Surrendering five consecutive base hits to begin the eighth inning laid the framework for Syracuse’s 11-4 loss to Gwinnett on Friday night.
Entering the inning, Syracuse trailed, 6-2, and there was still hope that the potent combination of Robinson Cano and Rene Rivera could boost the offense enough to propel a rally, but it dwindled away as Sean Kazmar Jr — who went 5-for-5 with a home run Friday — singled to left field and started things off for the Stripers.
At the time, the Mets were looking for a shutdown frame to help recover from a rocky seventh inning where they gave up two doubles, so every eighth-inning hit they gave up led to more and more anxiety.
Two of Gwinnett’s five hits to open the eighth were for extra bases, and batters were wisely choosing when to be patient and when to be aggressive, which forced Mets pitcher Stephen Villines to enter the strike zone and deliver hittable pitches.
Of those five at-bats, two batters jumped on the first pitch, including Rafael Ortega, who turned his into a two-run home run. The other was Jack Lopez, who lined a double into right field and then scored later in the inning.
The Mets were then held scoreless in the bottom of the inning, and Gwinnett added another run in the top of the ninth, leaving the Mets with an 11-2 deficit. By that point, fans were hitting the exits, and the two runs Syracuse picked up to close the game didn’t make a difference.
From an overall standpoint, Syracuse’s offense struggled compared to Gwinnnett’s. It had four runs to Gwinnett’s 11, five base hits to the Stripers’ 17, and then struck out 12 times, whereas its pitchers only had eight strikeouts.
These struggles aren’t new for the Mets, but lately, they have been able to lean on offense — and defense, for that matter — from Cano and Brandon Nimmo. In the next few days, both players will finish their rehab stints and return to the New York Mets, meaning Syracuse needs a couple guys to step up and replace them.
Nimmo didn’t play Friday, but Cano did. According to Syracuse.com’s Lindsay Kramer, this was Cano’s final game with Triple-A Syracuse.
Cano was 1-for-4 with a double in the contest. The second baseman flashed some leather, specifically in the top of the first inning, when he was the middle man in the 6-4-3, inning-ending double play.
Following that, in the bottom of the frame, Rivera hit the two-run homer to give the Mets the early 2-0 lead, his seventh of the year. However, it wasn’t enough to overcome the big day from Kazmar and the Stripers.