Pitcher’s Duel Precedes Bullpen Meltdown By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
Father’s Day, it’s a special day on the calendar when you celebrate everything your Dad has done for you during your life. For many baseball fans, the sport they love fits in very nicely with the holiday. A lot of times – not every time – it is your Dad who introduces you to America’s National Pastime. It starts with a simple game of catch. For some, it goes all the way to playing organized games. Or in the case of the NY Mets’ players, it goes all the way to playing baseball at the highest level in the world.
Sunday afternoon at Citi Field the Mets sent righty Chris Bassitt to the mound to oppose Miami’s CY Young hopeful, fellow righty, Sandy Alcantara. The result was a 6-2 loss for the hometown Mets. The key factors in the outcome were: a “blast from the past” bullpen meltdown by Seth Lugo and an inability to crack the code of Sandy Alcantara.
Coming off a season-high, eight-scoreless innings against Milwaukee in his last start, Bassitt entered Sunday’s matchup looking to build off his previous start. Having never faced the Marlins in his career, Bassitt initially had the element of surprise on his side. By the time he hit the showers, Bassitt had hurled 6⅓ innings while allowing five-hits, two-walks and punched out nine batters. (The nine strikeouts are a season-high).
Bassitt was dominant through the first six (scoreless) innings, so Manager Buck Showalter decided – perhaps surprisingly, given his high pitch count (97 pitches) – to trot him back out there for the seventh. That’s when the wheels came off as Bassitt gave up two-hits and one-walk to load the bases before being yanked for Seth Lugo with only one-out.
The first batter Lugo faced was Jerar Encarnacion, who was making his MLB Debut. Lo and behold, Lugo surrendered a grand-slam, home run to right field for Encarnacion’s first Big-League homer, giving the Marlins a 4-1 lead. A walk to Jazz Chisholm Jr. was followed by an RBI double off the bat of Jon Berti – giving the Marlins a five-spot – before Lugo retired Avisail Garcia to end the inning amid a chorus of boos.
Unlike Bassitt against Miami’s hitters, Alcantara was no mystery for the Mets as they had faced him 11 previous times coming into the game. However, that familiarity did not help New York as Alcantara continued to build his case for this season’s NL CY Young Award. In eight-innings pitched Miami’s ace held the Mets to just six-hits and two-runs while walking one and striking out eight.
True to the game’s billing, the starting pitchers dueled it out on the mound with neither team able to muster a single run through the first five-and-a-half innings of the game. Alcantara was the more economical of the two while Bassitt came out on fire; striking out six of the first 10 batters he faced.
Alcantara was the first pitcher to blink, but he didn’t break. With two-outs in the bottom of the sixth, Starling Marte hit a triple to center field to give the Mets only their second runner in scoring position of the game. The red-hot Francisco Lindor promptly drove in Marte with an RBI single for the first run of the game. 1-0 Mets.
It was after Lindor’s clutch hit that Mets’ Skipper Buck Showalter made the decision to keep Bassitt in the game for the start of the seventh-inning. And as we already detailed, that’s when the game went South for New York. In his post-game media availability, Showalter explained that his decision to leave Bassitt in was a combination of the righty dealing and the desire to stay away from certain arms in the bullpen who had been worked hard of late.
Jeff McNeil attempted to get the Mets back on track with a leadoff double to start the bottom of the seventh. A groundout by Eduardo Escobar moved him to third before Luis Guillorme drove him in with an RBI single to bring the Mets within 5-2. However, Alcantara struckout Nick Plummer and Tomas Nido in succession to end the Mets’ threat.
The Marlins added an insurance run in the top of the ninth after an error by Escobar allowed Encarnacion to reach base with one-out against Tommy Hunter. Chisholm Jr. then doubled him in to increase Miami’s lead to 6-2.
The Marlins brought Tanner Scott in to start the bottom of the ninth; replacing Alcantara after eight sterling innings. Scott promptly walked Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil to give the Mets some life. But Scott rebounded to strike out Escobar before getting pinch-hitter, Mark Canha to flyout to right to bring the Mets down to their final out. J.D. Davis then pinch-hit for Plummer as Alonso and McNeil each advanced; to third and second respectively. Davis grounded out to short to end the game, giving the Marlins the 6-2 victory.