WASHINGTON — Tylor Megill’s seventh start of the year was gross enough to flush down the toilet.
Megill, who entered this outing having given up just nine runs in his previous six starts, put his team in an early hole that spelled disaster in Amazin’s 8-3 loss to the Nationals at Nationals Park on Wednesday. .
The Mets’ opening day starter lacked his command and spoiled things on his first hitter of the night. Juan Soto, one of the best hitters in the game and not one to miss an error, smashed Megill’s 97-mile-per-hour fastball that had no zip and flattened out in the middle of The area. Soto’s two-run homer was just the start.
Megill allowed 11 of his first 14 batters to base, including a three-run homer to Nelson Cruz, and also dunked Josh Bell. Manager Buck Showalter saw enough in the second run. Megill had his shortest outing, 1.1 innings, and by far his worst start to the season.
In some ways, Megill was supposed to start like Wednesday. He had been confident and unflappable from his opening day start, when he took the mound in place of Jacob deGrom and dominated on that same National Park mound. Megill made it through his next five starts, against tougher opponents like the Phillies, Giants and Braves, and continued to find success.
Megill entered Wednesday with a 2.43 ERA. After being charged with eight earned runs on eight hits with a walk and strikeout on 54 pitches, he left the stadium with a 4.41 ball ERA.
About the only silver lining the Mets can recognize from Wednesday’s loss is something Mets manager Buck Showalter pointed out earlier in the road trip: it’s easier to save the bullpen in a defeat than in a victory.
After Megill left his outing in the second inning, Showalter only used two pitchers to cover the rest of the distance. Trevor Williams ate 3.2 innings, giving up just two hits and walking one in that span, on 51 pitches — three fewer pitches than Megill. Williams handed the ball to Stephen Nogosek to start the sixth inning. Nogosek, on his debut in the season, copied Williams and kept the Nationals from scoring.
Looking back, the bullpen’s strong performance is the perfect opportunity for the Mets’ offense to tackle the national championships. But Mets hitters, after attacking Nationals right-hander Aaron Sanchez for three runs in the first inning, went cold on him for the next handful of innings. Sanchez retired 11 straight times until a Pete Alonso comeback forced him out of the game with an apparent wrist injury.
There was a block in the middle of the Mets lineup on Wednesday, as Showalter and other team officials moved to put Dominic Smith and Eduardo Escobar 1 for 21 back-to-back in order. Predictably, the structure didn’t yield positive results for most of the game. It wasn’t until the ninth inning that Escobar and McNeil had back-to-back hits, but that game was not being played in Philly, where the Mets rallied for a thrilling seven-run rally in the ninth inning. In the nation’s capital on Wednesday, the rally rat was nowhere to be found.