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When a team leaves eight men on base like the Mets did on Saturday night, their pitchers have to execute every pitch, or risk missing one spot and taking an unfortunate loss.
That’s exactly what happened to Chris Bassitt, who gave the Mets seven strong innings, but threw an ill-fated two-strike slider to Manny Machado that became a two-run homer. The Mets had at least one runner on in the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth and ninth inning, but couldn’t break through. It was a deflating 2-1 loss for the home team, but as anyone who watched the game will attest to, it was one that they deserved.
“We had some opportunities,” Buck Showalter mourned afterward. “We just couldn’t get that hit to put us over the hump.”
Padres’ starter Blake Snell should think about opening an escape room after this one. He allowed four hits and two walks, driving up his pitch count and forcing him out after five frames, but a zero in the run column brings the lefty’s ERA back beneath 5.00. Every time Snell needed a big out, whether it was via the double play or a strikeout, he got it. The Mets struck out five times against the former Cy Young winner.
Bassitt cruised through the first five innings and looked like a man possessed from the very first batter he faced, who was banished with a 92 mile per hour cutter for strike three. In watching Bassitt during pregame, it’s impossible to tell whether he’s gearing up for a start or pregaming for a house party. On Saturday, as new teammate Daniel Vogelbach enjoyed his first Citi Field scrum, Bassitt played a rousing game of ping pong, peppering the background of Vogelbach’s interviews with obscenities, his blue cutoff shirt seeming to bounce off the walls as he returned Patrick Mazeika’s shots.
Many pitchers treat their start day like a religious holiday, eschewing any distractions or even social interaction at all. Not Bassitt, who followed the heated ping pong game with a career-high 11 strikeouts. Bassitt also did not walk anybody, becoming the first Met pitcher of the year to go seven innings with 11 K’s and no walks.
“A lot of times when you have that much time off, you don’t know how the feel is going to be,” Showalter said. “He had good command of the curveball, slider obviously was strong. He gave us a chance, a really good chance.”
For the second straight night, a Padre home run came directly after a pitch that could have been called strike three. On Friday, it was Trent Grisham putting one into the visitor’s bullpen against Joely Rodriguez to extend San Diego’s lead. On Saturday, it was Machado’s turn, but this time the long ball broke a scoreless tie and ended up deciding the game.
Bassitt’s 0-2 pitch to Machado in the sixth inning was a slider. Had it been a fastball, he might have gotten the call up in the zone, but breaking pitches in that location have a tendency to create an optical illusion for umpires. Home plate umpire Jim Wolf ruled the pitch to be a few threads too high, and the next pitch was another slider that screamed over the left field wall at 106.7 miles per hour, the hardest hit ball from either side.
Tough break, Bass.
“It’s part of the game,” Bassit opened, before a slight dig. “It’s okay that he missed it, I just have to make a much better pitch after that. That was a terrible pitch.”
San Diego’s bullpen spun the final four innings to give Snell the win. Adrian Morejon and his high-emission fastball struck out the side in order to retire the Mets in the seventh, then he came back for the eighth and got Brandon Nimmo with 98 mile per hour cheese after Tomas Nido’s single. Setup man Luis Garcia and closer Taylor Rogers drove things home for the final five outs, and in the span of 48 hours, San Diego had already clinched a series victory.
So far into their second half, the Mets have not looked like the team they were in April and May. It’s literally only two games, and injuries haven’t helped, but as Showalter is fond of saying, nobody is going to feel sorry for them. Sunday’s series finale is now an important game mentally for the Mets, who are clinging to a slim half-game lead over the resilient Braves.
There is a lot of season left, but every loss counts, and two in a row coming out of the All-Star break is never a good omen.
“I’ll be pretty upset if I’m losing in the playoffs, come that time,” Bassitt said. “Right now, just keep grinding. I know these games are frustrating from all standpoints but overall, it’s okay.”