The Mets may have been facing a Buehler on Saturday night, but what they really got to experience was Groundhog Day.
You know the movie — the one in which Bill Murray has to relive the same day over and over, one experience more painful than the last. Well, when ghost runner Corey Seager crossed the plate in the 10th inning of their 2-1 loss to the Dodgers at Citi Field, the Mets got to have that sensation firsthand: painfully bad déjà vu.
It had been only about 24 hours earlier, after all, that Will Smith’s two-run homer in the 10th ruined a Mets comeback and handed them a loss. This time, though, the Mets faced the double indignity of having outlasted Walker Buehler, who was excellent over seven but left with a no-decision, and having squandered a brilliant start by Taijuan Walker, who took a no-hitter into the seventh.
With Seager on second and none out, Cody Bellinger doubled just inside the line in right to drive in the go-ahead run. Bellinger moved to third on a groundout, bringing up Justin Turner, whom Yennsy Diaz struck out to end the inning.
The Mets could do nothing against Phil Bickford, even with Jonathan Villar dancing off second base. Bickford struck out James McCann and Brandon Drury and Corey Knebel got Brandon Nimmo to ground out to end the game.
With the Phillies and Atlanta winning, the Mets fell 1 1⁄2 games behind both teams, who are tied for first in the NL East.
Give this to the Mets, though — they were terribly sanguine about the whole thing, with Michael Conforto and Luis Rojas framing these two losses as building blocks to creating a playoff-caliber team.
"When you’re playing in these one-run games, you’ve got to feel that every single thing that happens out there is making you better," Rojas said. "It’s not going to get any easier. That’s the way we’ve got to see it. Tomorrow we’re going to have another tough game and I think we’re going to have a lot of those this season, so playing these games, they make us better. We’re bitter because of the two losses now, but they make us better because they felt like a playoff atmosphere out there."
The day started off promisingly enough, and the Mets’ first hit was a doozy. Buehler was cruising with two outs in the fourth when he threw an 0-and-1 cutter in on Michael Conforto’s hands. Conforto was able to adjust and hit it just beyond Billy McKinney’s outstretched glove and into the home bullpen for a 1-0 lead.
Despite coming into the game hitting .215, Conforto has shown positive signs, having reached safely in 12 straight games.
"I’m constantly working on stuff mechanically and approach-wise," he said. "I think the big thing for me recently is just to be in attack mode and just aggressive at the plate. Sometimes it’s best to simplify things and go back to an approach that’s aggressive and take the thinking out of it."
Meanwhile, Walker kept his no-hitter going into the seventh, the crowd murmuring before every pitch and cheering after every out. But Smith put an end to it with one out in the inning, blasting a hanging slider into the second deck in left to tie it at 1-1.
The next batter, Seager, doubled to left, leading to a mound visit. Walker struck out AJ Pollock before a wild pitch and a walk to Chris Taylor ended his night. With Aaron Loup on the mound, Rojas took exception to a pitch called a ball and was ejected by plate umpire Ben May. Loup ended up striking out Bellinger to preserve the tie.
Walker, who struck out eight, had pitched to a 9.86 ERA in his previous five games after making the All-Star team with a 2.50 ERA.
"I’ve been going in the right direction the last couple weeks," he said. "Obviously, the results haven’t been what I wanted them to be, but body-wise and velo-wise, everything about my stuff has been getting better and better."
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