ATLANTA — In the most important game of the regular season to this point, the Mets asked a recent starter-to-reliever convert to record a few significant outs.
Tylor Megill could not do it.
Megill was called upon for the seventh inning of a game the Mets trailed by two, and the righty proceeded to allow two runs in the Mets’ series-opening, 5-2 loss to the Braves at Truist Park on Friday night.
The Braves moved into a first-place tie with the Mets with five games left (two more head to head) in part because Megill — in his fifth outing since returning from a shoulder injury and transitioning to a reliever — continued to struggle.
And because Buck Showalter felt he did not have a better option.
The manager did not want to turn to Seth Lugo, he said, after Lugo pitched two innings Wednesday. He did not want to bring in Drew Smith, he indicated, because he is being careful with Smith, who has made four appearances since returning from a strained right lat. Smith threw 15 pitches Wednesday.
“There’s a reason for everyone,” said Showalter, who also likely wanted to stay away from a high-leverage type such as Adam Ottavino while the team was losing. “We’re intending to try to get through the games and be prepared for not only tonight but tomorrow.”
Jacob deGrom was through six innings on 86 pitches and left with a blood blister and a 3-1 deficit. Showalter went with Megill, a project who had shown excellent stuff as a starter but has stumbled as a reliever.
Megill allowed a couple of hard hits to Matt Olson (a single) and Travis d’Arnaud (double) before William Contreras popped out. Eddie Rosario’s long sacrifice fly scored one, before Orlando Arcia took a four-seamer from Megill and bounced it off the left-field wall to drive in two and give Atlanta a 5-1 edge.
Trevor May entered and struck out Ronald Acuna Jr. to prevent the Braves from adding on.
“Just up [in the zone],” Showalter said of Megill’s issue. “Guys were catching up with him and staying on top of the ball. He just wasn’t able to land anything soft enough.”
Megill now has allowed four runs in four innings since rejoining the club. He had pitched an inning Wednesday, when he held the Marlins scoreless but walked two and had to dance his way out of trouble.
The Mets’ bullpen is in flux. They have been seeing what former starters such as Megill and David Peterson can offer, figuring out who belongs on the playoff roster. Megill did not add to his case Friday.