ATLANTA — Meet the Mess, 2020 version.
Just over a week into their 60-game season, the Mets have a glaring problem that will keep them socially distanced from even the expanded playoff format if they can’t find a fast solution.
Just like old times, the bullpen is a raging inferno.
Friday night it was Dellin Betances taking the baton from Edwin Diaz a night earlier with a brutal eighth-inning performance. The night before that it was the usually reliable Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson that folded.
Betances, still lacking the fastball velocity that transformed him into a dominant reliever with the Yankees, allowed four runs without escaping the inning, sending the Mets to a maddening 11-10 loss to the Braves at Truist Park.
Betances entered to protect a five-run lead, but retired only one batter, allowing two hits and two walks. Lugo was summoned and got the second out before Travis d’Arnaud haunted his former team by stroking a bases-loaded double that brought in three runs, putting the Braves ahead.
Marcell Ozuna slides home safely in the eighth inning as Wilson Ramos can only watch.Getty Images
The Mets signed Betances to a one-year contract worth $10.5 million with the idea he could provide insurance in the late innings, if Diaz and Jeurys Familia struggled. But Betances, coming off a torn left Achilles, continues to sit in the 93 mph neighborhood with his fastball, exposing him when he misses with location.
The Mets (3-5) lost their third straight, despite an offensive outburst that consisted of 13 hits, including three homers. Since beating the Braves on Opening Day at Citi Field, the Mets have lost three straight against their NL East rivals.
Rick Porcello was knocked out after four-plus innings, starting the bullpen carousel early. Paul Sewald and Chasen Shreve gave the Mets a chance by combining to allow two runs over the next three innings, but all hell broke loose after Betances’ entry.
Amed Rosario’s solo blast in the sixth — the Mets’ third homer of the night — and J.D. Davis’ RBI single extended the lead to 10-5 after the Braves had knocked out Porcello the previous inning. Davis dropped a routine fly ball to left field setting up the inning for the Braves.
Over his four-plus innings Porcello allowed four runs, three of which were earned, on five hits and three walks with five strikeouts. The Braves added an unearned run against Sewald in the fifth.
The Mets took control with a six-run fifth inning, in which they batted around, and knocked out starter Sean Newcomb to take an 8-2 lead.
Cano’s leadoff homer to right field on a hanging curveball put the Mets ahead for the first time, but the fun was just starting for the Mets in their most prolific inning of the season. Wilson Ramos singled and Andres Gimenez placed down a surprise bunt for a single. Brandon Nimmo’s single loaded the bases before Pete Alonso walked to give the Mets a 4-2 lead.
After Davis was retired by reliever Jhoulys Chacin for the second out, it got uglier for the Braves. Michael Conforto walked with the bases loaded and Yoenis Cespedes’ ensuing two-run double to left gave the Mets a 7-2 lead. The scoring rampage concluded with Cano’s second hit of the inning, an RBI single.
Porcello endured a shaky first inning in which he allowed four straight singles that put the Mets in a 2-0 hole. Matt Adams — who was in spring training and summer camp with the Mets — went against the shift and delivered an RBI single for the Braves’ first run. Another familiar face, d’Arnaud — who was released by the Mets last season — followed with an RBI single.