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Lugo, Mets' bats scuffle in loss to D-backs

Injury-riddled New York has lost 12 of 13 as club searches for answers
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

PHOENIX -- Over the past few weeks, Mets officials have debated internally whether Seth Lugo is best deployed in the rotation or the bullpen -- an argument that, at least for now, is moot. The Mets have no choice but to use Lugo as a starting pitcher, considering the state of the rest of their roster.

As they attempt to arrest their spiral down the National League standings, the Mets' choices, in general, have become limited. They started Lugo on Friday in place of Noah Syndergaard, who remains on the disabled list with no timetable for his return. They started Jose Bautista in left field in place of Yoenis Cespedes, who -- and this may sound familiar -- remains on the DL with no timetable for his return. They relied on their newest waiver claim, Chris Beck in the middle innings, and shifted first baseman Dominic Smith to the outfield for the first time in his big league career.

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PHOENIX -- Over the past few weeks, Mets officials have debated internally whether Seth Lugo is best deployed in the rotation or the bullpen -- an argument that, at least for now, is moot. The Mets have no choice but to use Lugo as a starting pitcher, considering the state of the rest of their roster.

As they attempt to arrest their spiral down the National League standings, the Mets' choices, in general, have become limited. They started Lugo on Friday in place of Noah Syndergaard, who remains on the disabled list with no timetable for his return. They started Jose Bautista in left field in place of Yoenis Cespedes, who -- and this may sound familiar -- remains on the DL with no timetable for his return. They relied on their newest waiver claim, Chris Beck in the middle innings, and shifted first baseman Dominic Smith to the outfield for the first time in his big league career.

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These moves were born less out of strategy than of desperation for a team en route to its 12th loss in 13 games. The Mets' 7-3 defeat to the D-backs came complete with the usual pockmarks: They scored early but could not tack on late, while their bullpen proved leaky enough to hinder thoughts of a comeback.

Video: NYM@ARI: Smith launches solo homer on his birthday

Jacob deGrom can tell you that even when the Mets' starting pitching thrives, that combination creates issues for them. When their starting pitching scuffles, it makes it near-impossible for the Mets to win. Such was the case Friday, when Lugo allowed a first-inning solo homer to Paul Goldschmidt, a two-run shot to Daniel Descalso in the fifth and a two-run rally in between.

"I had to battle out there," Lugo said.

Beck followed, allowing a run in the sixth inning and loading the bases in the seventh, before Jerry Blevins struck out Alex Avila to end the threat.

By that time the Mets were already far behind, their offense producing nothing more than a Todd Frazier RBI double in the third inning and a Smith home run in the fourth. Pitching into the seventh, D-backs starter Zack Godley allowed no further damage.

Video: NYM@ARI: Flores smacks RBI double in return from DL

"We just didn't get the job done," manager Mickey Callaway said.

Afterward, Lugo bemoaned a lack of command during his first poor outing as a member of the rotation, which he joined because of Syndergaard's injury. This was hardly the way the Mets drew things up in Spring Training, when they named Lugo a starter only after Jason Vargas underwent surgery and Zack Wheeler pitched his way out of a job. Even then, Lugo never wound up making a start in April.

But "right now, with Syndergaard out, there's a necessity for him to start," Callaway said, just as there's reason for the Mets to use Smith at a foreign position and Beck, who couldn't stick with the 20-games-under-.500 White Sox, on the mound.

The Mets, in so many ways, are simply out of options.

Video: NYM@ARI: Lugo gets Lamb looking in the 5th

"It's tough," Lugo said. "But I have all the confidence that we're going to bounce back." 

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
In both the second and third innings, the Mets put runners on second and third base with no outs, and failed to score. In the second, Kevin Plawecki grounded out and Amed Rosario hit a fly ball to center, where Jarrod Dyson threw home in time to cut down Bautista at the plate. An inning later, Brandon Nimmo, Asdrubal Cabrera and Bautista struck out in succession to quell the threat.

Video: NYM@ARI: Dyson gets Bautista at home for 8-2 DP

"We put ourselves in a position where we didn't even need hits to score runs," Callaway said. "We just needed some ground balls."

SOUND SMART
According to SportsNet New York, no team in baseball history has gone 10 games above .500, then fallen 10 games below .500 faster than the Mets, who completed that swing in 66 games.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Short on outfielders with Cespedes and Juan Lagares both on the disabled list, and Jay Bruce day-to-day with a back injury, the Mets shifted Smith from first base to left field as part of a double-switch in the sixth. It was the first career outfield appearance for Smith, whom the Mets initially exposed to the position earlier this season at Triple-A Las Vegas.

Video: NYM@ARI: Smith plays left for 1st time, makes catch

"Anything to help the team," Smith said. "That's all I care about is helping the team. I don't care where I play as long as I'm in the lineup."

HE SAID IT
"I feel like we're right there. The energy in the dugout in the ninth inning, I thought we were going to come back and tie it up right there. I feel like every game's been like that. We're one swing, one pitch away from winning a game." -- Lugo, on the Mets' ninth-inning rally that fell short

UP NEXT
The Mets pushed Steven Matz's start back two days, to Saturday, due to a blister on his left middle finger. Matz believes he'll be at full strength when he takes the mound in a 10:10 p.m. ET game at Chase Field, pitching opposite D-backs lefty Patrick Corbin. The Mets certainly hope so; since the start of May, Matz owns a 2.68 ERA.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

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