In what’s already been a tumultuous week for the Mets and their fanbase, it feels as if Saturday night’s 2-0 loss to Colorado may actually be rock bottom. The loss was the fifth straight for the Mets and marked the third time in four games the offense has failed to score a run. The Mets have dropped eight of their last 10 games and have seen their lead in the NL East come crashing down, as they now find themselves third in the division, two games back of the surging Braves and half a game behind the new look Phillies.
The offense has scored only nine runs during the five-game losing streak, an average of a measly 1.8 runs per game compared to the 6.2 they’re allowing. The streak started with a sweep at the hands of the up and coming division rival Atlanta Braves, a series in which the Mets were outscored 21-2, and things haven’t gotten much better against the Rockies, either. Almost every hitter on the team is underperforming, save Asdrubal Cabrera, Todd Frazier and Brandon Nimmo, and it’s becoming a glaring problem considering the recent pitching woes.
With Matt Harvey’s release, Jacob deGrom’s injury scare and Jason Vargas earning (stealing) $16 million dollars to pitch, the Mets really needed a quality start from Steven Matz in the worst way, and boy did he deliver. Nolan Arenado tagged Matz for a solo home run in the first, but the lefty brushed it off nicely and allowed only three Rockies to reach base in the next five innings. Matz was efficient and pitched deep into the ballgame, striking out five and throwing only 88 pitches in his six innings of work. It was an extremely encouraging outing for Matz, who had his start earlier this week pushed back due to back spasms. The rotation outside of deGrom and Noah Syndergaard has been mired in inconsistency, especially Matz, and the hope is this start can get him back on the right track.
Rockies starter Chad Bettis began the season with a 4.80 career ERA, which is actually pretty decent for a guy who makes half his starts in Colorado, but entered last night’s game with a 2.43 mark this season that’s backed up by his 2.68 DRA. The Mets made hard contact that seemed to find Rockies players all night, especially defensive wizard Arenado at the hot corner, and it never felt that the offense was threatening. Bettis allowed six hits and a walk in his seven innings before making way for the most dominant reliever of the season thus far, Adam Ottavino. The Mets put a scare into Ottavino when Nimmo drew a walk to lead off the eighth, but Arenado made a fantastic stop on a sharp grounder by Yoenis Cespedes that ultimately resulted in a fielders choice. Although Cespedes would steal second, Ottavino struck out Cabrera and got Jay Bruce to fly out to end the late-inning threat, ultimately sealing the Mets fate.
With the Mets cutting bait on Matt Harvey in an effort to bolster the bullpen, it’s worthwhile to question whether the team should do the same with underperforming veterans Jose Reyes and Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez is the strong side of the platoon with Wilmer Flores at first and is slashing a paltry .233/.318/.384. Reyes has been even worse, hitting .139/.184/.222, although to be fair, he’s only had 38 plate appearances (Who am I kidding? Why is this guy still on the team?) Gonzalez and Reyes aren’t the only ones underperforming though; the same can be said for Michael Conforto, Cespedes, Amed Rosario, and even Tomas Nido and Jose Lobaton. The prevailing thought with the Mets was that the starting rotation, if healthy, would carry them despite the lineup. The reality is something entirely different though, as the Mets have two reliable starters, one of which kinda-sorta has an elbow injury and a bunch of question marks behind them.
It’s not time to panic yet though — there’s still over 80% of the season yet to be played — but the Mets need improved production from a couple of key positions if they want to contend. Gonzalez has been looking over his shoulder for almost two weeks now, as top prospect Peter Alonso is tearing up Double-A and looks primed to skip Triple-A, a-la Michael Conforto back in 2015. Luis Guillorme, Phil Evans and Ty Kelly (remember him?) can all play shortstop and bring much more to the table than Reyes at this stage of his career. The catching position probably needs to be addressed outside of the organization, unless you believe they can afford to wait for Kevin Plawecki, who probably deserves a shot as the everyday guy once he’s fully recovered from his injury. Impatient fans are calling for Rosario to be sent down, citing his poor average and OBP, which I find utterly ridiculous and you should too.
It’s getting harder with each loss to keep preaching patience with this team, but the reality is the bats are going to pick up at some point. This roster still has the makings of a contender but it’s clear Sandy Alderson and co. are growing impatient. This isn’t rock bottom, but we’re growing ever closer and it’s not pretty.
Photo credit: Andy Marlin – USA Today Sports