to strike out the side and end the threat.

The following inning, the Dodgers had runners on first and second with one out. Wheeler worked his magic by striking out Hernandez and Matt Beaty to end the threat. The Dodgers ended up going 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position against Wheeler.

"It was a tremendous effort -- the stressful innings and the high-leverage pitches he had to make tonight," Callaway said of Wheeler. "A couple of leadoff doubles and he is holding this team at bay. He gets huge strikeouts when he needed them. His adrenaline was pumping all night. He stood up on the mound and gave us what we needed. It was a great effort."

New York gave Wheeler a 2-0 lead in the second inning off right-hander Walker Buehler. With two runners on and one out, Brandon Nimmo tripled down the right-field line, scoring Robinson Cano and J.D. Davis.

Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. He covered the Nationals/Expos from 2002-2016. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.