Marlins rookie Jerar Encarnacion sinks Mets with grand slam in MLB debut
What had been a happy Father’s Day for 41,255 Mets fans at Citi Field was ruined by a kid.
Jerar Encarnacion — a 24-year-old Marlins outfielder making his major league debut — smacked an opposite-field grand slam off Seth Lugo for his first career hit, spoiling an excellent outing from Chris Bassitt and handing the Mets a 6-2 loss Sunday afternoon.
The Mets (44-24) had a three-game winning streak snapped and dropped to 5 ½ games ahead of the second-place Braves.
In a matter of a few minutes, Mets fans went from a standing ovation for Bassitt to raining boos upon Lugo.
Buck Showalter stuck with Bassitt to start the seventh inning despite the righty beginning the frame with 97 pitches thrown. Two singles and a walk later, Lugo entered with the bases loaded for Encarnacion, a righty hitter who had been called up Friday.
The manager said he wanted to stay away from Edwin Diaz (who pitched Saturday) and Adam Ottavino (who threw 27 pitches Friday) and felt comfortable trying to squeeze another inning out of Bassitt, who said he had more in the tank.
“If I feel good, I’m not afraid to go 115-120 [pitches],” Bassitt said after finishing with 109, the biggest pitch from the Mets emerging right after he left.
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On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Lugo’s fastball got too much of the plate, and Encarnacion slashed it far beyond Starling Marte’s reach in right field to silence a rowdy park.
Lugo, who later walked Jazz Chisholm and surrendered an RBI double to Jon Berti, was booed off the mound upon finally completing an inning that the Mets began with a 1-0 lead.
“It’s part of the game,” Lugo, who said he had little information on Encarnacion, said of the hearty boos. “I’ve been here a long time, and it’s always been a thing here. Just is what it is.”
The Mets’ offense had broken through against Sandy Alcantara in the sixth, when Marte lined a two-out triple — the Mets’ league-leading 16th — into left-center. With two outs, Francisco Lindor’s single into center field represented the game’s first run, his seventh RBI in the series.
Marte’s hit was the first for the Mets since the third inning. They could do little against Alcantara, who allowed two runs on six hits in eight innings — which actually raised his ERA to 1.72.
“He’s one of the best in the game,” said Lindor, who knocked in his 52nd run of the year after driving in 63 all of last season.
“He’s got above-average stuff, he’s got a great angle, command,” Showalter said. “He’s got a lot of attributes that figure into winning baseball. There’s a reason why he’s carrying an ERA with one next to it.”
For 6 ²/₃ innings, though, Bassitt was better.
A day after Taijuan Walker struck out nine, Bassitt matched him for his season high in strikeouts. In his first career game against Miami, he allowed five hits and two walks and left the game in line for the win.
But he left those three runners on base, all of which Lugo allowed to score as Encarnacion became the second player in Marlins history to hit a grand slam in his first career game, joining Jeremy Hermida in 2005.
The Mets got one back in the seventh, when Luis Guillorme’s single drove in Jeff McNeil. But that would conclude the Mets’ scoring, while the Marlins tacked on an unearned run in the ninth against Tommy Hunter — making his season debut — and Joely Rodriguez.
The Mets’ bullpen, a strength for much of the season, was at fault because of one fastball that missed the outside corner.
“Seth’s been pitching pretty well,” Showalter said of Lugo, who had allowed a run in just one of his previous 10 outings. “He was rested, ready to go. He just got one pitch where he didn’t want to get it against a young, aggressive hitter.”