Tommy Milone broke off a beautiful breaking pitch to strike out Kole Calhoun for the first out of the Mets-Angels game on Sunday. As catcher Kevin Plawecki whipped the ball to third base, the crowd of 39,501 at Citi Field gave Milone a hearty ovation.
Two problems: That first out came with the Mets already down by five runs. And the cheers were sarcastic.
Milone’s day did not get better. He allowed eight runs (seven earned) in 1 1⁄3 innings as the Mets lost to the Angels, 12-5.
Milone allowed three long home runs: a grand slam by C.J. Cron in the first, a two-run shot by Mike Trout in the second and a solo blast by the next batter, Jefry Marte, who also was Milone’s final man.
The Angels batted around in the first, sent eight men to the plate in the second and led 9-0 before the Mets got on the board in the third.
The Mets pulled to within 9-5 in the sixth, but Hansel Robles gave up a three-run home run by Andrelton Simmons in the seventh to provide the final margin.
“We got in trouble early,” manager Terry Collins said. “At least we battled back and made it a game until the end.”
Milone gave up seven hits, walked two (one intentional) and struck out three. The Mets had won two in a row after a seven-game losing streak.
“Just too many balls over the plate,” Milone said. “It seemed like any time I threw the ball over the plate, they were hitting it. That’s obvious.”
It’s also obvious that the Mets are at a crossroads with their pitching. The starters’ ERA is 5.18 and the bullpen is worn out.
The Mets announced after the game that Steven Matz and Seth Lugo, who are out with elbow injuries, will make their second rehab starts tomorrow. Matz will pitch for Triple-A Las Vegas and Lugo will throw for high Class A St. Lucie.
Collins also said the Mets will push back Zack Wheeler a day and might do the same with Jacob deGrom this week. Robert Gsellman will start against the Padres on Wednesday.
Wheeler has piled up a lot of innings in his first season back after missing two years because of Tommy John surgery. DeGrom has been battling a blister on his ring finger.
“We’re going to give Zack an extra day this turn,” Collins said. “We’ve even talked about possibly moving deGrom back a day, let the blister have a chance to heal up. Which means we have to stick somebody in on Wednesday.”
Clearly, the Mets’ pitching staff is in flux. A day off Monday will give them a chance to sort it out.
Milone’s 43-pitch outing was reminiscent of Adam Wilk’s emergency start as a replacement for the suspended Matt Harvey on May 7. Wilk gave up three long home runs to the Marlins in a 7-0 loss. He was cut the next day.
Here are the Angels’ first five batters versus Milone on Sunday: single, Cameron Maybin; double, Simmons; intentional walk, Trout; bases-loaded walk, Marte; grand slam, Cron. 5-0.
In the second inning, Wilmer Flores committed a throwing error on Simmons’ routine grounder to third before Trout sent a 3-and-2 pitch over the right-centerfield wall for his 14th home run.
Marte followed with a long home run to left to give the Angels back-to-back blasts and an 8-0 lead. Milone (1-2) departed with a 10.50 ERA in three starts with the Mets.
Trout just missed another home run by a few feet when he smoked an RBI double off the centerfield wall against Rafael Montero to make it 9-0 in the third.
Matt Reynolds, who was a late addition after Jose Reyes was scratched with tightness in his left rib cage, hit his first home run in the third off Jesse Chavez (4-5) to make it 9-1. Curtis Granderson hit his fourth leading off the fifth.
Jay Bruce hit his 11th homer, a three-run blast in the sixth, to make it 9-5. That was as close as the Mets got.