It could be time to shake up the roster because the Mets are in serious need of an injection for their lineup.
Justin Verlander’s Citifield debut did not go as planned and the offense was stagnant for another game. The three time Cy Young Award winner was hammered for six runs on eight hits in five innings pitched as the Mets were walloped by the high flying Tampa Bay Rays, 8-5.
There have been too many times already this season when the Mets have looked lifeless. Since they were 14-7, the Mets have lost 16 of 22. It’s still early and the Mets still have time but that opportunity is quickly slipping away and they need to get it turned around real soon. As the great Yogi Berra so eloquently put it, “It’s getting late early.”
“People come out here and want to see the Mets win, they wanna see us do well and they get frustrated just like we do. They care as much as we do,” Mets Manager Buck Showalter said.
Part of that turnaround will require releasing some players and promoting some of the young players that are raking at Triple-A.
The Mets’ brass has to be seeing the same, non productive at bats that the 28,296 fans were seeing last night, so you would figure that they are formulating some kind of gameplan moving forward because this can’t continue much longer. There is no guarantee that any players that are promoted will succeed at the next level but the Mets have to try something to get this team going.
Tommy Pham and Daniel Vogelbach are not cutting it as the designated hitting platoon for this team. Pham is hitting .191, Vogelbach is at .256 and is drawing some walks but the two have combined for 5 homeruns and 22 RBIs and have provided a haunting reminder of last year’s struggles with production from the DH spot. The change has been in name only as Pham has replaced Darin Ruf, who was just as awful during his time with the Mets.
Ronny Mauricio and Mark Vientos’ numbers at Syracuse are just too overwhelming to not be considered for a promotion that could potentially provide a jolt to an offense that severely needs some energy. The switch hitting Mauricio is slashing .353/.389/.622 for an OPS of 1.011 with seven homeruns and 24 RBIs in 39 games. Vientos is just as impressive with a slash line of .331/.416/.677 for an OPS of 1.093 with 12 home runs and 35 RBIs in 37 games.
Verlander got through two innings unscathed but faltered in the third. An infield single by Harold Ramirez and a walk to Wander Franco put runners on first and second with no one out. Verlander struck out Brandon Lowe and got Randy Arozarena on a foul pop, and appeared to be ready to get out of the inning, but Isaac Paredes hit a hanging 3-2 curve ball over the orange line in left field for a three run homer and a 3-0 lead. “Mistakes he [Verlander] made, they [the Rays] made him pay for it,” said Showalter.
With the way the Mets have been hitting of late, three runs seemed insurmountable and the inevitability that another loss was just six innings away. Things only got worse.
Ramirez’ RBI single in the fourth made it 4-0, and then Paredes hit his second home run of the game in the fifth, a two run shot off Verlander that gave the Rays a commanding 6-0 lead.
When Verlander and the Mets left the field after the top of the fifth, the crowd showered them with well deserved boos.
“I understand the fans are frustrated, we’re frustrated too, everybody’s frustrated,” Verlander said in a quiet Mets clubhouse. “We expect to be better, I expect to be better, I think this entire organization expects to be better. There’s only one thing left to do and that’s put your head down, work hard and find your way out of this slump.”
The Rays used Jalen Beeks as an opener for two innings while relievers Yonni Chirinos, Ryan Thompson, Zack Litell, and Jake Diekman combined to keep the Mets at bay.
Brett Baty provided some excitement in the fifth with his fourth home run, but Rays centerfielder Jose Siri homered off of Mets’ reliever Dominic Leone in the sixth to push the lead to 7-1.
Pete Alonso clubbed a two run homer, his 14th in the seventh to cut the lead to 7-3, but Tampa Bay is relentless and they added an eighth run in the eighth on Ramirez’ RBI single to make it a five run cushion.
In the ninth, Eduardo Escobar batted for Vogelbach and hit his second pinch hit homerun of the season off of the left hander Diekman, to cut the margin to three runs but the struggling Starling Marte fouled out and heard some boos and then Baty grounded out to second to end it.
Marte has been one of the main culprits for the offensive malaise. Last season, Marte was a valuable and productive member of the lineup. This season, he’s dragging the offense down with one home run and 10 RBIs in 38 games.
Marte deserves a seat on the bench, but Showalter has no real alternatives to take his place in the lineup. That could change if Mauricio and Vientos are promoted, another underlying reason to bring them up.
Just because Verlander had a bad outing last night, doesn’t mean he’s finished. His fastball had good life but lacked command. The good news is Verlander is healthy and he’s dealt with this adversity before so he knows what to do to come out of it.
“He’s still in April for his season, he’s gonna be fine,” Showalter said.
I agree with that assessment but there’s still the matter of the rest of the starters and the offense. “We got some people with a strong track record,” Showalter said. “They’re getting, I don’t want to use the word frustrated, they know they’re capable of better.”
“There’s teams that, they click at the right time and they find their mojo and go from there,” Verlander said. “I think we’re past the point of just waiting for that to happen and I think we need to make it happen and we have the guys in here to do that.”
I don’t like to call for someone’s job to be taken away, but there has to be accountability for a team that had high expectations and has severely underachieved to this point. If that means releasing a player or two, so be it.