DENVER — It was a Coors Field classic of the ugliest order, the kind that can bust slumps at the plate and start them on the mound, ruin a bullpen’s workload for days and render one of the best curveballs in the majors nearly useless.
The Mets emerged as the losers, 10-8, against the Rockies on Wednesday for their second consecutive loss by that score.
Coors or not, loss or not, the Mets scored five runs for a fifth consecutive game for the first time since Sept. 6-10, 2017. Put another way: The lineup is producing as well as it has all season, having seemingly put its 11-game stretch of three runs or fewer in the past.
But the Mets are 1-2 despite scoring 28 runs their past three games.
“We scratched and clawed,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “Our offense did a great job keeping us in the game the whole time. The way we’re swinging the bats lately — we have to hold them a little bit more than we have the last two nights — I’m encouraged we’re swinging the bats the way we should.”
The teams set the tone early, scoring four runs apiece in the first two innings and scoring in seven of the first 10 half-innings. Neither team scored in the final three frames. The Mets left 12 runners on base; the Rockies, seven.
A sequence in the bottom of the fifth and top of the sixth helped decide the game. Ryan McMahon’s pinch-hit three-run home run off Robert Gsellman in the fifth gave Colorado a one-run lead. The next half-inning, the Mets loaded the bases with one out and the pitcher’s spot due up. Callaway chose Kevin Plawecki over Amed Rosario (his last two position players) for two reasons: Rosario offered more defensive flexibility later on, and Callaway felt Plawecki, swinging well lately, could get the Mets at least a sacrifice fly. Plawecki grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Leftfielder Dominic Smith had a career-high three hits, including his first major-league triple, and finished a home run shy of the cycle. Asdrubal Cabrera (two RBIs) and Devin Mesoraco (two RBIs) were the only other Mets with multiple hits. The Mets pummeled righthander Chad Bettis, who survived 4 2⁄3 innings but allowed eight runs.
Seth Lugo waited a dozen pitches to throw a curveball, his best and most frequently used offering, and when he finally went to it, Nolan Arenado hammered the hook 434 feet to left.
It was that kind of night for Lugo. Manager Mickey Callaway said he warns his pitchers before they pitch at Coors not to make too much of how they fare here, given the effect the elevation can have. “You come in here, you battle all you can, and you forget about it,” Callaway said. That philosophy proved appropriate when Jason Vargas got lit up Tuesday night and again Wednesday when Lugo was hit around. (And, by extension, it underscores the impressiveness of Jacob deGrom’s Monday outing, in which he allowed one earned run in eight innings.)
Lugo finished three innings having allowed six runs (three earned) and six hits. He walked two, struck out five and never quite found his curveball, the effectiveness of which is mitigated by the conditions. Of 72 pitches, only 12 were curves, about half of his normal one-out-of-every-three-pitches rate this season. Five of the dozen curveballs were balls, and only two were whiffs.
“I tried not to think about that. Maybe subconsciously it got to me a little bit,” Lugo said of the curveball/atmosphere. “The biggest thing was falling behind too many guys, not throwing enough strikes.”
The Mets have gotten a combined 5 1⁄3 innings from their starters — and 10 2⁄3 from the bullpen — the past two games.
Second baseman Cabrera hurt his left elbow on the last play of the seventh inning. Tom Murphy attempted to steal second, and catcher Mesoraco’s throw was high, so Cabrera — in one motion — jumped to catch the ball and apply the tag. Cabrera writhed in pain as umpires conferred, ultimately reviewing and confirming that Murphy was out.
Cabrera stayed in the game and iced his elbow after. He said he was fine, was checked out by a doctor and didn’t need an MRI/X-ray.
“He just landed hard on his left elbow,” Callaway said. “Really just that bang, initial hit that he took to the ground hurt him.”