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Mets vs. Reds recap: Lossmaster Flexen

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Chris Flexen got rocked as the Mets lost to the Reds in their series opener in Cincinnati.

New York Mets v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Late in a lost season, you try to convince yourself that things are going to be better next year. The Mets, a team decimated by injuries and terrible pitching performance this year, could get back to being a good team as soon as next year, or at least that’s what you tell yourself. So you tune in and hope to see some encouraging things while the weather is still pretty warm and winter has not yet come.

When you root for the Mets, you’re never really sure what will happen when winter does finally arrive. It would be unfair to say the team hasn’t spent money on its payroll over the past couple of seasons, but it’s completely fair to wonder whether or not ownership will pony up the bucks to bring in the players needed to contend in 2018.

So when you see signs of life from the Mets’ young players, it might be a little bit too easy to buy in to their futures. And that has been the case with Chris Flexen, who started the team’s series opener in Cincinnati. If the Mets aren’t going to spend this winter, they’ll need some of the players already in the organization to be good.

Coming into the Reds series, Flexen had a 3.86 ERA over his past three starts. It was a modest figure, and he walked more batters than he struck out in the process. But it was something to dream on. If a significant chunk of the Mets’ starting rotation will be neither healthy nor good next year and the team’s budget is in limbo, a fifth starter who’s capable of putting up a better-than-league-average ERA would be pretty valuable.

But then that series opener happened, and Flexen had his worst major league start yet. He only turned 23 years old on July 1, was called up mostly out of necessity as the team’s rotation fell apart, and could very well have a bright future ahead of him. But in the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ballpark, Flexen gave up seven runs, all of them earned, over four-and-two-thirds innings on seven hits. He struck out four, but he walked four, too.

When you zoom out, that might be just fine. Hey, maybe Chris Flexen is completely capable of being the fifth starter in a major league rotation in 2018. He might have a better shot at that than any one of the Wheeler-Harvey-Matz trio. It would just be hard to view the Mets as contenders if they went into next season making that assumption.

As for the non-Flexen parts of the game, well:

  • Jose Reyes started in left field, a defensive experiment that went about as well as you’d expect, and batted in the leadoff spot despite having been a terrible hitter all season. If the Mets are trying to tank, all of that makes perfect sense.
  • Chase Bradford, who may or may not prefer Chasen over Chase depending on where you’re reading, had the worst outing of his young major league career. He gave up seven runs without recording an out, though three of those were unearned. That still leaves him with a 3.97 ERA in 22.2 innings this year, which is a credit to how good he has been this year aside from this outing.
  • Flexen wasn’t the only rookie out there. Amed Rosario went 1-for-3 with a strikeout, and Dominic Smith went 2-for-4 with a pair of runs batted in. Those two will need to be good in short order if the team is to succeed, especially if the injury prognosis on Michael Conforto turns out to be closer to worst-case than best-case scenario.

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What’s WPA?

Big winners: none
Big losers: Chris Flexen, -36.9% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Asdrubal Cabrera doubles to score Jose Reyes in the first, +9.8% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Scott Schebler hits a grand slam in the first, -27.6% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -37.8% WPA
Total batter WPA: -12.2% WPA
GWRBI!: Scott Schebler