Mets cough up slim lead, drop series opener to Brewers 2-1

Mets Brewers 6-26-23
Milwaukee Brewers’ Joey Wiemer, center, is congratulated by Jesse Winker (33) after hitting a two-run home run during the sixth inning of a baseball game as New York Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez, right, looks on Monday, June 26, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

QUEENS — With a far tighter rope to work with compared to Sunday’s eighth-inning collapse in Philadelphia, the New York Mets’ bullpen coughed up another lead to doom dormant bats in a 2-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday night at Citi Field. 

Nursing a 1-0 lead after Justin Verlander’s laborious outing, reliever Drew Smith — in his first game back from a 10-game sticky-stuff suspension — served up a two-run home run to Joey Wiemer in the sixth inning. 

“I yanked it down a little bit,” Smith said of the middle-middle fastball he left for the Brewers’ center fielder. “Not a good spot with two strikes and a 2-2 count. I have to execute.”

Colin Rea shut down the Mets for 6.1 innings, allowing just one run on a Francisco Lindor sacrifice fly while yielding just three hits — the only three hits the hosts posted all night — relegating New York (35-43) to its seventh loss in nine games. 

“We had three hits and scored one run,” manager Buck Showalter began. “I’m not going to hang this one on [Smith]. We should be able to create some margin of error for a guy coming back.”

Drew Smith Mets
New York Mets pitcher Drew Smith throws during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Monday, June 26, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Verlander battled through five scoreless innings but did little to help an already-taxed bullpen. Striking out five, he yielded five hits, two walks, and his first hit batter of the year to work his way through eight Milwaukee men left on base. Brewers batters went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position against the veteran right-hander.

“It was a bit of a grind,” Verlander said. “I was working on a lot of things, changing some mechanics, lowering my slider a little bit. It was a bit erratic, which was kind of expected. But hopefully, it’s a step in the right direction.”

Verlander got out of a first-inning jam in which he loaded the bases with one out, getting Owen Miller to tap into a fielder’s choice. After falling behind 3-0 to Jesse Winker, he coaxed an inning-ending groundout to escape unscathed.

But he needed 27 pitches to get through the opening frame and an additional 20 in a scoreless second, which was extended by a two-out throwing error by third baseman Brett Baty a day after his eighth-inning error helped along the Philadelphia Phillies’ comeback. 

He needed 63 pitches to get through three innings compared to Rea’s 35 against a Mets offense that was generating little with the approach of swinging early in counts. 

“It was just one of those days,” Verlander said. “Quick innings on the other side and you’re back out there… on a humid night, it’ll creep up on you.”

Following a 25-pitch fifth inning, his night was done at an even 100 pitches to set up another long night for the Mets’ bullpen.

Yet he left with a lead after Starling Marte single-handedly got the Mets the lead in the fourth inning after leading off the frame with a single. He stole second and advanced to third on an errant throw into center field by Brewers catcher William Contreras. The throw in from center sailed wildly to the Brewers dugout, prompting Marte to break halfway down the third-base line, but he opted to retreat.

He came into score on Lindor’s sacrifice fly for the shortstop’s 53rd RBI of the season. 

Verlander’s lead and slim chance to win, though, evaporated in the sixth inning when Smith served up a two-out, two-run home run to Weimer on a 2-2 pitch that cannoned off the facing of the Home Run Apple in dead center. 

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