Even in my short time sports writing, I’ve discovered that so much of these recaps involves finding the central “narrative” of the game. That can be easier said than done as I’m sure my fellow recappers can attest. Today’s wasn’t as difficult to find - you pit one of the young, scrappy, upstart ball clubs against the most expensive roster in the majors with expectations and stars aplenty along with emblematic starting pitchers for their respective teams - it makes it much easier. To say the least, the expectations were higher than sky-high for this Mets team going into the season and they have not been able to match them to this point as we approach the All-Star Break. There are plenty of culprits for that disappointing start including underwhelming or inconsistent performances from a variety of free agent sources. Meanwhile, the NL-West-leading D-Backs are riding a youth movement on both sides of the plate to their best performance through 86 games since 2017 when they were 52-34 en route to an NLDS defeat that October. Through eight and 2⁄3 innings, this was a story of youth overcoming talent - except for that pesky 27th out and the top of the ninth.
Kodai Senga epitomizes those offseason Mets’ expectations as he signed a significant five-year/$75 million contract this past offseason after pitching excellently in Japan, but has thus far been unable to recreate that success in the MLB. Conversely, the D-Backs had the 25-year old Tommy Henry who has struggled to find consistency in his first full year as part of the rotation. While Senga put together by far his best performance in a Mets uniform with a sterling 8.0 IP, 4H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB line, Henry and the D-Backs’ bullpen matched him zero for zero through the first eight innings including a 6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB for Henry himself. That’s not to say there weren’t close calls for each team, but they both managed to flail away the opportunities as they finished a combined 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
There was the top of the fourth when the Mets got runners on second and third with two outs, but failed to score. Or there was the bottom of the fifth when Jake McCarthy quickly converted a leadoff infield single into a double by promptly stealing second, but was stranded there. No, the offense came in two clipped spurts: a Christian Walker solo home run that was wholloped along with a solo shot from rookie Francisco Alvarez and an RBI-triple from Mark Canha to give the Mets the lead for good.
Even still, after Henry’s excellent outing was followed with scoreless innings from Kyle Nelson and Scott McGough, you felt all right going into the top of the ninth with Andrew Chafin to close out the game - especially as he collected the first two outs on just four pitches and had Alvarez on the ropes. Alas, that hopeful feeling was crushed as Alvarez snuck a Chafin cutter over the right field fence to tie the game. If you weren’t already catatonic, the Mets added insult to injury as Canha’s triple to the deepest part of the stadium scored the second and final run in the form of Bretty Baty to steal the lead away for the first time in the game.
It’s still worthwhile to remember how well this team has performed relative to expectations overall, but there’s not much solace in that on a night like tonight. There’s nothing to do but take it in stride and focus on the next game. We’ll see you then!