On Thursday, the Mets had a miserable day. First, they were forced to scratch ace RHP Noah Syndergaard from his planned matinee start against the Atlanta Braves due to biceps and shoulder discomfort. Then, early in the game against Atlanta, the Mets lost the anchor of their lineup, OF Yoenis Cespedes to a strained hamstring that will now send him to the disabled list. Finally, they saw substitute starting pitcher RHP Matt Harvey get hammered. All of this occurred in the ramp up to, and process of, a 7-5 New York loss, the Mets’ tenth loss in their last eleven games dating back to their the 16 inning win in Miami two weeks ago, late in the night and early morning of April 13th-14th. The Mets are 8-13, and searching for answers as they head into Washington, D.C. for a weekend series that sets up to either serve as the moment when they stopped the bleeding and reversed this avalanche of negative momentum early in the 2017 season, or it will be the moment when their injuries and lack of crisp, energetic play buried them early in the National League East race. Washington (16-6) swept the Mets last weekend in New York, and comes off winning three out of four against the Colorado Rockies in Denver. While winning their last three in Colorado, Washington scored an astounding 42 runs. The Mets are 7 ½ games behind the Nationals entering the weekend, and are in the midst of their longest tailspin since June 2015.
After Thursday’s game, Mets’ Manager Terry Collins held a closed door meeting and tried to rally his team. From reports, Collins apparently told his team that they went through a litany of injuries in 2016, and reminded them of how they were able to dig out and overcome those obstacles en route to the second National League Wild Card, and a second consecutive playoff appearance. Last year, the Mets sustained season-ending injuries to 3B David Wright, 2B Neil Walker, Harvey, RHP Jacob deGrom and LHP Steven Matz. They also lost SS Asdrubal Cabrera, 1B Lucas Duda, and Cespedes for extended stretches. Last July 8th, the Mets lost Cespedes to a quadriceps injury, through the All-Star break and into early August. When he returned after a prolonged stint on the DL, he did return refreshed and with a purpose, producing 10 HRs and 34 RBIs as the Mets surged in late August and throughout the month of September.
Last Thursday (20 April) at Citi Field, Cespedes left in the middle of game during a loss to the Philadelphia Phillies with what was termed a left hamstring “cramp”. He returned to the Met lineup this Wednesday in an 8-2 loss to the Braves, and then on Thursday afternoon, he pulled up lame after a double to right-center. He required help from first base coach Tom Goodwin and head athletic trainer Ray Ramirez to get off the field; he was sent for an MRI and an extended run on the DL is all but certain. Syndergaard felt discomfort after throwing earlier in the week, treated the discomfort with anti-inflammatories, but continues to feel stiffness in the shoulder and was held out of Thursday’s start for all the right precautionary reasons. There is still the possibility that he could start Sunday in Washington, but that is starting to look less and less likely.
Matt Harvey did not expect to pitch against the Braves, and according to reports had worked out hard with weights on Wednesday. He did not have the same velocity on Thursday and struggled with his command, walking three in an inning for the first time in his career in the top of Atlanta 2nd, leading to a two-run Brave rally. The Mets battled back to tie the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the 4th on Neil Walker’s RBI double and passed ball by Braves’ catcher Kurt Suzuki, but the Mets could not handle the prosperity. Atlanta 1B Freddie Freeman hit an RBI double off Harvey in the top of the 5th, and two batters later, Suzuki hit a three-run homer on a slider to complete the competitive portion of the game. Harvey allowed six runs and five hits across 4 1/3 innings, tying a career high with five walks. It was the second straight start where Harvey pitched off-schedule; last Friday against Washington, Harvey stepped in when deGrom had a stiff neck. For the Mets, 3B Jose Reyes hit his first home run of the season in the fourth against former Met R.A. Dickey. It was Reyes’ first homer of the season in his 71st at-bat, and then Jose had two-run RBI single in the top of the 9th, raising his anemic batting average from .114 to .137.
Here’s how the schedule and pitching matchups look for the upcoming weekend against Washington (all times Eastern):
28 April at Washington, 7:05 pm (Nationals Park): RHP Jacob deGrom (0-1, 2.55 ERA) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (3-1, 1.95 ERA)
29 April at Washington, 1:05 pm (Nationals Park): RHP Zack Wheeler (1-2, 5.40 ERA) vs. RHP Stephen Strasburg
30 April at Washington, 1:35 pm (Nationals Park): RHP Noah Syndergaard vs. TBD
Series notes: Washington’s Max Scherzer has 55 strikeouts over his last five starts against the Mets…Met OF Michael Conforto is 5-for-12 (.417) with three solo HRs against Scherzer…Nationals’ OF Bryce Harper, who hit a 451-foot homer on Thursday in Colorado, is batting 7-for-18 (.389) against deGrom with two doubles and a home run. Washington’s 16-6 start matches the best start in franchise history, shared by the 1979 Montreal Expos. It’s the best start in D.C. baseball history since the 1932 Washington Senators started the season 17-5.
Next week, the Mets will close out their opening 32 games of the season against NL East teams. Here’s the week ahead:
1 May at Atlanta, 7:35 pm (Sun Trust Park)
2 May at Atlanta, 7:35 pm (Sun Trust Park)
3 May at Atlanta, 7:35 pm (Sun Trust Park)
4 May at Atlanta, 7:35 pm (Sun Trust Park)
5 May vs. Miami, 7:10 pm (Citi Field)
6 May vs. Miami, 7:10 pm (Citi Field)
7 May vs. Miami, 1:10 pm (Citi Field)
This week in Mets’ history:
April 29, 1973: Mets’ LHP Jerry Koosman shuts out the Atlanta Braves, 1-0. Koosman went 4-0 with a 1.06 ERA in April 1973 to earn National League Player of the Month honors
April 29, 1978: Cincinnati’s Pete Rose swats three home runs as the Reds double-up the Mets, 14-7, at Shea Stadium.
April 30, 1974: Mets’ C John Stearns hits his first Major League home run off Chicago’s Ray Burris in a 7-4 loss to the Cubs.
April 30, 1982: Mets’ 1B Dave Kingman hits his 300th career home run at San Francisco.
May 1, 1974: Mets’ RHP Tom Seaver strikes out 16 batters and allows only three hits in 12 innings of work. Unfortunately for the Mets, the Los Angeles Dodgers still win, 2-1, in 14 innings.
May 3, 1992: New York 3B Howard Johnson swipes his 200th stolen base. Hojo becomes the 16th player in Major League history to collect 200 home runs and 200 stolen bases. 1B Eddie Murray hits his 400th career home run in a 7-0 win at Atlanta.
May 5, 2004: Met C Mike Piazza becomes the MLB all-time home run leader as a catcher with his 352nd at home against San Francisco.
About the Author:
Michael Lalor serves as an MLB and NY sports analyst, covering the New York Mets and more for the Spadora On Sports radio program across Sports Byline USA stations. He can be reached at spadoraonsports.com.