The Mets’ two largest weaknesses this season — production from the catcher’s spot and a reliable left-handed reliever — reared their ugly heads on Tuesday night at Citi Field against the best team in baseball.
James McCann’s third strikeout of the night in the sixth inning stranded two runners on base in a tie game before southpaw reliever Joely Rodriguez yielded the go-ahead run in the seventh, lifting the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 4-3 victory in the three-game series opener while muting Timmy Trumpet’s night at the ballpark.
Gavin Lux drove in three runs to lead the Dodgers’ offense, including what ultimately was the game-winning single in the seventh, to cancel out home runs from Starling Marte and Mark Canha.
Meanwhile, McCann’s punchout was the headlining example of inefficiency for a Mets offense that left seven men on base. It was still five fewer than the Dodgers, who left 12 on the base paths thanks to seven hits and eight walks drawn.
A blunder from Dodgers starter Andrew Heaney put the Mets on the board just two batters into the game. Following a Brandon Nimmo single, Starling Marte pushed a bunt up the first-base line with the Dodgers inexplicably playing him to pull.
It appeared the ball would roll foul midway up the line, but Heaney picked it up before it did so and shoveled it just past Marte’s right arm where first baseman Freddie Freeman couldn’t get it, floating down the right-field line. The speedy Nimmo was able to score from first while Marte advanced to third.
Marte was ultimately stranded on third as Francisco Lindor was caught stealing before Heaney settled, striking out Pete Alonso and Darin Ruf.
The slim lead didn’t last long as Walker yielded three runs in the third inning. After getting the first two outs to nearly navigate through a second-and-third-with-no-outs jam, he walked Max Muncy to load the bases and hit Joey Gallo on the first pitch he threw to tie the game. Gavin Lux then rocketed a two-run single to left to put Los Angeles in front.
“I thought everything was good. It was just that third inning,” Walker said. “They have a good lineup, they’re deep… To keep them to three runs… it wasn’t my best but I thought I battled and was able to keep the team in there and give us a chance to win.”
The Mets looked as though they woudl make good with that chance tie it up with a pair of long balls in as many innings to erase the deficit.
Marte got one right back for New York in the bottom of the frame, though, taking Heaney out over the left-field fence for a solo shot, his 15th home run of the season.
Mark Canha tied it up with his 11th of the season and the 100th of his career in the fourth, also taking Heaney out to left field. It continues the left fielder’s knack for timely hits as it was his fourth game-tying hit in his last nine games.
Walker’s night was done with one out in the sixth inning after allowing a double to Trayce Thompson, prompting Buck Showalter to call on Seth Lugo to face Cody Bellinger. While he got Bellinger to fly out, the reliever walked Austin Barnes and Mookie Betts to load the bases — though he got Trea Turner to fly out to right.
Rodriguez wouldn’t have such luck as the Dodgers regained the lead in the seventh just moments after McCann struck out for the third time while stranding two runners on base. Freeman cued a soft rolling double against the shift and down the left-field line, advancing to third on a Max Muncy groundout. Lux proceeded to pick up his third RBI of the night with a single up the middle to bring in the go-ahead run.
“It was unfortunate but the game isn’t always fair,” Showalter said. “Seems like Joely has had a lot of tough luck.”
That was all for Rodriguez and while Tommy Hunter walked Thompson to load the bases, he coaxed a flyout from Bellinger and a groundout from Barnes to limit the damage.
After going quietly in the eighth, Eduardo Escobar led the ninth off with a single against former Mets reliever Jake Reed — who allowed eight earned runs in 6.1 innings before getting DFA’d — but Daniel Vogelbach grounded into a double play to snuff out any threat.