NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 24: Edwin Diaz #39 of the New York Mets pitches in the ninth inning against the Atlanta Braves and will earn his first save as the Mets win the game 1-0 during Opening Day at Citi Field on July 24, 2020 in New York City. The 2020 season had been postponed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The New York Mets bullpen turned a win into a loss, as Edwin Diaz and Hunter Strickland implode. Can they bounce back on Sunday?

Kyle Newman

The New York Mets started out slow again on Saturday. The offense wasn’t there and starting pitcher Steven Matz allowed a home run in the top of the second to put the team behind early. That was all he would allow though, as he threw six innings and allowed just a pair of hits.

The Mets offense finally came to life in the bottom of the fifth. Michael Conforto, Amed Rosario, and Jeff McNeil combined for two runs to put the ballclub in front.

For a while, that was the story. The Mets offense was shut down by the Braves bullpen and vice versa.

Jeurys Familia, Dellin Betances, and Justin Wilson combined for two shutout innings. Everything was going exactly to script for Luis Rojas and the Mets.

Then, Edwin Diaz came in to pitch the top of the ninth. He was looking to do something he hadn’t done all of 2019: earn saves on back-to-back days. Things got off to a hot start when he struck out Ozzie Albies and forced Freddie Freeman to ground out.

It came down to Diaz against Marcell Ozuna. It was a long at-bat, but when the 3-2 pitch came, it was deja vu for the Mets closer. Ozuna smacked a home run to right field. To Diaz’s credit, the pitch was a 98 mile-per-hour fastball that was high and outside the strike zone. Ozuna had no business swinging at the pitch, let alone hitting a home run. Still, the game was tied and Diaz had blown his first save of 2020.

The Mets put themselves in a position to win in the bottom of the ninth. They had two on and just one out with Brandon Nimmo and then McNeil up to bat, but neither were able to get the job done. Onto extra innings the game went.

Hunter Strickland made his Mets debut by pitching in the 10th, a quick appearance that was nightmare-inducing. A leadoff single gave the Braves a 3-2 lead, and they kept pouring it on thereafter. Strickland got just one out before he was pulled from the game, but the damage had been done. The Braves led 5-2.

Drew Smith came in and put out Strickland’s fire, thus giving the Mets a chance to pull something back. Things looked promising. Jake Marisnick got a leadoff infield single and Pete Alonso followed with a base hit of his own. The bases were loaded with nobody out.

It wasn’t meant to be though. Eduardo Nunez flew out to centerfield, Dom Smith hit a sac fly, and Wilson Ramos hit into a fielder’s choice. The game was over, and the Mets went home with a disappointing 5-3 loss.

The rubber game is set for Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.

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