Meet the Mets, same as the old Mets. Yoenis Cespedes was supposed to miss three days with a jammed thumb, instead he’s in the lineup after the team decided he didn’t even need an MRI. When have we heard that story before I wonder? Steven Matz also said he was fine, then was announced as not available less than an hour later. Ho-hum.
Amidst the chaos, Noah Syndergaard took the mound against the surprisingly potent Braves. Opposing him was rookie Mike Soroka, making his season debut. The Braves also set their lineup with two burgeoning young stars in Ozzie Albies and No. 1 overall prospect Ronald Acuña. This game would very much be a matchup of the Mets’ best hope for extending their brief contention cycle against the Braves’ hopes for a burgeoning dynasty.
That duo got things started quickly for Atlanta – Albies singled, Acuna ripped the first pitch he saw for a double. Freddie Freeman got one off the end of a bat into right field that went for a two-run double and Nick Markakis followed with a ground up the middle to give the Braves a 3-0 lead. Thor got out of the inning with the help of a pickoff, but ended the first with 26 pitches in a big hole.
As many probably could have guessed, the Mets’ bats were not actually revitalized in San Diego; they just got to beat up on one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball. Soroka held the Mets to almost nothing – his only mistake was a hanging slider that Yoenis Cespedes parked in the second deck in left field in the bottom of the sixth to cut the Braves lead to 3-1. That would be Soroka’s last inning, but it was a very successful debut against the Mets, which is pretty much par for the course for Braves’ pitchers; seven different Braves have debuted against the Mets before Soroka, and they were a combined 4-2 with a 2.40 ERA.
The Braves took a very Royals-esque approach to this game, swinging early and often. Syndergaard induced only seven swinging strikes and struck out only three in six innings, but he danced around a .417 BABIP to keep the Braves off the board after the first inning. He departed for Jerry Blevins, who combined with AJ Ramos and Seth Lugo to do the same and keep the Mets in the game.
Those efforts were unrewarded, because the Mets are playing with essentially 40% of a lineup right now. Cespedes, sore thumb and all, had three hits, while Todd Frazier had two. The rest of the lineup combined to do just about nothing. A misplayed pop-up in the ninth gave the Mets some hope with runners on first and second with no outs, but the murderer’s row of Amed Rosario, Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes was shockingly outmatched by closer Arodys Vizcaino – the trio managed a strikeout, ground out and fly out to close out the 3-2 loss.
The Mets have not managed back-to-back wins since the middle of April when their nine-game win streak was snapped. Jacob deGrom takes the mound opposite Sean Newcomb today in a game that feels like one the Mets really need to win.
Thoughts from the Game
As currently constructed, the Mets offense is terrible. Even with Cespedes waking up and the combo of Frazier and Asdrubal Cabrera providing solid secondary production, there simply isn’t enough thump to go around. Michael Conforto is hitting into some terrible luck when he’s not late on fastballs, Jay Bruce still looks lost and the rest of the lineup is a near total black hole. Rosario wasn’t expected to be a slugger this year, but he has no chance against righties (batting .217/.266/.532), Adrian Gonzalez is not a starting caliber first baseman and the Lobaton/Nido catching timeshare is beyond inept with the bat. The bench offers little support, with Reyes serving as dead weight in just about every situation and Flores and Brandon Nimmo showing drastic platoon splits. At present, no component of this team (rotation, bullpen, offense, bench) appears to be a strength.
Brace yourself, Mets fans: the burgeoning Braves dynasty is here. I’m someone who is less impressed with their stockpile of arms than most, but the position player talent they’ve accumulated is outstanding. Albies, Acuna and Freeman is already one of the best 1-2-3 combos in any lineup in the National League. The Mets managed to develop one hitter in more than half a decade of rebuilding (Michael Conforto, who didn’t require much developing), while the Braves have already developed two of that same caliber.
Both of those previous discussions are connected in that the Mets have combined poor organizational strategy – a refusal to rebuild when necessary and a refusal to spend when appropriate – with terrible drafting and development. This organization has not developed a competent hitter since David Wright, while the majority of their picks in the first four rounds are either wildly disappointing (Gavin Cecchini, Dom Smith, Matt Reynolds), headed that way (Desmond Lindsay, Justin Dunn), or at best marginally but unspectacular players (Brandon Nimmo, Kevin Plawecki). Maybe Peter Alonso can bump the hit rate a little, but this is an amateur department that has been among the league’s worst for the better part of the decade.
Other Mets News
The media continues to rag on Matt Harvey, this time because he decided to go partying in LA while the Mets were in San Diego. The words “thoracic,” “outlet” and “syndrome” continue to be conspicuously absent from any story, as that’s far less interesting than any possible bar-hopping. Make no mistake, Harvey should be a on a short leash and really shouldn’t be on the team for much longer, but that is in no way connected to his life off the field.
Photo credit: Brad Penner – USA Today Sports