In a year when it seems nothing is normal, there is at least this: The Mets’ bullpen still is inducing agita.
As the Mets fell to the Yankees twice in eight innings, 8-7 and 5-2, on Sunday, their relievers blew both games.
The opener was perhaps the Mets’ worst loss of the season. Up by five with one out to go and one runner on base, Jared Hughes and Edwin Diaz combined for an epic meltdown in the seventh — the final frame of doubleheader games — capped by Aaron Hicks’ tying two-run home run. Gio Urshela won it in the eighth with a walk-off two-out bloop single off Diaz, who suffered the blown save and loss.
A few hours later, Drew Smith gave up an eighth-inning grand slam to pinch hitter Gary Sanchez, a 453-foot blast that landed in the bleachers in leftfield, beyond the visitors’ bullpen. Wilson Ramos, the potential winning run, struck out with the bases loaded to end it.
“We’ve been here before. Those are a couple of tough losses,” said Seth Lugo, a recent bullpen defector who allowed one run in 3 2⁄3 innings in his Game 2 start. “But if we’re going to be where we need to be, we need to show up tomorrow ready to play and ready to play hard.”
Diaz, with a 2.77 ERA, has two saves and four blown saves for the Mets (15-19). “We still trust him,” manager Luis Rojas said. “We still love his stuff. And that’s when he’s going to get the ball, when there’s tight situations.”
Diaz said through an interpreter: “Of course I’m upset, but it’s something where I want to continue working and be able to go out there next time to do my job.”
Rojas had Hughes and Smith warming up in the top of the seventh of the first game, but in the bottom of the inning, he opted for Hughes, who pitched for a third day in a row.
With a bigger lead, he would have gone with Smith, Rojas said, but even though the Mets had a five-run margin against the bottom half of an injury-depleted Yankees lineup, he was not comfortable giving him the ball because he was just called up Sunday morning. When Smith wound up in a more high-pressure spot later, it was because he was “basically our last reliever,” Rojas said.
Rojas also thought Hughes’ sinker would sink more if he was tired.
“We got out of him what we wanted as far as attacking the batters,” Rojas said.
Mike Ford began the inning by reaching on Andres Gimenez’s throwing error, but Hughes retired the next two hitters. The Yankees loaded the bases when Tyler Wade walked and Thairo Estrada got hit by a pitch. Luke Voit’s check-swing single, grounded through the right side of the infield — wide open because of a shift — drove in two runs.
Then came another critical miscue: Michael Conforto nearly ended the game by throwing out Estrada at third on the play, but Gimenez dropped the ball as he applied the tag.
Then Diaz entered, and the situation had deteriorated so quickly that he did not complete his usual pre-appearance routine, he said. A wild pitch produced another run and Hicks’ homer tied it. “I thought I was going to be able to get him out, but he ended up hitting a home run,” Diaz said.
Rojas added: “The slider wasn’t there like it’s been in the outings that we’ve seen him be dominant. He was a one-pitch guy almost. That’s when they went after the fastball.”
After that, the Mets looked unenthused for most of the second game, scoring an unearned run in six innings against touted Yankees prospect Deivi Garcia, a 21-year-old righthander making his major-league debut. “It was a tough day for us,” Diaz said. “That first game we thought we had a win there, but we weren’t able to get the job done.”
The second game, too.