NEW YORK -- Four times in all, Mets manager Mickey Callaway marched to the mound in the eighth inning, certainly believing the next reliever would be the one to douse Washington's rally. One after another, those pitchers faltered, allowing baserunner after baserunner in the most nightmarish inning of the Mets'
NEW YORK -- Four times in all, Mets manager Mickey Callaway marched to the mound in the eighth inning, certainly believing the next reliever would be the one to douse Washington's rally. One after another, those pitchers faltered, allowing baserunner after baserunner in the most nightmarish inning of the Mets' young season.
In total, five Mets pitchers combined to face a dozen batters in the eighth inning Monday. They allowed five hits, three walks -- two with the bases loaded -- and a hit batsman, transforming a five-run lead into an 8-6 loss to the Nationals at Citi Field.
"How many times does that happen where everyone in the bullpen pitches like that?" said AJ Ramos, who walked in a run. "Maybe it's just one or two people and the rest of us pick each other up. But in that situation, it just happened to be that we didn't get the job done, plain and simple."
The Mets were never under any delusions that their bullpen, which ranked 29th in the Majors last season, would coast through the summer. But they did see real improvement in a group that entered Monday's play sporting a 1.51 ERA, lowest in the Majors. Even if no bullpen can be that steady over a six-month season, the Mets hardly expected their statistical correction to happen in a single inning.
Yet in scoring five runs against a bullpen that had allowed 10 in 14 games heading into the night, the Nationals offered New York a dose of reality while spoiling Jacob deGrom's strong start.
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"You're comfortable when those guys come in," deGrom said. "They're not perfect. It's going to happen. Tonight, we let one get away, but back after it tomorrow."
For most of the night, deGrom cruised, allowing his only run on Bryce Harper's broken-bat solo home run in the first. Striking out 12 batters, deGrom became the first Mets starter to throw a pitch in the eighth inning this season, which he did with a five-run lead.
That's where things went awry. Giving up hits to two of the three batters he faced in the eighth, deGrom gave way to relievers Seth Lugo and Jerry Blevins, who allowed a base on balls and a Harper two-run single. Next up was Ramos, who walked in a run, prompting Callaway to call on Jeurys Familia for a four-out save attempt.
The first man to face Familia, Wilmer Difo, grounded a game-tying, two-run single through the right side of the infield. The third, Michael A. Taylor, drew a bases-loaded walk to put the Nationals ahead for good. And the Mets, who received plenty of early offense from Todd Frazier (two hits, two RBIs) and Asdrubal Cabrera (four hits, including a two-run homer) could not respond. As a result, the Mets lost a game in which they led by at least five runs for the first time since last May 14.
"It's one inning," Callaway said. "It wasn't even the game. It was really one inning. We outplayed them for the rest of the game. We just have to realize that it was one bad inning. We didn't get the job done. We'll learn from it and make sure it doesn't throw us into some kind of tailspin, because we're a really good team and we've been showing that."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
In addition to his work on the mound, deGrom gave the Mets a key piece of offense when he plated a run with a squeeze bunt in the sixth. The dribbler scored Juan Lagares, who stole second and third base after walking with one out.
Frazier's third-inning RBI double came off his bat at 113.5 mph, his hardest hit since Statcast™ began tracking data in 2015.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
When deGrom heard Harper's bat splinter on a 96-mph fastball in the first inning, he assumed the ball would be an easy out. Then he turned and in disbelief watched the ball soar 406 feet over the right-center-field fence.
"That was pretty shocking," deGrom said. "I heard the bat break and then I looked and I saw [outfielder Brandon] Nimmo just keep going. I just said, 'Oh. I guess that's out of here.'" More >
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Trailing by two runs, the Mets received a flicker of life in the ninth inning when Cabrera doubled with one out. But when an errant pitch scooted away from Nationals catcher Pedro Severino, Cabrera attempted to take third base, despite the fact that he did not represent the game-tying run. Severino threw him out, and although the Mets challenged, replays plainly showed Cabrera was out.
"That was bad running right there," Cabrera said. "We were down by two. I don't think right there it was necessary to do that. … I saw the ball was far, but like I said, that was bad running right there. I have to be sure I'm going to be safe."
Jay Bruce (plantar fasciitis) should be back in the lineup Tuesday when the Mets return to Citi Field for a 7:10 p.m. ET rematch against the Nationals. Zack Wheeler will also look to prove his superb 2018 debut was no fluke, starting opposite Washington lefty Giovany Gonzalez.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.