Mets strand 15, 'haunted' by missed chances

August 5th, 2021

MIAMI -- It shouldn’t have been close. The Mets had chance after chance to put away the Marlins and gain a split of their four-game series at loanDepot park. But it was the home team that came through in the clutch for a 4-2 win on Thursday to take three of four.

The Marlins broke through for three runs in the eighth after the Mets blew several opportunities throughout the game to put their own runs on the board, starting in the first inning, when the first three batters of the game reached base. But with the bases loaded and no outs, J.D. Davis and Javier Báez struck out before Michael Conforto flied to center.

That set the tone for what was to follow, as New York left the bases loaded three times and stranded a total of 15, going 4-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

Báez struck out five times in all, including instances with three, two, one and zero runners on base. Baez is the first Mets player to go 0-for-5 with five strikeouts since Dave Kingman on May 28, 1982.

Albert Almora Jr. was the lone offensive bright spot, posting three hits and scoring the Mets' first run on a Jonathan Villar single in the sixth. New York went on to load the bases again that inning, but Dominic Smith flied out to end the threat.

“It’s really tough to explain,” said Mets manager Luis Rojas of his team’s struggles with runners on. “I just think that we missed our pitches, we haven’t been on time with fastballs, and we chase them. There were some fastballs thrown by us. It kind of haunted us, we needed those runs later in the game.”

Conforto, who went 0-for-4 with a walk and misplayed a ball that led to Miami's first run, had no explanation, either, but assures that he along with the rest of the team hasn’t lost hope.

“I don’t know if I have an answer, but we still expect it to come together,” Conforto said. “We’re going to keep showing up with that attitude.”

Down three entering the ninth after Jeurys Familia allowed three runs in the eighth, the Mets loaded the bases once again, even pushing across a run on Brandon Drury’s pinch-hit infield single. But with an opportunity to record his first career four-hit game, Almora grounded out to second to end the game.

“It’s a tough loss, like all losses are, but we’ve just got to keep working hard,” Rojas said. “We’ve got to be better attacking the fastball. That’s where I think most of the inconsistency has been here.”

Rich Hill got a no-decision for the fourth consecutive start, but deserved a better fate. Relying almost exclusively on his fastball and changeup, the 41-year-old left-hander gave up just three hits and one unearned run over five innings. He struck out three and walked one.

Hill hasn’t won a decision since throwing five innings of three-hit ball with the Rays at Boston on June 23. Struggling ever since, Hill was 0-2 with a 5.65 ERA (18 earned runs over 28 2/3 innings) and 18 strikeouts prior to Thursday’s start.

But he turned it around against the Marlins, completing his first outing without giving up an earned run since June 5 at Texas, a 3-0 combined shutout win.

“It was good, attacking the strike zone, got back to the fastball, breaking ball, moving the breaking ball around in the zone and attacking with the fastball,” Hill said. “The simplicity sometimes is the best solution.”

Hill was acquired by the Mets on July 23 from Tampa Bay in a trade that sent right-hander Tommy Hunter and Minor League catcher Matt Dyer to the Rays. The Mets are the 11th Major League franchise for which he's played.