Protecting a one-run lead for four innings is a tall ask for the Mets bullpen. It proved to be Mount Everest levels of steep Monday night at Citi Field in a 2-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Mets might have returned home after a 2-4 road trip through Houston and Philadelphia, but the same problems continue to plague them.
Justin Verlander threw five scoreless, but inefficient innings and exited the game with the Mets up 1-0. Brewers right-hander Colin Rea was masterful, no-hitting the Mets (35-43) through four innings. But thanks to the speedy Starling Marte and his base-running abilities, the Mets were able to score in the fourth inning.
But Drew Smith, in his first game back after serving a 10-game suspension for sticky stuff, couldn’t hold the lead. He gave up a two-run homer to rookie Joey Weimer in the sixth to hand the Brewers (41-37) the lead.
“I felt completely normal,” Smith said. “I felt healthy. Physically, I feel really good. They did the check before I went out, kind of got that out of the way and cleared my head. I felt great out there, to be honest. Just two bad pitches in my mind. One that caused damage.”
So it goes for the Mets, who haven’t been able to figure out their pitching issues all season, but the bullpen issues have been particularly egregious in June. The Mets are 6-16 this month and are currently in fourth place in the NL East. The bullpen has been overworked all season as a result of the starting staff being unable to get deep into games, and some of the relief personnel probably punched above their weight before regressing to the mean.
Smith (3-3) might be one of those pitchers. This wasn’t his first blown lead of the season. Though the 29-year-old right-hander has always been a bit homer-prone, Smith seems to be one of a few young pitchers that have regressed this season. He was in the midst of a down season before he sat for 10 games for his hand being too sticky and he now has a 4.74 ERA.
“It seems like he’s right there a lot of times, and he just can’t get that last pitch made in the right place,” said manager Buck Showalter. And I know it’s really frustrating for him.”
Smith rejoined the team in Philadelphia after spending much of the last two weeks in Port St. Lucie throwing in the Florida Complex League to stay sharp during the break. But he wasn’t sharp enough against Wiemer. Smith couldn’t elevate his fastball and left it right over the plate on a 2-2 count.
“The pitch before he swung through and I was kind of trying to throw the same pitch a little higher and yanked it down a little bit,” Smith said. “Not a good spot in a 2-2 count. Just have to execute better.”
Verlander faced traffic on the basepaths early on and used 100 pitches in five innings. The Mets haven’t pushed their pitchers too far past 100 very often and given Verlander’s age (40) and early-season injury (teres major strain), they have taken the conservative route with their $43 million ace. It was a good, gutsy performance, but not necessarily a great one.
“Justin gave us everything he had in the five [innings],” Showalter said. “If we had started [the sixth inning] probably at 90-ish, I would have considered it. But it was a real taxing outing for him with a lot of men on and he’s torquing it and going after every pitch.”
Verlander was introducing some mechanical changes in this outing and lowered his arm slot to be more deceptive.
“It was a bit erratic, which is kind of expected,” Verlander said.”I think, hopefully, that’s a step in the right direction. I thought my stuff was a little bit better and got some better results with things that I saw, and I didn’t give up much that was hard-hit. Hopefully, as those mechanics set in and I get used to them, there’s no way to practice mechanics at game speed without a game.”
Meanwhile, Rea (4-4) pitched around that fourth-inning run. He went 6 1/3 innings and struck out three. One day after refusing to use the best relievers in the bullpen, the Mets used all three high-leverage arms to keep the team in the game but the Mets went quiet against the Milwaukee bullpen and Devin Williams converted the save (14) with a six-pitch ninth inning.
The Mets managed only three hits in the game and continued to sink lower.
“I don’t think anybody saw this coming, man,” Verlander said. “Disappointing. It’s disappointing to everybody in this room, I know, and it’s disappointing for the fans. Just gotta keep trying. If there’s one thing I know guys in this room are doing is trying their ass off. We’ve got to get going — soon.”
Source: Berkshire mont