WASHINGTON -- When Jose Reyes initially stepped onto the pitcher's mound Tuesday, throwing sidearm strikes to home plate, he enjoyed the moment. The Mets were in the midst of a 25-4 loss to the Nationals, the most lopsided defeat in franchise history. At least Reyes could fulfill a lifelong dream
WASHINGTON -- When Jose Reyes initially stepped onto the pitcher's mound Tuesday, throwing sidearm strikes to home plate, he enjoyed the moment. The Mets were in the midst of a 25-4 loss to the Nationals, the most lopsided defeat in franchise history. At least Reyes could fulfill a lifelong dream in the process, pitching an inning in a Major League game.
A few minutes later, after Matt Adams and Mark Reynolds homered as part of a six-run eighth inning that sealed the night's place in history, the novelty disappeared. This was no longer much fun for a player who rued his role in the defeat.
"It's a tough loss," manager Mickey Callaway said. "It's embarrassing. We've got to do better than that."
It was around the fifth inning that Callaway, concerned about his team's ability to field a competitive team the following day at Nationals Park, began discussing the idea of having a position player pitch. An inning later, with his team trailing by 19 runs, Callaway approached Reyes.
This wasn't a foreign concept for Reyes, who, earlier in his career, told former Mets manager Jerry Manuel that he wanted to play an inning in center field and pitch an inning before he retired. He achieved the former feat last season, at age 34.
The latter finally occurred in the bottom of the eighth, after Jeff McNeil homered to give the Mets a chance at avoiding a franchise-worst loss.
New York's seventh pitcher of the night, Reyes took the mound and began throwing sidearm fastballs in the mid-80s, stealing a few glances at the radar gun readings on the center-field scoreboard. He retired the first batter he faced before giving up consecutive hits, including Adams' homer. Two walks, another homer, a single and a hit batsman followed, while the Mets, who went as far as to send pitching coach Dave Eiland out to the mound at one point, fretted about allowing Reyes to throw too many pitches. He managed to retire Juan Soto with his 48th and final offering.
"I've played against Jose a long time, and he's one of my favorite players," said Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, the batter plunked by Reyes, who feigned a charge to the mound. "That was pretty funny and surreal to hit against him after all that we've been through against each other."
Those lingering in a quiet Mets clubhouse late Tuesday night considered it decidedly less amusing. That the worst loss in franchise history occurred mere hours after the non-waiver Trade Deadline, not to mention assistant general manager John Ricco's assertion that the Mets can compete for a playoff berth in 2019, did little to inspire faith in the Mets' future plan.
As usual, that blueprint revolves around a pitching core of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz, the last of whom could not escape the first inning in Washington. Allowing seven runs on eight hits and a walk, Matz compounded the defensive issues behind him by allowing five hits of at least 100 mph. One of them, a three-run double by opposing pitcher Tanner Roark, highlighted the Nationals' seven-run first.
"I think I'm going through a dead-arm phase," Matz said. "I'm just trying to work through it. This stuff comes up throughout the season, and you've just got to get through it. I wasn't able to do that today."
Reliever Jacob Rhame followed, giving up six runs -- including both of Daniel Murphy's homers -- in two innings. Tim Peterson allowed three more runs in 1 1/3 innings. Tyler Bashlor served up another three. Only Jerry Blevins and Drew Smith gave the Mets scoreless outings, providing a rickety bridge from the first few relievers to Reyes.
Six runs later, the Nationals were on top by three touchdowns and a field goal, ensuring that the Mets' ninth-inning rally -- McNeil drove home a run on a fielder's choice, and Austin Jackson homered -- would not spare them the soundest defeat in franchise history. Their previous worst was a 26-7 drubbing against the Phillies on June 11, 1985.
"You don't see that too often," Reyes said. "We just need to put it in the past."
The 25 runs the Mets allowed fell one short of the most in franchise history, as did the 26 hits. The Mets allowed 26 runs and 27 hits in their 1985 loss to the Phillies.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Reyes' fastest pitch topped out at 87.1 mph, per Statcast™, while his slowest, a curveball, came out of his hand at 48.6 mph. Reyes said he pitched as a child in the Dominican Republic, but until Tuesday, he never had as a professional.
"It didn't go the way that I expected," Reyes said. "But I got out of the inning, at least."
HE SAID IT
"Nobody wants to lose like that. We all want to win games. It's a bad loss." -- Callaway
FROM THE TRAINER'S ROOM
The game began with some additional anxiety for the Mets, who removed first baseman Wilmer Flores in the first inning after he began experiencing dizziness and other dehydration symptoms. By game's end, Flores said he was feeling significantly better. He does not expect the issue to linger.
Sidelined since June 20 with hand, foot and mouth disease, Noah Syndergaard (6-1, 2.89 ERA) will return from an 11-day stay on the disabled list to start the Mets' series finale Wednesday at Nationals Park. Syndergaard will oppose a former teammate, left-hander Tommy Milone (0-0, 5.40), in the 12:05 p.m. ET game.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.