ATLANTA — Luis Rojas has long preached the gospel of resilience. He talks about it when the Mets come from behind, or when yet another player goes down with an injury. The Mets’ manager had to be thinking about it on Thursday night, when the best player on the team, Jacob deGrom, came out looking remarkably human.
And for a minute there, things did seem to go according to plan — the Mets took deGrom off the hook and they even tied the score in the ninth inning. But resilience can’t account for slow rollers or bad bounces or walk-off hits by All-Stars that bounce off the heel of a pitcher’s glove.
With the score tied in the bottom of the ninth, Guillermo Heredia hit a slow roller to the left of the mound, which Seth Lugo dived to reach, but instead of eating the ball, he threw it away, landing Heredia at second with no outs. Two walks — one intentional and one not — loaded the bases with two outs, and then Freddie Freeman hit a comebacker that bounced off Lugo’s glove for an infield hit, scoring Heredia as Atlanta took the rubber game, 4-3, at Truist Park.
Luis Guillorme made a play on the ball and potentially had a force play at third with Robert Acuna Jr running, but with momentum taking him toward first and no vision of the runner behind him, he went to first, where Freeman was ruled safe.
"I was one of the few that was yelling from the dugout about having a chance at third base, but looking at it from our angle, you can see Acuna’s distance and how he was running but from Guillorme’s angle, (he had) a commitment to make a play," Rojas said. "He’s coming in to make a do-or-die play. He’s not aware of where Acuna is."
Added Lugo: "I was trying to yell at him, but it was pretty loud out there. I understand it’s tough to hear. It’s tough to be able to make that reaction in real time. That’s just the way it goes."
Before that, Dom Smith, who had already hit a solo homer to draw the Mets to within one in the seventh inning, did it again in the ninth, pummeling Will Smith’s 83-mph slider to right to tie it at 3.
That erased a surprising early deficit. DeGrom, whose consistent dominance is nothing short of automatic, was human, and Atlanta took advantage: triple, single, home run and three runs allowed, all in the first inning.
DeGrom’s performance was a true rarity: He allowed three earned runs for the first time since September 2020, but nothing after the first inning. He tossed seven innings, allowing five hits with 14 strikeouts and a home run — only the fourth he’s allowed this season. His ERA jumped from 0.69 to 0.95, still the best in baseball by a big margin.
The Mets got their first run courtesy of some aggressive baserunning by Francisco Lindor. Ian Anderson walked him with one out in the first and then Lindor easily stole second without a throw. Michael Conforto drove him in with an RBI single to left.
And though one run is often enough for deGrom, this time, it didn’t even last three batters. He allowed a leadoff triple down the rightfield line by Ehire Adrianza, who just barely beat the tag, and, with one out, a red-hot Ozzie Albies singled to tie it at 1. Then, Austin Riley hit an opposite-field homer off an outside fastball, putting Atlanta up 3-1.
"I was pretty mad" about the Riley homer, deGrom said. "I said to James (McCann), how did he hit that? Then I said to Hef (Jeremy Hefner), that’s all they get. I had to turn the page there and go out and try to put up zeros the rest of the game.
Atlanta picked up where it left off in the second, with the first two batters reaching on a double and a single, but deGrom struck out the next three swinging.
That’s all he would need to return to vintage form, as he retired the next 16 batters in a row, 12 via the strikeout. At one point, he struck out eight batters in a row.
In the end, though, the Mets were undone by "little things that end up being big things," Rojas said. "But what can we do? Like I say every day, these things make us better. We’ve just got to get on that plane to New York and prepare for the Yankees."