Mets come from behind in Atlanta again, but lose finale on ninth inning blunders

The Mets had a chance to reestablish dominance over the Braves on Thursday night. Atlanta destroyed New York on Wednesday in a 20-2 drubbing that started with a two-run home run by Pete Alonso and ended with 20 straight Atlanta runs and Albert Almora Jr. on the mound for the Mets. Thursday was supposed to be different with Jacob deGrom starting the game and putting an end to the rut that had New York losing three out of four games.

In a way, Thursday was a return to normalcy. deGrom struck out 14 Atlanta batters, including three victimizations of Freddie Freeman and eight in a row at one point. However, a rough first inning allowed the Braves to take an early 3-1 lead that they maintained until the ninth.

Ehire Adrianza led off with a ground-ball triple that barley escaped Pete Alonso’s reach and rolled into the right field corner. Jeff McNeil’s relay throw beat Adrianza to third, but Luis Guillorme whiffed on the tag. Ozzie Albies would single to drive in Adrianza, but the major damage was done when Austin Riley hit a laser beam home run off a 100-mph deGrom fastball.

The Mets’ feeble offense couldn’t get much going against Atlanta starter Ian Anderson, but Dominic Smith homered off him in the seventh and then against off of Will Smith in the ninth to tie the score. It was great to see Smith, who is one of many Mets to see their power disappear in 2021, mash a couple of taters when New York desperately needed them. Now we just need Jeff McNeil, Francisco Lindor, and Michael Conforto — you know, the whole top of the order — to get going and the offense will be all set.

Anyway, Seth Lugo took the mound to try to send the game into extra innings in the bottom of the ninth. That put me in a tough spot because I want the Mets to win, but think that extra innings this season are such a sham with the runner-on-second rule in place. Still, the Mets always come first, so I wasn’t thrilled when Guillermo Heredia led off with a little dribbler that Lugo threw into the camera well after he slipped while trying to field the ball.

Heredia did a good job getting to third base on a slow comebacker by Pablo Sandoval, and that turned out to be important because Lugo quickly got a second out by striking out Kevan Smith. With the winning run on third, Luis Rojas opted to walk Ronald Acuna Jr. and pit Lugo against Ender Inciarte with the game on the line. That seemed like a solid plan when Lugo went up 0-2, but then the veteran reliever started nibbling and let Inciarte off the hook with a walk.

Lugo vs. Inciarte in the bottom of the ninth

That’s not great. Especially when Freddie Freeman is up next and he had already struck out four times in the game. He wasn’t going to wear a platinum sombrero, and he made sure of that by hitting Lugo’s first offering right up the middle. The ball caromed off of Lugo foot and rolled towards third base. With the shift on, Luis Guillorme had a ways to go to pick up the ball. By the time he got there, there wasn’t enough time to get Freeman at first.

Unbeknownst to Guillorme was Acuna taking his sweet ass time from second base. The foot race to third was actually New York’s best chance at getting the third out, but Guillorme did not realize it given the unusual nature of the play.

It’s not Guillorme’s fault, anyway. The Mets did this to themselves with Lugo throwing away a ball that he should have kept in his pocket and then walking Inciarte after going ahead 0-2. Oh well. Thanks to the Dodgers beating Washington, the Mets still lead the National League East by two games, but who knows how long that will last. Next up are three games in the Bronx against a Yankees team that is desperate for some wins. It should be an intense holiday weekend of baseball with both New York teams needing to take the series.

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