Mets Push Falls Short, Lose Opener to Pads

Despite taking the loss, this team just doesn't quit; says a lot...

We knew this wouldn’t be a weekend at the beach.

San Diego, losers of four in a row heading into Thursday and a full game behind the upstart Giants in the NL West, had their ace on the hill in Yu Darvish and, somewhat unexpectedly, their star hitter in the lineup, as well.

Fernando Tatis Jr., arguably the most exciting player in the game today, was questionable for the start of this series after missing the final game of the Padres’ series in Chicago on Wednesday with oblique tightness.

The team took the “precautionary reasons” avenue in explaining Tatis’ removal on Tuesday versus the Cubs and Padres manager Jayce Tingler expressed optimism at the time.

Turns out they were spot on in their early diagnosis as the 22-year-old wunderkind was Sharpie’d into the Friars’ lineup at shortstop, hitting fourth. His exploits would play heavily in the first of four at gorgeous Petco Park.

Taijuan Walker entered the night with a 1.84 ERA (fifth in MLB), 2.62 FIP (eighth), and 0.18 home runs allowed per nine innings, good for second in baseball among qualified starters.

To say the 28-year-old right-hander has been a linchpin in this Mets’ rotation (2.94 ERA was best in baseball entering Thursday) would be a massive understatement. This no-easy-out Padres lineup would be a telling litmus test for him.

Darvish needs no fancy lead-in. We know just how dangerous he can be. And what a joy he is to watch work.

It should be noted, @victor_okc on Twitter picked up a pretty clear shot of the right-hander going to the inside of his glove with his fingertips early in the game. Make of that what you will.

Let’s get to it…

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Walker labored early on but avoided damage in both instances, flying out Wil Myers to close out the first and striking out Jurickson Profar to end the second, leaving two runners stranded in each frame.

The good fortune wouldn’t last.

A leadoff walk to Manny Machado in the third set the table for Tatis, who crushed a two-run shot to dead-centerfield that popped out of Mason Williams’ glove as it came into contact with the top of the wall to give San Diego a 2-0 lead.

Darvish collected his second hit of the night — a double down the line in right — to put men on second and third with one out in the fourth and Profar blooped an RBI base hit into shallow left field to plate Caratini, extending San Diego’s lead to 3-0.

Williams picked up the Mets’ first hit of the night with a deflected single off Jake Cronenworth’s glove at first base with two outs in the fifth. Jose Peraza followed with a base hit behind him, and the Mets were faced with a decision.

After piling up 81 pitches over four innings of work, Mets skipper Luis Rojas could have been well-served pinch-hitting for Walker following Peraza’s hit.

Unfortunately, there was no one warming in the bullpen and Walker was left to hit for himself, grounding out to end the threat.

With the Mets’ bullpen worn thin following David Peterson’s early exit and a bullpen day presumably on the docket for Friday, keeping Walker in through five (or as long as possible) may have been the plan all along, regardless of the outcome.

Only thing is, with Darvish on the mound, game-tying opportunities wouldn’t be easy to come by. Rock, meet hard place. Onward.

Walker nearly escaped the fifth scoreless before Tatis scampered home on a two-strike, two-out wild pitch to Ha-Seong Kim, putting San Diego up 4-0.

With three earned runs allowed over his five innings of work (seven hits, four walks, two strikeouts), Walker’s ERA increased to 2.17 on the season. He just didn’t appear to have it tonight. That will happen.

Get. It. Back.

Coming into the night, James McCann was 9-for-his-last 18 with two homers, three doubles, and seven RBIs. The man on fire would continue his streak of extremely timely hitting.

Francisco Lindor, entering the series on a little tear of his own (9-for-23, 2B, 3B, HR), singled in front of McCann, and the 30-year-old backstop sent a lined-rocket into the hands of a Mets fan in the first row out in left field to cut the Padres’ lead to 4-2.

James McCann putting the Mets’ offense on his back at a time they needed him — anyone — to do so in the worst way gets filed under “Didn’t See That Coming”. That’s baseball, baby.

Darvish hit Dominic Smith on the foot with a pitch in the next at-bat, ending his night after 90 pitches over 5.1 innings, and here’s your chance, boys.

Billy McKinney drew a walk against new Friars hurler Tim Hill, and Tatis’ drop at second on Brandon Drury’s would-be double-play ball loaded the bases with one out for pinch-hitter Pete Alonso, who was simply getting a controversy-free night off.

The high drama only lasted a few pitches as Hill induced an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play to quash the rally. Still some time to rectify that.

Jacob Barnes needed just 24 pitches to get through two scoreless frames, keeping the Mets within arm’s reach heading into the home stretch.

And, right on cue, this team came alive again. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough.

Lindor drew a leadoff walk in the eighth and McKinney brought him home with a triple into the right-field corner to make it a 4-3 game, Aaron Loup put up a perfect frame in the bottom half, and this team just won’t say die…

Tomas Nido, pinch-hitting for Loup, singled to lead off the ninth and Peraza walked behind him, but neither Travis Blankenhorn nor Kevin Pillar could get anything cooking, as the latter’s double-play ended the game.

The Braves won on Thursday, cutting the Mets’ division lead to 3.5 games heading into the weekend.

Joey Lucchesi takes the hill against his former club on Friday night, squaring off with left-hander Blake Snell at 10:10 PM EST on SNY.


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