Mets Relief Corps Collapses Again in Loss to Rays

Bullpen day!! Let’s get into it…

Following a tough loss on Friday, things didn’t exactly get off to a great start for the Mets in Saturday’s matinee showing at The Trop.

Right-hander Drew Smith allowed an unearned run to cross in the first on Tomas Nido’s short-hop throw into second on Joey Wendle’s stolen base attempt, scoring Yandy Diaz (two-out double) from third.

Smith, 27, struck out two in the frame and continued to look effective, he just left one over the plate to Diaz (Wendle’s was a squib into no-man’s-land on the right side). Speed bump, nothing more.

Left-hander Joey Lucchesi was seen warming up in the first but Mets skipper Luis Rojas was apparently comfortable enough going with Smith for another inning that he was told to take a seat.

Smith finished with 24 pitches (17 strikes) over his two frames, likely picking up a dose of confidence along with his three punchouts. That’ll do.

If Smith continues to contribute at a high level — earning more and more of the organization’s trust in the process — he could end up playing a pivotal part in the Mets’ relief corps down the line.

Dominic Smith and James McCann (you were likely surprised to find out which one was DH’ing on Saturday) led off the top of the second with consecutive base hits.

Jonathan Villar (bunt force out) stole second — his third swiped bag this season — and, right on schedule, the New York Mets Bench Mob struck again.

Jeff McNeil (rest) not in the lineup? No problem. Next. Man. Up. Jose Peraza’s first home run with the Mets was a big one (coming off McClanahan’s slider, no less), putting New York ahead early, 3-1.

Rays’ left-hander Shane McClanahan actually looked pretty good for a guy making his fourth MLB appearance. McClanahan, a 2018 first-round pick (compensation A, 31st overall), appears to understand the element of deception very well.

Francisco Lindor didn’t realize he’d looked at a 3-2 four-seamer at the knees in the first until the home-plate umpire rung him up. When McClanahan’s high-velocity slider and changeup both coming in on the same plane, that will happen.

McClanahan darts his four-seamer away to right-handed hitters, who, of course, commit upon seeing a fastball outside only to get played by a two-seam motion that scoots it away even further. Nasty.

But, just as the slider he threw to Peraza did in the previous inning, McClanahan left a hanger down the middle lane to Pete Alonso — without a home run since April 25 — and he clobbered it. As one does…

Lucchesi entered with a clean frame in the third but got knocked around in the fourth. Following his solid appearance last Saturday (3.1 scoreless innings versus Arizona), hopes were high for Joey Fuego to continue on that trajectory.

That wasn’t to be the case.

A leadoff walk to Diaz, a Wendle double, a Manuel Margot RBI single (of course), and a bases-clearing double via Willy Adames — all with no outs — tied the game at four, erasing that comfy three-run cushion awfully quickly.

Some quick thoughts on Joseph Flames…

Lucchesi’s had a tough time settling into a role with New York. He had the same problems in San Diego. Consistency is key. So far in his short career, that fundamental ingredient to success in this league has eluded him.

His last outing was fine, as have been a number of his appearances this season. But you’ve gotta play to your strengths.

In Lucchesi’s case, that determination resides in the hands of the organization, whose primary objective should be to put their players in the position to get the job done and put the team in a better spot to win.

For Lucchesi, he and the Mets may very well be better suited for a short relief role as opposed to the long-man duties he’s been assuming.

Once the Mets’ rotation is whole again — or at least until Carlos Carrasco returns, effectively ending the opener/bullpen days unless needed — Lucchesi can either be optioned to the minors or utilized in another fashion with the big club.

He’s traditionally been an extremely effective pitcher his first time through the lineup (he’s only been hit hard once in his first frame this season; April 17 at COL), but, clearly, guys are picking up on his tricks earlier.

Baseball is a game of adjustments. There’s only so far the arms and legs of a funky motion will take you before professional hitters catch on.

Adding another pitch to his regular repertoire wouldn’t be a terrible idea, either.

As we’ve noted here in the past, the potential is there for Lucchesi. It’s just gotta be unlocked. I’d bet on Jeremy Hefner & Co. finding a way to accomplish that goal.

Back to the game…

Simply Amazin' Ep. 94

Sean Reid-Foley came in to get the final out of the fourth, but that turned into a chore, as well.

Austin Meadows chipped in his 11th double of the season to drive in Adames, sending Tampa ahead, 5-4, and Randy Arozarena singled to bring him home, putting the Rays up, 6-4.

Reid-Foley worked a clean fifth, passing the Mets’ two-run deficit onto right-hander Tommy Hunter in the sixth, who nearly inflated that number when he hit Brandon Lowe with a pitch with two outs to load the bases, but a Diaz flyout ended that threat.

It’s certainly nice to see Hunter get out of these high-leverage spots. It would be nicer to avoid these jams altogether, though they’ll presumably take what they can get. Curious to see how Hunter comes along.

The Mets’ offense was largely non-existent following Alonso’s third-inning homer, going down in order from the fourth through seventh innings.

Hunter squeezed out of a first-and-third/one-out situation in the seventh to keep the Mets in the game. Now they’d just need the offense to wake up from their little afternoon siesta.

Lindor was the first to rise and shine with his third homer of the season leading off the eighth, cutting Tampa’s lead to 6-5.

With the heart of the Mets’ order coming up and the deficit chopped in half, the ideal result would gave been an offensive onslaught. Not to be.

Dom worked a two-out base-on-balls but that was all Rays lefty Jeffrey Springs would allow in the inning after Lindor’s homer.

Jacob Barnes was called on in the eighth to keep the door ajar for the Mets and proceeded to load the bases with none out, ending his day quickly but leaving his line open for Jeurys Familia (0.84 ERA heading into the game).

Diaz’s high hopper nicked off Lindor’s glove, scoring two to make it 8-5, and Barnes’ door was closed on Wendle’s weak bouncer past Lindor (shifted toward second base), scoring two more to make it a 10-5 game.

Brett Phillips knocked in two more later in the frame to make it 12-5 and oof. For this bullpen game thing to work, the importance of making the right calls as the game trudges on is huge.

Just like Trevor May could have taken the ball to start the eighth on Friday as opposed to hoping for the best from David Peterson with a slim lead, Rojas could have easily tabbed Familia to start the frame on Saturday.

Close game. Chance to get back in the win column. Nothing against Barnes, but it wouldn’t have been crazy to go with one of your big arms in that spot.

As noted above, once Carrasco is back in the fold (as well as Noah Syndergaard), the bullpen game should likely be a thing of the past in Flushing.

The Mets close out their series in Tampa on Sunday at 1:10 PM. Marcus Stroman takes the bump looking to build on his upper-echelon level start to the season (2.01 ERA).

Burn the tape on this one. LFGM.

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