PHILADELPHIA — Tuesday night was going fine for the Mets until the first inning.
Steven Matz gave up eight runs (six earned) and did not record an out against the Phillies. Brandon Nimmo (day to day) left the game with a stiff neck. And the 10-run disaster of an inning in a 14-3 loss underscored most of the Mets’ early-season issues: a starting staff that hasn’t been pitching deep, a bullpen that thusly has been overworked and an offense that’s strong but hasn’t always good enough to cover for the pitchers.
“These are rough ones,” manager Mickey Callaway said.
Matz’s eight-batter, zero-out outing was the first time a Mets pitcher failed to finish the first inning since ... Jason Vargas on Saturday, when he got one out. The last time a Mets starter got credit for zero innings was Sept. 20, 2012, when Jeremy Hefner (seven runs) did the deed, also against the Phillies.
If you don’t want the gory details, skip to the next paragraph. Andrew McCutchen led off with the hardest-hit ball of the inning (108.1 mph), a grounder that Amed Rosario missed for the first of his two errors. Jean Segura doubled off the rightfield wall. Bryce Harper got hit by a pitch. J.T. Realmuto sent a two-run double to left-center. Scott Kingery hit a three-run homer to left. Cesar Hernandez walked. Aaron Altherr’s grounder went through Rosario’s legs. Maikel Franco smacked a three-run homer to center. Matz and Nimmo left the game, Drew Gagnon and Juan Lagares entered. Nick Pivetta, the opposing pitcher, struck out swinging, the Phillies’ first out. McCutchen doubled. Segura grounded out to third. Harper walked. Realmuto doubled to left, his second two-run two-bagger of the frame.
Mercy came in the form of a grounder from Kingery. Rosario, fittingly, fielded it cleanly and threw to first to end the frame.
The Phillies’ first-inning totals: 14 batters, 10 runs, five hits.
The Mets’ first-inning totals: two pitchers, three errors, a lot of embarrassment.
Matz described it as “a poor effort,” lamenting his pitches up in the zone, making them particularly hittable. He said he was able to stay under control mentally even though the defense let him down.
“I didn’t see in-game that [Matz] was frustrated about it,” Callaway said. “He kept on battling and it wasn’t happening. He just couldn’t get that first out.”
Matz said: “I’ve been here before. At this point, I know I can come out of it. It doesn’t define me or define the season. You have to wash it and move forward.”
For the Mets, 10 runs allowed in the first tied a franchise-worst. On July 19, 1988, the Reds also scored 10 times in the opening inning against the Mets. The starting pitcher that game? Ron Darling, who coincidentally provided the Mets’ only good news Tuesday. SNY announced during the game broadcast that Darling’s surgery to remove a large mass in his chest was successful. If all goes well in his recovery, he expects to return to the booth next month.
Matz’s implosion, assisted by the defense, upped his ERA from 1.65 to 4.96, second best among Mets starters.
The rotation has a collective 5.62 ERA and is averaging 4.9 innings per start, both among the worst in baseball. The starters have contributed quality starts — at least six innings, three earned runs or fewer — in just five of 17 games.
“I’m not worried about it,” Callaway said. “These guys will bounce back. They’re great pitchers. They’ll start getting it done.”
Gagnon (5 1/3 innings) and Paul Sewald (2 2/3) saved the Mets from having to use any other relievers. Gagnon, making a de facto start on three days of rest, threw 97 pitches, allowed six runs (five earned) and struck out five (one walk). “That’s the job,” Gagnon said. “Come in, be a long guy. You gotta be ready from the get-go.”
In praising the pair of relievers, Callaway said they “probably helped us win a game in the next few days.”
“They probably saved us for the next week,” Callaway said. “It was unbelievable.”
BEHIND the 8-BALL
Starting pitchers to face eight batters, and retire none, in MLB history:
Steven Matz, Mets 4/16/19
Paul Wilson, Cin. 5/6/05
Paul Wilson, Cin. 7/10/03
Blake Stein, Oak. 8/31/98
Bobby Jones, Mets 9/17/97
Bill Kreuger, Oak., 6/25/84