A stretch of seven straight games against NL East opponents began for the Mets Friday evening at a rain-soaked Citi Field, including four consecutive with the division leading Atlanta Braves. A rain- shortened five-inning 4-0 loss the Braves and a pitching rotation with concerns was the residual from the opener.
Yes, it’s only 27 games and a panic mode is much too early, but the Mets rotation is in a shambles and the Braves continue to click on all cylinders. Of more concern, David Peterson was not effective in his start and Matt Olsen took him deep for a three-run homer, his first off a left-hander this season. The Mets were also shutout for the fifth time this season.
Yes, you can always say the Mets would rally and comeback as they did the night before against the Nationals and avoid a three-game sweep, but they were shutout seven times last year and we are nearing the end of April.
The rain did not provide an opportunity for a comeback, and a dreary forecast calls for more bad weather the remainder of this four-game series that could further put a disruption on this Mets pitching rotation.
Okay, back to this pitching rotation that awaits Justin Verlander off the injured list and his first career Mets start. Their other high profile contract in the rotation, Max Scherzer, is nearing the end of a 10-game suspension after an illegal pitching substance.
Kodei Senga was roughed up this week against the Nationals, Carlos Carrasco and Jose Quintana are miles away from returning to the rotation.
And with the Mets facing the Braves, losing seven of eight dating back to last year, effective pitching is needed to put them down. Peterson tried and the changeup was working, that is until Olsen got hold of a first pitch slider in the fifth inning that didn’t locate, this after giving up three hits.
Peterson would retire 10-of the first 11 Braves, similar to last September when the Mets lost first place to the Braves down the stretch, but he failed to make the right pitch. Then again, it’s more likely that it is raining hard on the Mets pitching rotation, and Tylor Megill (3-1) on Saturday afternoon (1-1 and 3.86 in six career starts against the Braves) gets the start. Remember, Megill was not slated to be a part of the rotation, but pitching depth has always been an emphasis with GM Billy Eppler.
So this is an early test for the Mets, mainly showing something to overtake the Braves and their dominance of winning five consecutive NL East division titles. Rain, though, is not pouring for the Braves pitching staff on the road with a 2.12 ERA, lowest in the majors.
Max Fried (2-0) not allowing a run in his third straight outing added to their impressive team ERA, as he’s permitted one run in his three starts.
Peterson is not projected to remain in the rotation, pending the arrival of Scherzer and that first start for Verlander. After that, it’s a toss up as to how manager Buck Showalter will navigate this decimated rotation that was supposed to be a primary strength of the Mets.
“He was really good up until that point.” Showalter commented about Peterson before giving up the home run ball to Olsen. “He was a pitch away from getting out of there and wasn’t able to finish a good lineup.”
Oh, Showalter was right about the Braves lineup. And to beat the Braves, as they say, pitching is of the essence. Part of the Mets collapse to the Braves last September was their inability to keep a potent Braves lineup in check.
With the exception of a ninth inning collapse to the Marlins Thursday afternoon, the Braves have been able to capitalize and score runs, though their top five in the lineup went hitless in that 5-4 loss. Prior to Friday night, Atlanta’s top five hitters had combined to bat .270/.358/.494 and their .852 OPS was best in the National League.
A testament for sure are those numbers. The Mets certainly face a challenge in this series and that goes beyond a statement to show they will be neck-and-neck until late September.
The Mets need to get length from their starters, though, early as it is, the rain keeps pouring on their decimated rotation.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso