LOS ANGELES –Like the prizefighter he is, Jacob deGrom absorbed some body blows Monday against the Dodgers, but never let the game get away from him.
Yet, in doing all that, deGrom needed to use 105 pitches in five innings. He left it all on the field, but, baseball is a nine-inning game. There were still 12 outs to go.
And this Mets bullpen didn’t offer any relief.
Tyler Bashlor and Daniel Zamora allowed six runs right after deGrom left the game, and a late rally fell short in a 9-5 loss to the Dodgers. The Mets’ (26-27) bullpen has blown seven leads in the last seven games.
“The thing that changed the game and won the game for them, was getting Jacob out after every five innings,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said after dropping the opener of this road trip. “Made us go to our pen earlier than we wanted to.”
The Mets also ran into three outs, including when Cody Bellinger threw out Carlos Gomez while he tried to advance on a potential sacrifice fly, which prevented the run.
“It was just an unbelievable throw. You’re going to see that on highlights for 30 years, they’re going to be playing that over and over,” Callaway said. “Like one of those throws (Vladimir Guerrero) made 20 years ago. Just an unbelievable play.”
Though the Mets’ bullpen has been one of the better units in baseball this month, posting the third-lowest ERA in baseball entering the game, cracks are starting to show. The middle relievers are not holding leads, and closer Edwin Diaz has been overtaxed lately while the team has played in close games.
DeGrom did his part to help the Mets win on Monday, exiting with a 3-2 lead.
He allowed a first-inning run after loading the bases with no outs, and later surrendered a solo shot to Cody Bellinger in the third. The Dodgers had their chances to crack him for more runs, but he showed why he’s an ace.
The reigning NL Cy Young winner ended his day working out of a two-on, no-out jam in the fifth against the heart of the order. He twice retired Bellinger on a pop out with a runner on third and one or no outs, including in the fifth in a 3-2 game.
Callaway said deGrom was “spent” after those five laborious innings. DeGrom threw 25, 28, 13, 18 and 21 pitches in his innings.
“Felt like early on I had good command,” deGrom said. “I didn’t have my best stuff tonight, but I was able to battle. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to win that game.”
Getting four clean innings from a bullpen against the Dodgers is challenging even when the bullpen is fully rested and has all its integral pieces, but the Mets were working from a position of weakness Monday.
Diaz was unavailable after throwing 45 pitches the previous two days, and Seth Lugo (shoulder tendinitis) and Justin Wilson (elbow soreness) are sidelined.
Callaway first went to Bashlor, wanting Bashlor against the bottom of the Dodgers’ lineup –which featured two righties.
He planned to have Robert Gsellman, Drew Gagnon and Jeurys Familia combined for the last nine outs, and also had Daniel Zamora available to face a lefty.
That plan was derailed after just two batters when Bashlor allowed a game-tying homer to Chris Taylor, the first righty he faced.
Two more hits by righties against Bashlor made it an easy call for Callaway to go to Zamora, even though the Dodgers had lefty masher Enrique Hernandez available.
Bashlor has now blown a lead in each of his last three outings.
“I caught too much of the plate with two strikes,” Bashlor said. “Got beat.”
Zamora got ahead, 0-2, against Hernandez, but a third straight down-and-in pitch landed over the wall to give the Dodgers a 6-3 lead.
The first five batters to face Zamora all reached base, and Drew Gagnon allowed the bullpen’s seventh run in the eighth inning to make it a 9-5 game.
This game showcased how much the Mets miss Lugo, who’s ability to provide multiple, quality innings makes the bullpen stronger.
“When he’s not here, other guys got to step up and get it done,” Callaway said. “It was set up pretty good for Bash, bottom of the lineup, righties coming up.”
The Mets had a chance to overcome the bullpen’s woes, but Bellinger made his second fantastic throw to cut down a runner in the eighth.
With the bases loaded and one out in the eighth in an 8-5 game, J.D. Davis, who homered off Kershaw to give the Mets a 3-2 lead in the fifth, hit a fly ball to right.
Bellinger caught it around medium depth, and uncorked a throw to third.
Gomez, a fast runner, decided to go since a poor throw could plate another run. Bellinger’s throw, though, beat him as he missed the bag with his right hand.
Tomas Nido, who is slow, did not tag home before Gomez was tagged, and the Mets ran themselves out of an inning. Nido also was thrown out at home by Corey Seager for the second out in the fifth, right before Davis’ two-out homer.
“I take my chance, and he makes a good throw,” Gomez said. “If I’m second again, I go to third, 100 times.”
The Dodgers’ dazzling brand of baseball was a stunning change after the Mets went 9-6 against a cupcake schedule featuring the Marlins, Nationals, and Tigers.
Well, the Mets aren’t in Cupcake City anymore, and they saw how good the best team in the National League is both with its bats and gloves.
“They made three really great throws tonight. They played really great defense,” Callaway said. “You swing the bats like they do and play great defense and Kershaw is on the mound, they’re going to be tough to beat.”