If there is any game a team needs to win, it is the one that begins with their top starting pitcher on the mound. The Mets are still trying to figure out how to make that happen more often.
Even with a near-flawless performance from Jacob deGrom, one of the best starting pitchers in baseball, the erratic Mets can’t seem to win.
The Mets’ inept play behind deGrom may be the most fitting illustration of their malaise, which now includes a 4-3 loss in the first game of Monday’s rain-soaked doubleheader against the division rival Atlanta Braves. The Mets dropped to 2-6 in the past eight games started by deGrom, who has a 0.94 earned run average over 47⅔ innings in that span. Granted two of those starts were abbreviated, but the point still stands: if the Mets cannot win right now behind their best pitcher, how else will they?
“It’s frustrating,” said Seth Lugo, the latest Mets relief pitcher to blow a game. “He’s doing what he always does and we’ve got to be better than that.”
The Mets’ sixth loss in their past seven games dropped them briefly to .500 for the first time this season, which Manager Mickey Callaway said he was O.K. given “how bad it’s been going.” The past five losses have all come with the bullpen playing a central role.
It nearly happened again in the second game, which started at 10 p.m. because of a three-hour rain delay, yet the Mets (26-25) salvaged an 8-5 victory. Contrary to the first game, rookie starting pitcher P.J. Conlon allowed four runs over two innings and his team still won.
After blowing many leads over the weekend versus the Milwaukee Brewers and in the first game on Monday against the Braves, the Mets squandered two more in the nightcap. But a two-run single by rookie infielder Luis Guillorme and run-scoring single shortstop Amed Rosario, who drove in three runs in all, gave the Mets the winning margin in the seventh inning. Relief pitcher Jacob Rhame and closer Jeurys Familia combined for three final scoreless frames.
The game ended at 1:28 a.m., a happy coda on an exhausting day. Many hours earlier, the feeling was much different.
DeGrom’s stellar showing in the afternoon — one run over seven innings — was not enough for a win. A brief downpour in the third inning and a 30-minute delay in the sixth inning didn’t faze him. He pushed through a laborious seventh inning jam and fired 115 pitches on the day.
After Mesoraco gave the Mets the lead again in the top of the ninth inning, Callaway let Lugo hit for himself and take the mound to protect a one-run lead in the bottom half of the frame instead of Familia.
Lugo walked Johan Camargo to start the bottom of the ninth. Two batters later, Charlie Culberson slammed a walk off two-run home run to ruin another strong game by deGrom.
“It’s frustrating when we lose no matter what, whether I’m pitching or not,” deGrom said. And if the Mets hope to turn the season around, they will need to learn how to finish more games started by their best.