The way this season is starting out for the Mets, Sunday's 11-inning loss to the Nationals may come back to haunt them in September when the two teams are jostling to stay out of the cellar in the NL East.
The Mets lost their opening home series of the year to one of the most inferior teams on their schedule, burning a sterling seven innings from starter Chris Young and blowing a 3-1 lead in a 7-3 loss. The Mets' bullpen was so bad that GM Sandy Alderson is bringing in his second unit to relieve the relievers, adding Jason Isringhausen and Ryota Igarashi to try to stop these late-inning meltdowns.
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The issue Sunday was not all about the bullpen, though. There was the Mets getting only one hit in the final six innings; two misplayed fly balls that should have been outs when the Nationals scored twice to tie it in the eighth, and some questionable decisions by the manager. But it was the guys who tried to follow Young -- D.J. Carrasco and Blaine Boyer in particular, who gave up the six runs -- who faced the brunt of the scrutiny.
"It's horrible," Carrasco said. "To give the game away like that is very frustrating."
"I can't even put it into words," losing pitcher Boyer (0-2) said of letting Young's effort go to waste. "It's an utter letdown. You feel disgusted with yourself."
And that was before he learned that he'd been designated for assignment.
Young walked off the mound after the seventh, his fifth 1-2-3 inning of the game, with the song "Forever Young" by Alphaville blasting through the sound system and a feel-good vibe in front of 35,157 at Citi Field. Sadly, forever lasted only 108 pitches. He allowed one run and one hit, but given his history of injuries, manager Terry Collins opted to remove him at that point. He called on Carrasco, who had pitched well.
Ivan Rodriguez led off the eighth with a double over rightfielder Lucas Duda, who was playing in place of Carlos Beltran and took a bad angle on what should have been an out. Two batters later, Ian Desmond popped a short fly to center that Angel Pagan took two steps back on. That single allowed Rodriguez to score from second and sent pinch runner Jerry Hairston Jr. to third. Hairston scored the tying run when Rick Ankiel grounded out to second.
"That's my fault. It should have been an out," said Duda, who was optioned to Buffalo after the game. "I just took a bad route and I got beat. I take full responsibility for that. I feel like it kind of cost us the game."
As for having Duda in the game instead of a more reliable defensive player such as Scott Hairston or even Beltran, who later pinch hit, Collins said he stuck with familiarity. "Duda's had probably the most experience in rightfield of all those guys," he said. "The ball just got over his head."
The Mets scored twice in the first on RBI singles by David Wright and Pagan and added a third run in the fifth on Ike Davis' single. But they struck out 17 times -- nine against starter Jason Marquis -- and their only hit against the Nats' pen came in the 10th off winning pitcher Drew Storen (1-1).
Not all parts of the Mets' bullpen were dysfunctional. Tim Byrdak and Francisco Rodriguez teamed up to get out of the ninth after the Nats put a runner on second with one out. And Boyer threw a 1-2-3 10th, calling it "the first time I felt like myself this year."
But in the 11th, Adam LaRoche singled to right-center against the defensive shift and was bunted to second before pinch runner Wilson Ramos scored on Rodriguez's single.
Then Laynce Nix drilled a three-run homer into the Mets' bullpen in right, which probably was just about the time Alderson was speed-dialing Port St. Lucie to tell Isringhausen the good news.