And then there was Jay Bruce, who said he felt fine before the game — and before batting practice — but did not feel fine enough to play by game time.
That threw another wrench into Callaway’s plans. His original lineup had Bruce in right, Jose Bautista at third base and Kevin Plawecki, normally a catcher, at first in an attempt to jump-start the offense. In Bruce’s absence, the lineup had Bautista back in the outfield and Luis Guillorme at third.
“I think at this point the need for offense is paramount,” Callaway said about his original plan to put Plawecki and Bautista out of position. “And given who’s on the mound tonight, we felt comfortable going this route.”
Because if there was one player who could be reliably expected to pull the Mets out of a tailspin, it was deGrom, who came into the game with a 1.52 earned run average, the lowest of any National League starter. He had allowed just two earned runs over his previous seven starts, spanning 40⅓ innings.
The Mets got what they needed out of deGrom — seven innings of one-run ball, with 13 strikeouts to tie his career high — but not nearly enough out of the offense, which managed just three hits over the final eight innings.
DeGrom, who worked out of a first-inning bases-loaded jam by striking out Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber, allowed a run in the sixth on three consecutive singles, the final one a line drive by Anthony Rizzo that drove in Jason Heyward. DeGrom has not allowed more than one run in any start since April 16.
Michael Conforto, singled out for criticism by Callaway for overthrowing a cutoff man in the Mets’ 7-4 loss on Friday, spared deGrom from a heartbreaking defeat with a game-tying solo home run off Montgomery in the sixth.
Both teams had several opportunities to win the game: Three times in the first 10 innings, the Cubs loaded the bases, only to end each threat by striking out. The Mets loaded the bases in the bottom of the 13th, but Plawecki grounded out to end the threat.