One night removed from the latest in a long series of heartbreaking losses to the Nationals, life goes on for the 2018 Mets. Zack Wheeler took the mound, coming off of his brilliant season debut against the Marlins and facing the first real lineup he’s seen. Opposing him was long-time Met killer Gio Gonzalez, who always seems to wiggle out of just about everything the Mets throw out him at Citi Field.
This game was truly brutal to watch, so I’m going to stray from my usual format. Rather than recounting the game inning by inning, I’m going to spare both you and myself and simply tell you that it was death by a thousand papercuts, the sort of game we’ve grown used to when Gio Gonzalez takes the ball against the Mets. Go find one of those recaps from last season if you want to get the gist of the play-by-play.
Wheeler wasn’t anywhere near as good as he was in Miami, but he fought through a tough outing without a great feel for his slider or his curveball. He only struck out two while walking three, but the Nats (mostly) didn’t square him up. That didn’t matter, of course, as every dink, dunk and dribbly ground ball found its way to a hole or over an infielder’s head. Wheeler tallied a quality start, allowing three runs and six innings, but he probably needs a more demonstrative outing next time out to hold onto his spot in the rotation once Jason Vargas returns.
That trend continued against the bullpen, as Robert Gsellman giving up all of one hard hit ball en route to giving up two runs in two innings. He even retired Bryce Harper on a flyout (rather than just giving him a free base, like the rest of the staff has done) and induced a ground ball with the infield drawn in. Of course, that ground ball was bounced hard off the dirt, so there was no play at home anyway even when the BABIP fairy decided to smile on the Mets for a moment.
Trea Turner continued to torture the Mets, going 3-for-4 with two doubles and another steal (thanks a lot A.J. Preller for giving him to the Nationals for next to nothing). Speaking of steals, the Mets still can’t throw a runner out to save their life, notching another three steals to add to their major league lead. On the only throw that was remotely close to catching a runner, Amed Rosario missed the tag, and Met catchers are now 1-for-22 in throwing out base stealers.
On offense, the Mets couldn’t buy a hit with runners in scoring position. While the Nats hit broken bat rollers that found a hole or flairs that dropped in the outfield, Mets hitters flailed at breaking pitches out of the zone or hit the ball hard right at an infielder. As a team, the Mets were 0-for-9 with RISP and left eleven runners in scoring position. They scored only two runs despite racking up eleven hits and three walks, which is impressively anemic. At least there was no false hope in the ninth inning as the Mets went down in order to Sean Doolittle to cap the 5-2 loss.
Thoughts from the Game
First off, Jose Reyes should not be on this team. Period. Three different Mets pitchers now have two hits and Reyes has yet to even make solid contact in 17 plate appearances. Fittingly, he looked utterly terrible in an at-bat with runners on first and third with one out last night, flailing at a breaking pitch out of the zone before taking one of the most pathetic swings you’ll ever see at an inside fastball. At this point, Jacob deGrom might be a better shortstop both offensively and defensively than Reyes, and I’m only mostly kidding. That the Mets finally decided to spend on strengthening the bench only to bring back a bad hitter who can’t play defense is rage-inducing.
Reyes isn’t the only culprit on offense, however, as the team as a hole just isn’t hitting right now. Yoenis Cespedes is batting .203/.271/.359 and hasn’t hit a ball solidly in the air in weeks. Jay Bruce, slowed by plantar fasciitis, is batting .216/.322.373. Todd Frazier had a golden sombrero Tuesday (though he’s hitting well on the young season). Adrian Gonzalez didn’t play today, but he’s only hitting .222/.326/.333. Pitching has carried the Mets in the early going, but the offense needs to start hitting better before the hot start is wasted.
Those negative notes aside, there has been a major overreaction to this most recent series. Despite a gut punch on Monday and this infuriating game Tuesday, the Mets are still 12-4. Just as the win streak didn’t remove the Mets’ flaws (thin back of the bullpen due to misallocation of resources to AJ Ramos, bad first base options, questionable back half of the rotation), two tough losses don’t wipe out this teams’ strengths (two stars in the rotation and in the lineup, solid secondary hitters). Any team, particularly a high variance squad projected at around .500, is going to have its ups and downs, and we’re just entering the first down phase of the season. So step back from the ledge, take a day or two off (avoid the next Matt Harvey start for sure) and come back refreshed when Thor next takes the mound.
Other Mets News
Before the game, the Mets optioned Hansel Robles to Triple-A and recalled Gerson (pronounced Jerson, like the ‘g’ in GIF) Bautista. Bautista was acquired in the Addison Reed trade with the Red Sox at last year’s trade deadline. He can top 100 mph with his fastball, but it’s very straight and his breaking pitches aren’t great. He’s also had command problems, though he improved down the stretch last year with the Mets and hasn’t walked a batter so far this season. He worked a scoreless inning in his debut.
Jason Vargas has looked excellent in recent simulated games, striking out twelve in six innings in his most recent outing. He’s slated to begin a minor league rehab assignment and should return in a couple weeks. Who he bumps remains unknown for now – it should probably be Matt Harvey, but it probably won’t be.
Photo credit: Noah K. Murray – USA Today Sports