July 5, 2022

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Megill's vow: 'I'm not going to let this one define me'

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WASHINGTON — It would have been easy, following Tylor Megill’s near-spotless start to the season, to lull oneself into believing he might never face adversity. Megill had demonstrated plenty of improvement over the first five weeks of the season, even eliciting Jacob deGrom comparisons as he mowed down all comers in the National League.

Turns out these things aren’t, in fact, easy. For as talented as Megill is, for as bright as his future may be, he’s going to endure poor starts from time to time. Just like everybody else.

So it was Wednesday at Nationals Park, when Megill — staked to a three-run lead before he took the mound — faced 14 batters and allowed eight of them to score in an 8-3 loss to the Nationals. Toeing the same rubber that he did on Opening Day, when he opened eyes with a scoreless performance that included multiple 99 mph fastballs, Megill looked merely mortal.

And that’s OK, says manager Buck Showalter.

“He’s pitched so well for us,” Showalter said. “We’ll give him a pass tonight.”

In Megill’s estimation, the issues were mostly related to shoddy fastball command, which resulted in center-cut pitches to Juan Soto, among others, in the first inning. Soto hit that for a two-run homer, and the Nationals were well on their way to victory from there. Nelson Cruz added a three-run homer in the second to hasten Megill’s early exit. In sum, Megill allowed nearly as many earned runs (eight) as he had in his first six starts combined (nine).

“Obviously, it was a bad outing,” Megill said, noting that he will check video between starts to make sure he’s not tipping pitches. “But I’m capable of way more. I’m not going to let this one define me.”

The Mets, too, are capable of more, as they demonstrated with a series of notable developments in what could have been an even uglier loss. Among them:

Trevor Williams and Stephen Nogosek saved the bullpen
Following Megill’s exit, Williams delivered 3 2/3 scoreless innings and Nogosek added three more of his own. It was a boon for the Mets’ other relievers, who were able to receive complete days off as the Mets continue a stretch of 16 games over 16 days in four cities.

That certainly didn’t have to be the case, considering Williams hadn’t pitched in a week and Nogosek hadn’t taken the mound in 12 days. Rust would have been understandable.

Instead, those two drew upon daily workout routines designed to keep themselves sharp.

“You’ve got to treat the bullpens before the game like it’s the eighth inning and the tying run’s on third, and execute,” Nogosek said. “That’s a big thing that I’ve learned the last few years — is treat your prep work like it’s the real thing, and you’ll get results in a real game.”

The threat of a comeback was real
The first murmurs at Nationals Park began as soon as Eduardo Escobar laced a single into left field. They intensified when Jeff McNeil followed with a single, giving the Mets realistic hope that they could overcome a five-run deficit in the ninth. After all, the Mets have constructed multiple ninth-inning rallies of at least five runs twice already this season, most recently during their seven-run comeback in Philadelphia last week.

This time, another instant classic was not in the offing. But the Mets continue to believe those things are possible, even on a night when Megill put them in a sizable early hole.

“We had some shots,” Showalter said. “Sometimes that well, it’s hard to go to every time. It’s difficult to do.”

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