Mets' winning streak ends at five with loss to Cubs
CHICAGO — Suddenly missing for the Mets on Tuesday night were the keys to their season-high-tying five-game win streak: timely hitting and strong starting pitching. And so that win streak ended.
When they lost to the Cubs, 7-2, they didn’t have to wonder why.
Tylor Megill allowed six runs (four earned) and six hits in 3 2/3 innings. The lineup went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, wasting a series of prime scoring chances. They also made two errors and had a few other defensive misplays.
“We had a couple of opportunities — not many,” manager Buck Showalter said. “But you gotta cash those in when you’re that far behind.”
The Mets (25-24) were that far behind in part because of a subtle turning point in the bottom of the second.
The Cubs already had scored once, on Seiya Suzuki’s home run to open the inning. Megill’s walk of Christopher Morel and Gary Sanchez’s passed ball helped put Morel on third base with two outs.
Yan Gomes, a catcher who ranks among the slower runners in the majors, chopped a ball off the plate toward third. Brett Baty came running in and fielded it cleanly but — unable to get a firm grip on the ball — never made a throw to get Gomes.
Morel went home with a second run. The next batter, Matt Mervis, launched a two-run homer to left-centerfield. A potential one-run inning turned into a four-run mess.
“I probably still could’ve gotten him if I had a grip on it, but I just didn’t have a grip on it,” Baty said. “It’s a play that needs to be made. We’re all major-leaguers. It was a big point in the game, too. There were two outs and the guy hit a homer right after that. That play has gotta be made.”
Showalter said: “He did have a play. Couldn’t get a grip. It rolled back in the back of his hand. He had a play. He was wanting to throw it. He just couldn’t get it in a position to throw it. He made a heck of a play. That’s a hard play to come up clean with.”
Megill had trouble again in the fourth, when Tommy Pham dropped a fly ball from Mike Tauchman for a two-base error. That set up a sequence in which the Cubs (21-26) scored a pair of unearned runs. Mervis and Dansby Swanson had RBI singles.
“It just seems when I do have bad outings, they tend to be blowup outings,” Megill said. “That’s the biggest thing I need to work on: When things get sideways, limit the damage and move on and be able to extend my [outing] and keep it there.”
Pete Alonso provided the offensive highlight, his majors-leading 18th home run — which traveled an estimated 434 feet to center — in the fourth inning. It also was his seventh in 12 career games at Wrigley Field, tied for his most at any non-NL East ballpark.
“As a fan of the game, this is a really cool place to play,” he said. “A lot of history and it’s just an honor to be here. It’s a fun place to play.”
The rest of the Mets managed little off lefthander Drew Smyly, whose two runs in five innings actually upped his ERA to 2.93, and a Cubs bullpen that has been mediocre this year.
Brandon Nimmo led off the game with a double, but Mark Vientos struck out to strand a pair of runners. The Mets loaded the bases with nobody out in the sixth but scratched across a lone run, on Alonso’s groundout. Jeff McNeil pinch hit with two on and two out in the seventh but struck out.
The kind of big hits that marked their recent homestand never came.
“Sometimes you gotta tip your cap to the opposing pitcher,” Alonso said. “Their staff did a great job with us today.”
It wasn’t clear why Sanchez was playing other than Showalter wanted him to. Rookie backstop Francisco Alvarez wasn’t going to catch all three games in the series, he explained, and he didn’t want Sanchez “to get too far away” from playing.
Starting his second game out of four since the Mets promoted him from the minors, Sanchez played poorly, including the key passed ball in Megill’s long second. He also failed to catch — and didn’t even get a glove on — a routine pop-up behind the plate and seemed to have trouble blocking pitches in the dirt.
Sanchez, who long has been regarded as a poor defensive catcher, also went 0-for-3 with a strikeout.
Asked about Sanchez's performance behind the plate, Showalter declined to comment, noting he hadn't reviewed the video yet.