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Simulating the Mets’ 2020 season: Two games visiting the Cheating Astros

Having dropped two of three to the Nationals over the weekend, I bring my fake Mets to Houston.

MLB: New York Mets at Chicago Cubs Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

My simulated season running the Mets in OOTP continues this evening with two games in Houston, the ones the Mets were originally slated to play tonight and tomorrow against the disgraced 2017 champions and 2019 American League pennant winners. For previous installments in the series, check out this page, which will continue to have all of them as we go along. To start this series, my Mets are 6-3 on the season.

April 7, Game 10: Mets at Astros

This one very likely would have lined up the same way in real life, but it’s a treat: Jacob deGrom starting opposite Justin Verlander. The Mets don’t score in the top of the first, but the Astros get on the board with a run in the bottom of the inning after Jose Altuve leads off with a bunt single, moves to third on a smoked single by Michael Brantley, and comes in to score as Alex Bregman hits into a double play.

The bats for both teams go understandably silent until the top of the fifth, when Dom Smith takes Verlander yard to lead off the inning and tie the game at one. Unfortunately, though, the lead is short-lived. deGrom gives up a leadoff single in the bottom of the inning and then faces Carlos Correa, who takes him deep to put the Astros up 3-1. Although deGrom goes eight innings on just 101 pitches, Verlander goes 7.2 innings himself without giving up anything else to the Mets. The Astros’ pen keeps the Mets off the board the rest of the way, and the Astros take the opener.

Final: Astros 3, Mets 1


Box score

April 8, Game 11: Mets at Astros

While this one isn’t nearly as exciting a pitching matchup, it does feature Noah Syndergaard for the Mets, with Lance McCullers Jr. starting for the Astros. Through three innings, both pitchers are good, each throwing three shutout frames. Syndergaard cracks first, giving up a run in the bottom of the fourth on a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel.

The Mets don’t score in the fifth, but the Astros sure do. Carlos Correa doubles to lead off the inning. Garrett Stubbs singles, and Correa manages to score from first. Stubbs steals second, and a Luis Guillorme error at short allows Jose Altuve to reach and Stubbs to move to third. Syndergaard gets Michael Brantley to strike out, and Wilson Ramos throws out Altuve as he tries to steal second. So there are two outs and a runner on third, not the end of the world.

Then Alex Bregman doubles, scoring Stubbs. Yordan Alvarez singles to plate Bregman. It’s 4-0 Astros, as Syndergaard gets out of the inning after that. The Mets simply cannot score through eight innings, with McCullers going 7.2 shutout innings before handing things over to the bullpen.

With Ryan Pressly, who came on for the last out of the eighth, still out there to start the ninth for Houston, things change quickly. Pete Alonso hits a hard single, and after Dom Smith flies out, Ramos draws a walk. The Astros bring in Roberto Osuna.

J.D. Davis singles, but he hits the ball so hard—105.6 miles per hour—that Alonso can’t score. With the Mets needing at least four runs, that’s fine. And it’s more than fine when Brandon Nimmo comes up next and hits a game-tying grand slam. Osuna gets the next couple batters out, but the Mets have turned this into an exciting game.

Here’s where I make a big time managerial mistake. I had pulled Syndergaard after five innings since he hadn’t done that well and thrown 87 pitches. I went to Rick Porcello with the goal of getting him through the rest of the game, one that grew more and more as the game went on with the Mets doing zilch at the plate. The rally in top of the ninth happens so quickly that I don’t have anyone warm for the bottom of the ninth, leaving Porcello in there.

The Astros hit a couple of singles, but Porcello gets a double play, leaving a runner on third with two outs and this fake manager believing he can finish this inning. I’ll go to the better relievers for extras, I think. Yordan Alvarez blasts a two-run home run to end the game. Whoops.

Oh and that derails my intended plan of using Porcello as the second part of a piggyback in Milwaukee the following day. That’s not the end of the world, as the bullpen had an off day on Monday going into this series, didn’t pitch at all in deGrom’s start, and didn’t have anyone other than Porcello pitch in this one. At least that’s how I justify it in my fake press conference following the game. My Mets are now 6-5 on the season.

Final: Astros 6, Mets 4


Box score

Vas’s take: This road trip has not been kind to McShane’s Mets, and seeing them drop four of the first five after starting the year with five wins in their first six is discouraging. Still, the losses did come against the two teams that played in the World Series last year, so the competition was tough for the team’s first road trip of the year.

The offense went completely silent against two really good pitchers, which isn’t especially surprising but still disappointing to see. Smith continues to be a bright spot as he hit his team-leading fourth homer against Verlander on Tuesday. Ramos’ .393 average is also a really positive sign for the club. Alonso and Davis continue to hit below the Mendoza Line but it’s still too early to worry about either player.

Even in a losing effort, deGrom’s performance in the opener deserves some attention as he pitched a complete game on just 101 pitches. Between him, and Syndergaard and Porcello teaming up in the second game, McShane was at least able to spare his bullpen after a busy weekend. He’ll need them ready to go for the upcoming series, when the Mets take on the Brewers for four games with the back end of the rotation going.