ATLANTA — It was a similar story with the same painful ending — the one in which a Mets reliever walks dejectedly off the field with another tick in the loss column. It’s the ending in which Mickey Callaway talks about how things just aren’t going great right now. The one in which another Mets starter shrugs and calls it frustrating, because what else can you say when your team loses a game you gave it every chance to win?
The Mets are tired of this rerun right now.
Seth Lugo, arguably their best reliever of late, let them down Monday, giving up a walk-off two-run homer by pinch hitter Charlie Culberson as the Braves won, 4-3, in Game 1 of a split doubleheader. The Mets beat the Braves, 8-5, in Game 2, which didn’t start until 10:07 p.m. after a rain delay of 2 hours, 57 minutes and ended at 1:28 a.m., more than 12 hours after Game 1 began.
Entering Game 2, the bullpen had given up 21 runs in four games (12 innings) and had a 4.28 ERA. That same bullpen had a 1.67 ERA during the Mets’ 11-1 start. The Game 1 loss temporarily dropped them to .500. “I feel OK that we’re 25-25, to tell you the truth,’’ Callaway said. “That’s how bad it’s been going.”
Jacob deGrom (4-0, 1.52 ERA) again lacked run support, taking his seventh no-decision of the season despite giving up only one run, five hits and three walks in seven innings. He struck out eight and threw a gritty 115 pitches. He also survived two stoppages: a short one in the third during a passing shower and a rainless 31-minute rain delay in the sixth. It was his sixth no-decision that ended in a loss.
“Things just aren’t going our way,” Callaway said. “I think [the bullpen] will snap out of it eventually. It’s tough right now. We had one of our best relievers in the game and we just lost it.”
The Mets were nursing a 2-1 lead in the eighth when Callaway brought in Lugo, riding a 17-inning scoreless streak. Ozzie Albies led off with a bunt single and reached third on Freddie Freeman’s single. Nick Markakis’ sacrifice fly to right tied it at 2.
The Mets untied it the next inning when Devin Mesoraco, who homered in the ninth Sunday against Milwaukee, repeated the feat, taking Shane Carle deep to left to give the Mets a 3-2 lead. It was his fifth homer since the May 8 trade from the Reds.
Callaway made the unorthodox decision to keep closer Jeurys Familia in the bullpen and sent out Lugo to face the bottom of the order. He walked Johan Camargo, induced a lineout, then served up a slider that stayed in the zone, and Culberson drove a no-doubter to left-center.
Callaway said Lugo was going to pitch the last two innings of Game 1 or the first two innings of Game 2. He said he doesn’t think it’s wise to use a pitcher in both games of a doubleheader and that the Mets essentially had burned Lugo for the day.
Lugo entered with a 1.72 ERA, but by his own admission, he didn’t have it. “Curveball was up a little bit, so I probably shied away from it more than I should have,” he said.
“It’s frustrating,” Lugo said. DeGrom “was doing what he always does and I’ve got to be better than that. That’s the games we have to win and we’ve got to make some adjustments and make better pitches.” And finally — finally — figure out how to flip this tired old script.
Which they did in Game 2. The Mets broke a 5-5 tie with three runs in the seventh on a two-run single by Luis Guillorme and an RBI single by Amed Rosario (three RBIs). Brandon Nimmo homered and Familia retired all six batters he faced for his 14th save. Freeman and Kurt Suzuki each had two RBIs for Atlanta, which was outhit 15-13.
After a frustrating loss followed by a nearly three-hour rain delay, how difficult was it to stay ready? “I don’t know; you don’t do this often,” Callaway said. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen it . . . They never stopped fighting. They really came out with some energy and scored early.”
Jacob deGrom has been outstanding in his last seven starts with little to show for it:
INNINGS 40 1⁄3 *
EARNED RUNS 2
*Includes one-inning start against Phillies on May 13.