“Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, you’re a sucker.”
— Mike McDermott (Matt Damon), “Rounders.”
The week ended with the Mets as the suckers.
Because this week was supposed to be the week the Mets got healthy (literally with Justin Verlander) and the schedule by playing the sport’s weakest opponents in the Rockies and Tigers. Except for the weak club now not in the other dugout.
The Mets lost a series in Detroit and then one at home to Colorado, concluding 13-6 on Sunday. After defeating the Mets for the 11th time in 14 games, Francisco Lindor described the Mets conundrum of not hitting good when they are receiving a good pitch, and not playing well to complement hard hitters.
By the way, this is the format in which it is also played. And with 35 games to go, the 17-18 Mets are barely showing what their $370 million Goliath projected.
“Our show staff is really good,” said Lindor. “And insulting us is really, really good, too. We have to get it together. Hopefully, sooner rather than later.”
They got another favorable opportunity to make it “faster” again this week by following up their Monday off-day with seven games against the feared Reds and Nationals. They have, in theory, the top three rookies to start the stretch in Max Scherzer, Verlander and Kodai Senga. But those three are figurative for the whole team, for now – they look great on paper, but they’re even more disturbing in reality.
All of this would feel better about the Mets if Scherzer and Verlander, in particular, played like the guys who made the Mets the best annual paid players in history. And if the lineup finds consistency to the upside.
For offense, Buck Showalter met his most disappointing hitter, Starling Mart, before Sunday’s game. The Mets internally believe Marte has had bad luck and in the long run, he’ll be fine. However, Showalter decided to give his right fielder a two-day reset — not in the final lineup versus Colorado followed by a day out. Showalter then moved Lindor into second, inserting Jeff McNeil into third in front of Alonso and hitting Brett Batty into fifth for the first time in his career.
The Mets manager won’t commit to reinserting Marte at second and said he can even imagine going a Brandon Nimmo/McNeil 1-2 because lefties do such a good job of getting on base against lefties that Showalter isn’t afraid to hit them in a row.
This group worked in the first inning on Sunday to counter Joey Lucchesi’s solo homer surrender in the top of the inning. Rockies star Ryan Feltner did not hit any of the eight batters with a kickoff. Three walked. He gave up three singles, the last of which was Louis Gillorm on Feltner’s 32nd pitch. That should have left two with two out and the Mets ahead 3-1.
But Daniel Vogelbach pulled up on second down to try and locate the ball. Chris Bryant caught up behind him and Vogelbach was tagged in for second. It was unforgivable, and Vogelbach admitted how wrong he was and that he beat himself up until the end of the match.
I asked Showalter, particularly in the wake of Brandon Nemo’s mind-locking attempt and failure to steal in the ninth inning with a run tangled at the plate Thursday in Detroit, if he’d consider pulling Vogelbach from the game as a message to the team. Showalter said Vogelbach was so distraught that it would be a wrong move and that the bunker was clearly aware it was a mistake without a major gesture.
But this play changed the content of the game. The chance of Feltner hitting the first build or at least building more outfield was gone. Instead, by the time Lucchesi departed after four innings, the score was 3-3. Jimmy Yacacabonis and Tommy Hunter teamed to allow seven runs in the fifth inning. So for the Mets to hit two more sets on Sunday than in their previous four games together made no sense.
With so many outfield injuries, Showalter is trying to space out the innings so his arms don’t explode early in the season. But on a day like Sunday, that meant that four of the five pitchers he used (Lucchesi, Jacapones, Jeff Brigham, and Dominique Leon) weren’t even on the Opening Day roster, and Hunter was only due to injuries to others like Edwin Diaz.
The list at the moment is full of fillers and star deficiencies. This week could turn around if Marte productively returns to the lineup, Scherzer and Verlander deliver a pair of seven-run gems and the Mets flex against two foes with a combined 28-40 record.
But we’ve been saying similar things as it started last week. The Mets finished the game at 17-18. It’s been a double week again. A week where the Mets looked around the table and they were the suckers.