WASHINGTON, D.C. — The injuries are one thing. The Mets have had more than their share of unfortunate torn and pulled muscles and broken or stress injuries in bones. Tuesday, they were without Yoenis Cespedes and Curtis Granderson in the starting lineup because of nagging lower body issues, and T.J. Rivera left the game in the seventh with muscle cramps. All of that is unexpected and out of the Mets’ control.
But for a team built around strong pitching, the Mets have been hurt too often by sloppy defense and pitching this season. They both came back to bite the Mets Tuesday as they were crushed by the Nationals 11-4 in a Fourth of July matinee at Nationals Park.
“If you are gonna pitch, you gotta catch it. Some of the best pitching in baseball has some of the best defense in baseball,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “We certainly have a system we put together, put guys in the right spots, depending on who’s pitching and who’s up. Seems we’re six to 10 inches away from being in the right place.”
A fielding error by Jay Bruce and a ball that got past Wilmer Flores gave the Nationals a four-run fifth inning, and walks in the sixth led to a three-run inning as they clinched the series over the Mets.
These Mets out of starting lineup against Nationals on July 4th
It was the third-straight loss for the Mets (38-45) and they dropped to 11.5 games behind the Nationals (50-34) in the division. The Nats have taken 9-of-12 games against the Mets this season.
Bruce’s error was the Mets’ 53rd error this season, the 10th-most in the majors.
The sloppy defense has been an issue all year, and so have the walks the pitching staff has issued.
With Wilmer Difo on first, Bryce Harper’s sharp ground ball to right field went through the legs of Bruce, allowing Difo to score the go-ahead run and Harper to advance to third.
T.J. Rivera exits Mets – Nationals with apparent injury
“Tried to do a little too much,” Bruce said. “My first thought when he hit it, knowing Difo could run was trying to throw him out at third, obviously went terribly wrong. Cost us a couple of runs.”
Flores just missed on Daniel Murphys’ ground ball, but it shot into left field, allowing Harper to score. Ryan Raburn, who hit the walkoff bloop single that gave the Nats the win Monday night, doubled to score Murphy and Adam Lind.
Those defensive mistakes contributed to Seth Lugo’s exit after five. He allowed six runs on 10 hits. He walked two and struck out three.
Lugo worked around his walks, but he gave up five straight hits in the fifth.
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Erik Goeddel walked Michael Taylor and Difo with one out in the sixth and Josh Edgin walked Bryce Harper to set up the Nationals second big inning of the day. Murphy drove in two with a single and Lind drove in the third.
The Mets’ pitching staff has walked 310 batters in 82 games (749 innings pitched). Last season, the Mets staff walked 439 hitters in 162 games (1,447 innings).
“We’ve got to stop it. There is no excuse, not at this level,” Collins said of the walks. “We’ve got to be able to command the baseball better.”
PLAY OF THE GAME
Bryce Harper’s diving grab of Jay Bruce’s line drive to shallow right field in the third inning.
The four-run fifth inning. With Wilmer Difo on first, Bryce Harper’s sharp ground ball to right field went through the legs of Jay Bruce, allowing Difo to score the go-ahead run and Harper to advance to third. WIlmer Flores got the tip of his glove on Daniel Murphys’ ground ball, but it shot into left field, allowing Harper to score. Ryan Raburn doubled to score Murphy and Adam Lind for a four-run fifth inning.
STAR OF THE GAME
Daniel Murphy went 4-for-5 with a career-high tying five RBI against his former team. He’s driven in 13 runs against the Mets this season. It was his 30th multi-hit game of the season.
STAT OF THE DAY: 3-of-6
Rene Rivera hit his sixth homer of the season in the fourth inning Tuesday. Three of his six homers have come against the Nationals this season.
Brandon Nimmo had a career-high three hits Tuesday, singles to all fields. It was his first multi-hit game of 2017 and the third of his career.
Yoenis Cespedes was out of the lineup Tuesday as a precaution after his right leg cramped up on the final play of Monday night’s game.
Wednesday at Washington, D.C. 7:05 p.m.
RHP Jacob deGrom (8-3, 3.55) vs. RHP Tanner Roark (6-6, 5.27)
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