LOS ANGELES — Even on a night when the Mets avoided the worst of Cody Bellinger’s bat, allowing only a solo homer and five runners left on base, the National League MVP frontrunner beat them with his arm.
Bellinger threw out two runners from rightfield — Michael Conforto at home and Carlos Gomez at third — in the Mets’ 9-5 loss to the Dodgers on Monday night.
The latter play came in the eighth after the Mets loaded the bases with one out, turning a would-be sacrifice fly by J.D. Davis into an inning-ending double play. As Tomas Nido headed home at something less than a full sprint, Gomez was beaten to third by Bellinger’s zero-hopper, keeping the run off the board.
“You’re going to see that on highlights for the next 30 years,” Mickey Callaway said. “It was just an unbelievable throw.”
Callaway said he had no issue with Gomez’s aggressive baserunning (though making the third out at third base usually is considered a no-no). Gomez said he had no regrets and that if that play happened 100 more times, he would try to take third every time. Both were surprised that Bellinger threw to third.
“He probably should’ve thrown that ball home,” Callaway said. “It’s a shorter throw and a slower runner.”
Said Gomez: “As an outfielder, I’m not throwing to third . . . If the ball hits me, the game is going to be [a one-run game] and man on second. I take my chance and run and he make a good throw. Good play.”
The Mets ran into three outs on the basepaths, with Nido also thrown out at home in the fifth. He was trying to score from first on Amed Rosario’s double to left-center.
Those plays highlighted the massive difference in the teams’ defense. Entering play Monday, the Dodgers led baseball with 61 Defensive Runs Saved, according to FanGraphs. The Mets were second-to-last at -41.
“They played great defense,” Callaway said. “When you swing the bats like they do and you play great defense — and [Clayton] Kershaw is on the mound — they’re going to be tough to beat.”
This one began as a matchup between baseball’s best pitcher last year, Jacob deGrom, and its best this decade, Kershaw. It devolved into a battle of the bullpens that neither team seemed to want to win. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen finished it off with a five-out save.
For the Mets, the game changed about as soon as deGrom exited after five innings and 105 pitches.
The Dodgers’ six-run sixth began with Tyler Bashlor trying to protect a 3-2 lead. It ended with Wilmer Font in for mop-up duty. In between, Chris Taylor hit a tying homer off Bashlor, Daniel Zamora retired one of his six batters, and Michael Conforto got hit in the crotch by a ricocheting ball.
The Mets reached Kershaw for 10 hits (and a walk) in six innings but scored only three times. Pete Alonso had an RBI single in the first and Davis hit a two-run homer in the fifth.
Six innings matched Kershaw’s shortest outing of the year. His ERA rose to 3.46. He hasn’t been the same dominant Kershaw who won three Cy Young Awards in four years (2011-14), but as Callaway noted before the game, he still can get it done.
“When you watched him pitch in the past when he was throwing 95 and going north and south, you saw the breaking stuff,” Callaway said. “You saw his ability to execute pitches, and you knew even when his stuff goes down . . . [he has] such an ability to pitch.
“He’s more of maybe a slider, east/west guy now instead of north/south, going top to bottom. And he knows how to pitch. And he’s a warrior. You can tell out there. He’s probably one of the most intense pitchers I’ve seen throw live. It’s impressive.”
In something less than his top form, deGrom held the Dodgers — the highest-scoring team in the National League — to two runs in five innings. Los Angeles was 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left six runners on base against him.
“I felt pretty good in the stretch [with runners on base],” deGrom said before laughing at himself. “I was there most of the night.”
After a homestand in which the Mets ripped off six wins in seven games, consider this a reminder that they can’t always play the Nationals and Tigers. They fell to 26-27. “Nobody,” deGrom said, “is happy with that.”