MILWAUKEE -- AJ Ramos' final pitch Friday never came close to its target, bouncing in front of home plate, skipping off catcher Devin Mesoraco's glove and careening to the backstop. By the time the ball rolled to a stop in the nearby grass, it had been forgotten. Eric Sogard was jogging home with the winning run of the Brewers' 4-3 win over the Mets, which Ramos forced in with a bases-loaded walk in the 10th.
Of the nine pitches Ramos threw that inning, eight were balls. Several weren't close. It all added up to one of Ramos' worst outings yet in a disappointing season, underscoring Mickey Callaway's reticence to trust him and other high-profile relievers in the highest-leverage spots.
"I haven't been doing my job, plain and simple," Ramos said. "There's no excuse, no rhyme or reason, there's not anything going on. I just haven't been very good."
Ramos did not enter until the Brewers' game-winning rally was already well-formed. With a man on first and two outs in the 10th, Callaway made a somewhat controversial decision to remove Robert Gsellman in favor of lefty specialist Jerry Blevins, who has also struggled for much of the season. Blevins allowed a hit to Christian Yelich, prompting Callaway to call upon Ramos.
The Mets' setup man coming into the season, and one of their most valuable relievers down the stretch last year, Ramos walked Hernan Perez on four pitches. Then he walked Travis Shaw on five straight fastballs to force in a run.
"I was 100 percent taking until I got a strike," Shaw said.
"I just couldn't find it, for some reason," added Ramos.
It is not as if Ramos was the Mets' only option. Callaway could have stuck with Blevins, intentionally walking the right-handed Perez to set up Blevins versus Shaw with the bases loaded. He also could have taken a more progressive approach, turning to closer Jeurys Familia -- whom Callaway recently lauded as the Mets' best reliever -- in a tie game on the road.
He spurned both options, making the last of several curious managerial decisions. One of the most impactful of those occurred in the seventh inning, with the Mets trailing by a run. Rather than have starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard bat for himself with a man on first base and two outs, Callaway pinch-hit Jose Reyes, who grounded out to drop his season average to .143. That forced Callaway to turn to Seth Lugo in the seventh and Gsellman in the ninth, rather than lean on Syndergaard, who was at 78 pitches, for another inning or two.
"It's really, really tough," Callaway said. "But considering where we were offensively at the time, you have to get [Syndergaard] out of there. He did his job. Now we need to score some runs."
In that way, the Mets' offensive doldrums -- they rank 29th in the Majors in runs per game in May -- have colored many of Callaway's pitching choices. New York's only runs against Brewers starter Junior Guerra came on solo homers from Amed Rosario and Michael Conforto. They managed to tie the game on a Jose Bautista RBI single off Corey Knebel in the ninth, but stranded the bases loaded that inning.
As a result, the Mets wasted another quality Syndergaard start -- three runs in six innings -- as well as 3 2/3 one-run innings from Gsellman and Lugo. That will handicap their bullpen going forward, in the midst of one of their most challenging stretches of schedule: 18 games in 17 days, all but three of them against playoff-caliber teams.
"I think you just have to go win the game tonight," Callaway said. "There are times when you have to maybe think about tomorrow. But in a close game, that's not the time to think about it. You have to go win."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Although Callaway spent time Friday lauding Syndergaard's improved times to home plate, the right-hander was unable to control Milwaukee's running game in the third inning. Lorenzo Cain stole second base after singling with one out, allowing him to race home on Yelich's single. Yelich promptly stole second himself, scoring two batters later on Shaw's hit. Opposing base stealers are now 12-for-14 against Syndergaard.
"I didn't really give Mesoraco much of an opportunity to throw guys out, and I didn't really give him quality pitches to handle," Syndergaard said. "That was on me."
The Mets fell to 12-9 in games that Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom have started.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Leading the game off with a groundout, Brandon Nimmo snapped his streak of reaching base in eight consecutive plate appearances. But he still found a way to contribute in the bottom of the first, diving to rob Yelich of a hit on a fly ball down the left-field line. The ball had an 18-percent catch probability, according to Statcast™ data, making it a five-star grab.
HE SAID IT
"I understand that we had an opportunity to score a run there, and I'm not really going to do much at the dish with my bat right now. So I definitely understand the decision to take me out, and for Jose to hit." -- Syndergaard, on Callaway removing him for a pinch-hitter
Much improved in his last outing, left-hander Jason Vargas will look to solidify his rotation standing when he returns to the mound Saturday at Miller Park. After going 0-3 with a 13.86 ERA in his first three starts with the Mets, Vargas delivered five shutout innings last time out. He'll oppose right-handed changeup artist Chase Anderson in the 4:10 p.m. ET game.