NEW YORK — Perhaps it’s fitting in this season gone wrong that the starting pitcher the Mets opted not to start Sunday ultimately decided the game in the 11th inning.
The Mets opted for a bullpen day, with Jerry Blevins serving as the starting pitcher, and that decision backfired in an 8-7 loss to the Dodgers in 11 innings at Citi Field that completed a three-game sweep. Five of the seven Mets pitchers allowed runs, and the Mets (31-44) have now lost a franchise-record 12-straight games to the Dodgers.
Chris Flexen, one of two starters the Mets passed on using to start the game, allowed the game-winning homer to Justin Turner, one of seven homers allowed by the Mets.
“It’s a frustrating day,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “That’s for sure.”
Sunday’s events can all be tied to how the Mets handled Jason Vargas’ calf strain, and it appears the team did not put itself in the best position to succeed.
Vargas strained his right calf Wednesday, but the team did not alter the schedule of prospect Corey Oswalt, who was slated to start Friday for Class AAA Las Vegas.
After Vargas threw a bullpen Friday, the Mets allowed Oswalt to make his scheduled minors start, eliminating him from consideration. Vargas, though, experienced discomfort while going through drills Saturday, and the team placed him on the disabled list.
“We were waiting to see if we could wait to get it calmed down as much as possible, and then test it (Saturday),” Vargas said. “It didn’t respond.”
With Oswalt out of the picture, the Mets instead turned to Flexen.
While Flexen is a starter, the team does not have much faith in him, as shown by the decision to pass on starting him and instead trust a mediocre bullpen.
Oswalt is higher on the team’s depth chart than Flexen, and perhaps he could have done what Flexen was unable to do by providing at least one scoreless inning.
“Flexen was an option (to start),” Callaway said. “We thought with what we had and what we were trying today to win it was best to take the approach we did today.”
Need some relievers
The Mets instead used the lefty Blevins as a starter to counter the top of the Dodgers lineup. As is par for the course with the Mets, that move did not work.
Blevins surrendered consecutive solo homers to Kike Hernandez and Kyle Muncy before some of the fans even had time to settle into their seats.
The lefty acknowledged that adjusting his routine proved to be the most difficult part of the day, and joked that now is a fine time for him to transition into a starter.
“The hardest part of the day for me was figuring out timing, when to throw, the (National Anthem), the first pitches were different,” Blevins said. “Waiting for another guy to get off the mound was strange. You adapt and do what you can.”
Blevins threw two innings before Tim Peterson entered for another two while allowing a homer to Cody Bellinger in the fourth that put the Mets in a 3-2 hole.
Chris Beck then allowed a game-tying homer to Hernandez in the sixth after the Mets took a 4-3 lead in the fifth on Asdrubal Cabrera’s two-run homer off Rich Hill.
The struggles of the bullpen showcased why a bullpen day can be a challenge for a team that lacks capable relievers, and it didn’t help when one of the team’s most-trusted relievers, Anthony Swarzak, produced the worst outing of the crew.
Swarzak allowed three runs in 1⅓ innings to give the Dodgers in a 7-4 lead that was later erased on a game-tying three-run homer by Kevin Plawecki in the eighth.
“It seems like he’s still trying to find himself,” Callaway said of Swarzak.
Flexen eventually entered with the Mets out of available pitchers, and the game was on his shoulders. He’d either be the winning or losing pitcher.
The righty allowed a no-doubt bomb to left to the ex-Met Turner, and the Mets ultimately stranded the tying run at second while losing their sixth straight game.
The Mets even missed on a chance in the 10th to move a runner over to second with a bunt since Dom Smith never learned how to bunt in the minors.
For a team that often talks of putting itself in the best position to succeed, the Mets seemingly did not do that in yet another forgettable loss.
“It’s tough when the bullpen has to fight like they did today,” Plawecki said. “Granted they gave up some runs, but we were right in in until the end.”