ATLANTA — Everything went wrong for the Mets in Atlanta this week. Just when it finally looked like things were going to be okay, the Mets somehow found a way to lose in an even more heartbreaking way than the previous two games.
The Braves got it right by scoring in the 10th to secure a 13-10 victory and a series sweep Thursday night at Truist Park. Raisel Iglesias (2-2) put the Mets in order in the top of the 10th and Tommy Hunter (0-1) gave up a three-point bomb to Ozzie Albies to extend the Mets losing streak to six.
It was a punch of a loss against the best team in Eastern Newfoundland. Clubhouse optimism is being tested, but the Mets are adamant that their fire has not been extinguished.
“It’s not a fun part to go through. That’s not how you look at it,” said outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who scored a grand slam off Atlanta ace Spencer Strider in the second inning to give the Mets a 5-3 lead. “But your only option is to keep pushing and pushing through, and put a lot of hope in that, tomorrow you’re going to turn it around. At any moment you can turn things into a 10-game winning streak. You have no choice but to believe it unless you want to give up.
Between Nimmo’s grand slam, two homers from Francisco Alvarez and multi-hit performances from Jeff McNeil, Francisco Lindor, Brett Baty and Starling Marte, the Mets scored 10 runs on 14 hits. But an abysmal pitching performance from Justin Verlander and a porous bullpen left a packed crowd feeling like the Mets were the ones chasing the game, even when the score said otherwise.
“I thought to myself, ‘This is going to be a high-scoring game, so we better keep our foot on the pedal and keep going,'” Nimmo said. “It was just kind of a feeling. Both offenses clicked and we know what Atlanta is still capable of. They love to play here and they are very, very good here and they never get away with it here.
The Braves were still in the game in the ninth inning when Orlando Arcia pushed David Robertson deep on a full count to tie the game at 10-10 and send him into extra innings.
“It’s frustrating because I made the pitch where I wanted to get it,” Robertson said. “If I could take it back, I might try a breaking ball, but I don’t know if that would work better either.”
The Mets (30-33) emptied the bullpen, using Stephen Nogosek, Jeff Brigham, Brooks Raley, Drew Smith and Robertson to get them through nine innings after Verlander lasted just three.
Verlander put the Mets down 3-0 in the first inning and by the time he exited the game after the third, the Braves (38-24) had scored two more.
Five runs (four earned) on seven hits with four walks and just three strikeouts isn’t what the Mets expected when they signed defending AL Cy Young Award winner. Verlander had a few gems, but more often than not he didn’t reach the level anyone expects of him. A 4.85 ERA is not a $43 million ERA.
“This guy did it at a quality level and he feels good,” Showalter said. “I think he will continue to throw well as we go forward.”
While the manager has continued to play down any concerns over the lack of consistency in Verlander’s departure, the right-hander himself has expressed plenty. His main concern seems to be that he doesn’t have an answer.
“I feel good physically and looking at all the metrics and everything from the last few years, last year, until now, it all looks the same,” Verlander said. “Mechanically, the shape of the pitch, the rotation of the pitch – anything you can look at. There’s something out there and I’m going to find it.
Alvarez’s first homer of the night was a two-run shot from Strider in the fourth. Nogosek gave up a homer in the fifth to Marcell Ozuna to make it 9-6, but Alvarez’s second homer of the night came late in the inning against right-hander Michael Tonkin to make it 10-6.
The Mets scored in the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings, but after starting with a lead in the first, the Braves scored again in the third, fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth and 10th.
Smith and Robertson’s outings did not go as planned. It was the third time in two weeks the Mets had scored 10 runs and managed to lose, pointing to bigger throwing issues.
It was a wild contest with canceled calls, mistakes and a Braves fan who nearly beat the infamous Freeze.
If there’s anything to take away from this one, it’s that the Mets unlocked something by using Alvarez as their designated hitter. He now has 11 home runs this season, which is tied with Lindor for the second most on the team. It was his second multi-circuit contest in just 46 Major League games.
The Mets need to keep their rookie catcher’s bat in the lineup as much as possible and find a way to fix their brawl pitchers.