Mets show vulnerability in first series loss

Mets show vulnerability in first series loss

NEW YORK — The Mets nearly pulled off a comeback again. Already the engineers of a five-run ninth inning in St. Louis last month and a seven-run ninth in Philadelphia, the Mets had designs on making the Mariners their latest victims when they put the potential tying and go-ahead runs on base Sunday with one out in the ninth.

Alas, even the upstart Mets have their limits. When Pete Alonso struck out on a check-swing to end things, sending them to an 8-7 loss at Citi Field, the Mets dropped a series for the first time this season. They had set a franchise record by going 10 consecutive series without losing one to open the year.

“You get used to winning,” said outfielder Brandon Nimmo, whose two-run double off Drew Steckenrider gave the Mets a chance at another late comeback. “You come in, you turn the music on, you dance, and that’s just what you do when you win more games than you lose. You definitely can take it for granted.”

The truth is, the Mets have been showing bits of vulnerability throughout the last two weeks. With the caveat, as Nimmo says, that “we’re just in the middle of May,” here’s a look at three of them … and whether or not they should concern management.

The lineup isn’t demonstrating consistent power
Panic level: 3 out of 10

Through 36 games, the Mets have hit just 29 home runs, tied for 21st in the Majors. They’ve totaled 92 extra-base hits, which is middle of the pack. Although Nimmo, Alonso and Jeff McNeil have given the team consistent offensive production, no other member of this revamped lineup has.

Blame the baseball or the cold Northeast weather, but neither of those factors are unique to the Mets.

Still, there are multiple reasons to avoid concern for now. One is that every member of the regular lineup is healthy; it’s easy to see Francisco Lindor (who homered in the first inning Sunday), Eduardo Escobar (who tripled to spark the ninth-inning rally) or Starling Marte (who fell a home run shy of the cycle on Saturday) catching fire. Those are players with significant track records.

The Mets have also demonstrated that they’re highly capable of scoring runs without the benefit of homers. That’s been their identity throughout the young season, especially during late comebacks. And while there’s a fair bit of luck baked into statistics such as batting average with runners in scoring position, the Mets figure to counteract regression to the mean with increased power once the weather warms.

“I feel like we’re almost there,” said Alonso, whose eight home runs lead the team. “I feel like once we get going full tilt, it’s going to be extremely fun.”

Megill, who entered the rotation on Opening Day as deGrom’s replacement, won’t pitch for at least two weeks due to right biceps tendinitis. deGrom will undergo an MRI early this week to determine his next course of action, but even if the news is good, he’s unlikely to return before late June.

Normally, this would be cause for a decent amount of anxiety, particularly considering Carlos Carrasco’s outing Sunday (4 1/3 innings, four earned runs) was his second poor one in his last four starts. But Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt have been routinely excellent, steadying the rotation. Taijuan Walker has flashed lots of potential. And David Peterson, who will probably rejoin the team next weekend, has given the Mets significant value in his starts.

It’s not a perfect situation, but the Mets knew they would endure adversity when they lost deGrom at the end of Spring Training. If the injuries to deGrom or Megill linger, then the panic level will increase. For now?

“We need to continue to work hard, the same way we’ve been doing,” Carrasco said. “I’m pretty sure we can have another guy who can step up.”

The bullpen is beginning to lose games
Panic level: 7 out of 10

From Opening Day through last Wednesday, Mets relievers compiled a 3.23 ERA. Since that time, they’ve produced a 6.75 ERA while absorbing each of the team’s last two losses. Chasen Shreve, who was so solid for the Mets in April and early May, allowed game-tying homers on both Saturday and Sunday. Drew Smith, who had subbed for injured reliever Trevor May as one of Buck Showalter’s top setup options, snapped his season-long scoreless streak on Friday and then allowed another run Sunday.

Outside of Edwin Díaz, who has positioned himself as one of baseball’s best closers, no Mets reliever has proven consistent over the first five weeks. There’s still plenty of time for that, of course, but considering this seemed like a potential trouble area heading into the season, it’s worth wondering if general manager Billy Eppler might start looking outside the organization for help sooner rather than later.

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