The Mets got defensive to protect pitch-to-contact Rick Porcello on Tuesday and succeeded at that level, but a familiar foe crushed them.
A hitless night with runners in scoring position and seven runners left on base is not a recipe for winning games. For all their impressive bats, the Mets remain largely a disappointment offensively.
On this night they were frustrated by Max Scherzer and three relievers in a second straight loss to the Nationals, 2-1 at Citi Field.
The Mets (7-11) entered as the MLB leader in runners left on base at 8.35 per game and moved more than halfway to that mark in the first two innings alone against Scherzer, stranding five, before simply fading into the night, with a lineup that included defensive upgrades Luis Guillorme and Billy Hamilton. Guillorme was actually their most productive hitter, finishing 2-for-3 with the Mets’ only RBI. The Mets were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position.
Porcello gave the Mets a second straight solid performance, allowing two earned runs on eight hits with five strikeouts over six innings. It was the second straight start in which the right-hander did not walk a batter.
Andres Gimenez smashed a shot off the fence in the fourth — just barely missing his first major league homer — and raced to third for a triple. Guillorme’s ensuing sacrifice fly pulled the Mets within 2-1 against Scherzer.
The Guillorme-Gimenez combination also meshed defensively, with the two combining to turn double plays in the fourth and fifth innings that helped Porcello escape trouble. Gimenez was at shortstop because Amed Rosario had a stomach bug, according to manager Luis Rojas. The rookie sensation Gimenez had been starting at second base as Robinson Cano rehabs from a left groin strain, but Guillorme was in that spot Tuesday and looked sharp. A night earlier Guillorme had pitched a perfect ninth inning to keep the Mets from using another pitcher in a 16-4 blowout loss.
Gimenez was terrific on his own defensively, gloving Juan Soto’s shot into the hole on one knee and firing a one-hop strike to Dominic Smith in the sixth that convinced Porcello to remove his cap and extend it toward the gifted shortstop.
Trea Turner homered on Porcello’s second pitch of the game to give the Nationals a fast lead. Victor Robles’ bloop RBI single in the second put the Mets in a 2-0 hole, but Porcello worked around a Turner single in the third before the double plays in the fourth and fifth helped him. Porcello’s best inning was the perfect sixth he worked in which he struck out two batters.
The Mets had a chance to inflict early damage against Scherzer, loading the bases on Smith’s walk in the first inning with two outs. But Wilson Ramos took a called strike three to begin the Mets’ night of frustration against the ace right-hander. The Mets also failed to score after putting two runners on base against Scherzer in the second.