The Mets struggled to notch clutch hits and score runs in Sunday’s loss to the Marlins. They did the same thing in last night’s loss to the Astros. And lo and behold, they looked even worse this afternoon than they did in either of those two games. Today they at least had the excuse of facing off against an ace pitcher, but nevertheless, it’s about as helpless as the offense has looked in any three-game stretch this year. Unsurprisingly, it also marks the first time that the Mets have lost three straight in 2022, as a devastating ninth-inning homer dealt the killing blow as the Amazins fell 2-0 to the Astros.
The Mets wasted a key opportunity to score early on, as Brandon Nimmo led off the first inning with a double against Justin Verlander, who would later issue a two-out walk to Pete Alonso to put runners at first and third with two outs for Jeff McNeil. Despite working a good at-bat, McNeil swung and missed at a 3-2 changeup to end the threat. As a general rule, it’s not a good idea to not capitalize against ace pitchers, and Verlander proved why here, as he then retired the next 12 batters in a row without a whiff of trouble. During that stretch, the Mets neither managed much in the way of hard contact or deep at-bats (with the exception of one twelve-pitch affair to Dominic Smith that still resulted in an easy groundout). The batter who finally managed to end that streak was Ender Inciarte, who yes, is a Met, and yes, was in the lineup today for some reason (he broke that streak in the fifth inning with a check swing infield single, but let’s not focus on that). Verlander then retired the next batter and continued strumming along as the Mets’ offense continued to scuffle.
Taijuan Walker was thankfully able to follow suit and keep the Astros off the board. He did so in large part thanks to Luis Guillorme, who filled in at third base for Eduardo Escobar and got himself quite a bit of work in the hot corner. Of the 22 outs recorded by Walker today, Guillorme was responsible for fielding ten of them—including one particularly dazzling play. This is no surprise to any of us who have watched him play this year, of course, as he continues to show how he is capable of impacting a game with just his glove.
Mind you, Walker deserves his own credit for shutting the Astros down, as he did what he does best—working efficiently and generating a lot of soft ground balls. The closest the Astros came to doing damage against him came in the seventh, when a one-out walk and a two-out single put runners on first and third, but Walker retired Jason Castro on a ground ball into the shift to end the inning. After recording the first out in the eighth inning, Buck Showalter elected to remove him from the game instead of having him face the top of the lineup a fourth time through. Walker’s final line stood at 7.1 innings, 4 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts, and his performance allowed the Mets to stay in the game despite the lack of offensive production.
With the fearful top of the Astros’ lineup coming up with one out in the eighth inning, Showalter elected to go with his closer to try to get through the frame. Edwin Díaz came in and quickly got into some trouble, hitting Jose Altuve with a pitch and then giving up a single to Jeremy Peña. But then he found his stride and did his thing, striking out Yordan Alvarez and Alex Bregman to end the threat.
Of course, Justin Verlander was still in, and he was still dominating. Dominic Smith led off the bottom of the eighth inning against him, and he hit a soft fly ball to shallow led field that both Peña and Alvarez ran towards, and Peña made the catch as the two collided into each other and collapsed to the ground. Both were down for a while, and both had to leave the game. It was a scary moment, albeit one that did not deter Verlander, as he quickly polished off the final two hitters to put the finishing touches on a stellar eight innings of work and send the game into the ninth inning without a run for either team.
The injury delay may also have ended any chance Díaz had of coming back in for the ninth, as Drew Smith came on to relieve him and try to keep the game scoreless. He quickly gave up a leadoff single to Kyle Tucker, but got through the next two hitters to put himself on the verge of taking the team to the bottom of the inning with the chance to walk it off. Alas, Jason Castro—the same Jason Castro who came into the game having zero home runs and a -3 wRC+ wait what no that can’t be right let me double check holy mother of Christ he had a -3 wRC+ coming into today’s game what the hell—had other plans. He mashed a two-run homer to right field, and you don’t really need me to tell you the rest. Given how the Mets’ offense performed in the eight innings prior to this point, do you really think they were about to come up with two runs of their own in the bottom of the frame? No, they were retired 1-2-3 by Ryan Pressley, and that was the end of that.
And thus the Mets’ streak of avoiding losing streaks has ended. To add insult to injury, we all get to stew on the haplessness we saw today for the next two days until the Mets face the Rangers on Friday night. Whatever happens in that series, it can’t be as bad as it’s been to face the other team from Texas.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big Mets winner: Taijuan Walker, +46.3% WPA
Big Mets loser: Drew Smith, -42.2% WPA
Mets pitchers: +9.5% WPA
Mets hitters: -59.5% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Brandon Nimmo leadoff double in the first (lol), +6.2% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Jason Castro two-run homer in the ninth (duh), -49.1% WPA