In reality, the Mets lost Friday’s Subway Series opener before Jacob deGrom threw his first pitch. Everyone had a pretty good idea what the outcome would be. All that remained was filling in the details, plugging in the names of the Yankees’ heroes along with the final score.
The Brandon Nimmo leadoff homer? A momentary distraction, a mirage. With no Yoenis Cespedes and a bullpen that gets more depleted by the day, it was nonsensical to think that the outgunned Mets could trade punches with their crosstown rivals, regardless of deGrom’s greatness.
And he was great — again. He’s just not perfect, and in the eighth inning, when he left that 87-mph changeup in a bad spot to Brett Gardner, it wound up over the rightfield wall for the two-run homer that delivered the Mets’ predetermined fate in a 4-1 loss.
“I made a mistake,” said deGrom, who suffered his first loss (4-1) as his ERA climbed to 1.57. “And it cost us the ballgame.”
It’s become a cruel joke, having deGrom stand at his locker, start after start, and explain why he was unable to pitch a complete-game shutout, as if he actually did something wrong.
DeGrom fiercely protected his 1-0 lead until the sixth, when the Yankees tied it by virtue of — wait for it — an unearned run.
After Masahiro Tanaka reached on Adrian Gonzalez’s butchery of a ground ball, he went station-to-station before scoring on Aaron Judge’s sacrifice fly, with his hamstrings screaming during that 90-foot dash. He then went straight to the clubhouse, where he was hooked up to an IV for hydration and didn’t return.
Mickey Callaway thought that was a window for the Mets, an opportunity once Tanaka’s nasty splitter was removed from the equation. But Nimmo’s homer stood as the Mets’ lone run, and the Yankees did what confident, winning teams do — grind until the job is done.
This time it was Gardner. It easily could have been someone else, and it was fitting that Giancarlo Stanton smashed his 22nd homer at Citi Field in the ninth.
“We’re just a really good lineup, top to bottom,” Gardner said. “There’s no weak spots.”
The Mets are just the opposite, and they added two surprise names to their sorry roll call Friday. Jeurys Familia was put on the disabled list with a sore shoulder and Noah Syndergaard (strained right index finger), who was expected to start Sunday, was replaced for that turn by Seth Lugo. The Mets already had sent Cespedes to Trenton for the weekend to play for Double-A Binghamton, and with Lugo pushed into the rotation, their bullpen was missing two of their most effective relievers.
This was getting ridiculous, even by the Mets’ mind-numbing standards, and whatever slim chance they had to put a dent in the Yankees this weekend looked even worse by the time everyone arrived Friday.
“It can’t be an excuse,” Callaway said before Friday’s opener. “You can’t write off the season because of injuries.”
Maybe he can’t. But he is new here, and we’ve seen plenty of seasons in Flushing circle the drain because of high body counts.
The interesting wrinkle was that the injury bug seemed to be contagious. Citi Field claimed a Yankees victim when Tanaka was forced to leave the game after only 75 pitches because of a baserunning injury, of all things.He is questionable for his next start.
In the short term, for the remainder of this Subway Series, the Mets can’t be optimistic after wasting another deGrom gem and not having Syndergaard for Sunday. Even Cespedes is smart enough to see what’s going on from his vantage point at the other end of the Jersey Turnpike.
“For the way the team is playing right now, even if I’m doing very well, if the team remains playing this way, I don’t think it’s going to help a lot,” Cespedes said through a translator after his rehab game. “But I’m eager to go back.”
Not exactly a vote of confidence from the Mets’ ailing $110-million slugger. But he’s seen this movie before, too.