Mets show fight before falling on walk-off homer
Club rallies to tie D-backs twice, but baserunning mistakes prove costly
PHOENIX -- Mistakes always loom larger following losses than wins. After winning efforts, teams can laugh about their blunders. After losses, those chuckles transform into regrets.
So it was Friday night, when Paul Goldschmidt's walk-off homer against Scott Atchison sunk the Mets at Chase Field, sealing a 5-4 loss to the D-backs in a game the Mets twice came from behind to tie. Two critical baserunning errors conspired with Jeremy Hefner's subpar outing to sink the Mets, resulting in more than enough regret to go around.
The freshest lament came from Atchison, who understood the danger of facing Goldschmidt, one of the National League's foremost power hitters. But with one out in the ninth and a 1-1 count on Goldschmidt, Atchison left a cut fastball up in the zone. D-backs manager Kirk Gibson described the resulting home run as "a line-drive bullet out of the park."
"It just wasn't a good pitch," Atchison said. "He's a good hitter and he showed why."
In another corner of the clubhouse, Juan Lagares knew the game never might have come to that had he not been thrown out at third base with two outs in the seventh, trying to stretch a double into a triple. Lagares called it "my fault" and a "big mistake," noting that he needed to be "more than 100 percent that I'm going to make it." He was not.
Nor was Marlon Byrd certain he would score on a similar play five innings earlier, when his fly ball ricocheted at an odd angle off the center-field wall. With no outs, Byrd tried to stretch his triple into an inside-the-park home run, but was thrown out at the plate on a pair of sterling throws. Replays were inconclusive, revealing that Byrd may have slipped his hand onto home plate before the tag hit him.
"I was hoping," Byrd said. "I wasn't sure where he tagged me or anything, everything was so fast. I had one thought to try to get in safely. They made the relays and made the play."
As a result, the Mets went down in order against D-backs starter Patrick Corbin, instead of having a man on third base and no outs in a scoreless game.
"I thought he could make it," third-base coach Tim Teufel said. "That's why I sent him. That's why I send everybody, basically. I have the conviction of thinking they're going to be safe, not out. It didn't work this time."
Regrets, the Mets had a few. Hefner berated himself for a performance that saw the D-backs rocket balls all over the park, even throughout his first four scoreless innings. Though most of Arizona's early line drives found their way into gloves, allowing Hefner to parlay his luck into something of a groove, everything unraveled with two outs and the bases empty in the fifth.
Consecutive doubles by Corbin, Adam Eaton and Martin Prado gave the D-backs two quick runs, in a rally that would have been doubly damaging had Byrd not snared Eric Chavez's sharp liner to end it. An inning later, after the Mets tied things at 2, the first three D-backs batters to face Hefner all rapped out hits. The third of them was a two-run double from Wil Nieves to chase Hefner, who struck out one batter and walked three.
"That's the way it's been forever in baseball: you execute, you get guys out, you don't execute, you get lit up," said Hefner, whose 1.76 ERA over his final eight first-half starts has morphed into a 9.13 mark since the All-Star break. "I got lit up."
Offensively stymied for most of the evening, the Mets tied things in the eighth on a two-run rally off Heath Bell. After Daniel Murphy, Byrd and Josh Satin opened the inning with consecutive singles, Justin Turner and Wilmer Flores each drove home runs on ground balls.
Facing Corbin earlier in the game, the Mets' offensive attack revolved around Turner, who was making a spot start at shortstop against the left-handed pitcher. Turner singled home runs in the fourth and sixth innings, amassing two of New York's four hits vs. Corbin. Then he tied the game on his chopper in the eighth.
But it was not enough, and so Byrd and Lagares were left regretting their baserunning mistakes. Hefner was left regretting his entire performance. And Atchison was left regretting what came last.
"The team battles all game long and they get back in there and we tie it up, obviously I want to get out there and get a quick inning in, and get us back in there so we can swing the bats and try to get ahead," Atchison said. "It didn't work tonight."