Disastrous Joey Lucchesi inning dooms Mets in loss to Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The long ball was no substitute Saturday for the Mets’ lack of length in another area.

Joey Lucchesi, the long man behind opener Drew Smith, imploded during a disastrous fourth inning from which the Mets never recovered in a second straight loss to the Rays, 12-5 at Tropicana Field.

The Mets, who blasted a season-high three homers, trailed by a run in the eighth before Jacob Barnes and Jeurys Familia combined to allow five hits and two walks, turning the game into a runaway.

The lefty Lucchesi lasted only 1 ²/₃ innings, beginning in the third, and allowed four earned runs on three hits and one walk and saw his ERA jump to 9.19. It was the fourth ineffective performance in his last five from Lucchesi, who arrived last winter from the Padres in a three-way trade that also involved the Pirates.

Until horses such as Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Carrasco return from the injured list – both are still weeks away – the Mets’ options are limited to fill the rotation. As it stands, the Mets are using a four-man set until Jacob deGrom returns from the IL, as soon as Friday.

The most obvious choice if the Mets decide to end the Lucchesi experiment is Jordan Yamamoto, from Triple-A Syracuse.

Francisco Lindor gave his team a pulse with the Mets’ third homer of the game to pull within 6-5 in the eighth, but it got ugly in the bottom of the inning. Barnes allowed two hits and a walk in that eighth inning before Familia entered and watched Yandy Diaz’s chopper bounce over the drawn-in Lindor for two runs. Joey Wendle followed with another chop double for two runs. Brett Phillips’ two-out double brought in another two runs.

Lucchesi nosedived in the fourth, after Smith gave the Mets two solid innings as the starter in which he surrendered only an unearned run.

Diaz walked leading off the fourth and Wendle’s double gave the Rays a rally. Manuel Margot delivered an RBI single for the inning’s first run before Adames hit a hard grounder just left of second base that kept rolling, almost to the warning track. The two-run double tied it 4-4, and the Rays weren’t finished. Sean Reid-Foley replaced Lucchesi with two outs and promptly surrendered an RBI double to Austin Meadows. The Rays extended that lead to 6-4 on Randy Arozarena’s RBI single.

The Rays stole a run in the first when Diaz sprinted home from third on Tomas Nido’s throwing error trying to nail Wendle in an attempted steal of second.

Jose Peraza’s first homer in a Mets uniform – a three-run blast in the second against Shane McClanahan – built a 3-1 lead. Dominic Smith and James McCann both singled in the inning before Peraza, with two outs, cleared the left-field fence.

An inning later, Pete Alonso launched a solo homer in his homecoming weekend. Alonso, who grew up in Tampa and still resides in the area, leads the Mets in homers with six. The blast was his first in 16 games, ending his longest career drought.

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