Late Monday night, the New York Mets managed to pull a win from the jaws of defeat to put the brakes on a four-game losing streak and six-of-seven losing slide. Just a day removed from an embarrassing afternoon in which Seth Lugo coughed up one of Jacob deGrom‘s grittier starts, Asdrubal Cabrera added two home runs to his name, and despite yet another mind-boggling injury, this one to a surging Steven Matz, the Mets entered the bottom of the seventh inning up 6-2.
In a comedy of flat Jerry Blevins curveballs and stale Jacob Rhame fastballs, the Mets did the unthinkable. Despite the offense actually putting enough runs on the board to negate a save situation, the bullpen imploded for the umpteenth time. Walk-off home runs from the unlikely Charlie Culberson and immortal Johan Camargo shoved the Mets back to .500, five games out of first, mired behind three surging teams.
If it feels like we’ve gone through a story like this before, you’re not stuck in a Bill Murray fever dream. This lousy play has been very real since the Mets’ 11-1 start, and despite a slew of impressive rallies and strong starter performances, the Mets have played to a 15-25 record in their last 40 games.
Here are just a few examples of games (with recaps) that the team effectively had no excuse to lose, but nonetheless gave away:
- April 16, 8-6 loss against Washington (the one where the bullpen blows a 6-1 lead)
- April 21, 4-3 loss in Atlanta (the one where, up 3-0, Ramos, Blevins, and Familia allow four runs in two innings)
- April 26, 4-3 loss in St. Louis (the other one where Familia struggles, featuring three runs in 13 innings)
- May 6, 3-2 loss (sweep) against Colorado (the one where Robles allows a go-ahead homer, featuring one hit after the second inning)
- May 9, 2-1 loss in Cincinnati (the one where they lose in extras on a walk-off homer, featuring
five hits, four because they batted out of order)
- May 13, 4-2 loss in Philadelphia (the one where deGrom throws 45 pitches in the first, Callaway fatally sticks with Sewald against a lefty in the sixth inning)
- May 23, 2-1 loss against Miami (the one where deGrom is supported by a shocking one run on five hits, with a bonus blown save from Familia)
- May 25 and May 27, 4-3 and 8-7 losses in Milwaukee (the double episode where the offense lets flustered Brewer starters off the hook, instead put faith in Ramos and Blevins)
- Monday’s embarrassing choke job in Atlanta (the one with as many runs as basepath pickoffs in support of deGrom, a Lugo meltdown up 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth)
- Yesterday’s equally embarrassing effort in Atlanta (this one nearly brought me to tears)
Hypothetically speaking, if the Mets had won just five of these eleven games, they would have 31 wins and 21 losses… good for a tie for first in the division (and possibly better, considering the number of losses to division rivals). Had they won all of them, they would have been 37-15… good for the best record in the National League. Let’s not forget the absolute massacres that the team has gotten from Jason Vargas, Matt Harvey, and just about every pitcher who was asked to throw a ball to Jose Lobaton and his 6.26 catcher ERA. There’s losing a couple of close games, and then there’s outright giving them away. I can only assess these losses so generously.
Granted, the Mets are fortunate enough to be even within breathing distance of the .500 mark, and there is plenty of season left, but if the early-summer debacle of 2017 has taught us anything, it’s that a lack of pitching depth can completely drown a team. With the current state of the pitching staff, not even in overall inefficiency, but simply objective usage and injuries, the Mets have suddenly fallen into a crisis.
In a split doubleheader that spanned 12 hours, Jeurys Familia tossed a scoreless final two innings on 32 pitches while Hansel Robles threw 45 of his own. Paul Sewald did a fine job muscling through two innings last night, albeit on 48 pitches. Robert Gsellman is the only reliever who has more than a day’s worth of rest, and suddenly, Jacob deGrom (who has been abhorrently robbed of at least four extra wins) is the only starting pitcher the Mets can legitimately trust to give seven innings.
Noah Syndergaard‘s injured finger and Seth Lugo’s subsequent assignment to start tomorrow’s home affair is both a step down in the rotation and drastic hit to the relief corps. What’s more, the hand injury that knocked an otherwise dominant Steven Matz out of last night’s contest in the fourth inning marked yet another blow to an already thinning rotation. If Chris Flexen‘s Saturday struggles in Milwaukee (eight hits, three walks, and just three swings-and-misses in two innings) are any indication of what’s to come, Mickey Callaway, himself may be better off suiting up and pitching a game.
Even with Zack Wheeler‘s sound improvements attacking hitters, relying on him to battle deep into a game has been a pipe dream for over a year now. Another three-inning start or injury would effectively break the camel’s back, and with Jason Vargas and his 10.62 ERA squaring off against notorious Met-killer, Julio Teheran, it’s hard to envision a much bleaker scenario.
Even with an offense that has started to come around, the prospect of grabbing a confident lead, and actually holding it with a starter and no more than two relievers, has never felt so distant. Even if Todd Frazier and Yoenis Cespedes come back and mitigate the woes with men in scoring position, the Mets are still down to one trustworthy starter.
You can sing the praises of leadoff breakthrough Brandon Nimmo, if you’d like. You can cite Michael Conforto‘s .304/.377/.551 tear dating back to May 7, Devin Mesoraco‘s revitalized swing, or Amed Rosario‘s marked improvements as a slap hitter out of the nine spot. Behind Familia and Gsellman, there’s nobody capable of giving them a scoreless inning or more in tonight’s game. For the first time since the middle of last season, it feels like the team is heading into the eye of a storm.