Adrian Houser said he “felt really good” Tuesday, but still...

Adrian Houser said he “felt really good” Tuesday, but still allowed six runs in five-plus innings on May 21, 2024. Credit: AP/Sue Ogrocki

CLEVELAND — For a lot of teams in a lot of seasons, a rotation competition is fodder for spring training, when any given club will have staples whose place is unquestioned, youngsters looking to surprise and impress and veterans who want to show they still deserve a spot.

These Mets have all of that — during the season, in games that matter as they toil toward Memorial Day.

Adrian Houser, who fits into the third group, came away pleased despite an ugly outcome Tuesday night in a 7-6 loss to the Guardians, a de facto audition for additional opportunities.

“I thought he pitched better than the line score, to be honest with you,” manager Carlos Mendoza said. “His stuff was a lot better.”

Houser, citing better use of his legs and improved velocity and strike-throwing ability, said: “I felt really good tonight. I’ve been working hard the last few weeks and felt like tonight I was able to repeat everything we’ve been working on. It felt good, just didn’t get the results we wanted.”

In five-plus innings, he gave up six runs and six hits, five of which went for extra bases. That upped his ERA to 7.88. Making his first start since May 2, the Mets slotted him in because they wanted to give the others extra rest, an valued variable even as their rotation grows crowded.

Luis Severino and Sean Manaea have been good, Jose Quintana not great but not atrocious. Christian Scott has largely impressed in his three outings. The return of Tylor Megill from the injured list meant a tough-luck return to the minors for Jose Butto, who tossed six shutout innings for Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday.

 

And David Peterson — who like Houser is a starter who has dabbled in the bullpen — is due back next week.

What now for Houser?

“We gotta see,” Mendoza said.

Down by four in the middle innings, the Mets made it close against perhaps the best bullpen in the majors. Jeff McNeil crushed a two-run home run in the sixth, and Starling Marte did the same in the eighth.

But with the would-be tying run on base, Pete Alonso grounded into a game-ending double play.

At 21-27, the Mets are a season-worst six games under .500.

“We know we need everything to go well at the same time in order to play some good baseball,” McNeil said.

Houser found trouble in the third, when the Guardians (32-17) collected a trio of RBI doubles. The last, from Jose Ramirez, could have been an out if not for a poor read by Marte.

Ramirez struck again in the fifth for a two-run homer, on a sinker that was actually above the strike zone.

The Guardians turned to righthander Xzavion Curry as a last-minute replacement for Carlos Carrasco, who went on the injured list with an acute neck spasm.

Curry allowed two runs in 4 1/3 innings. That was better than his April 28 outing against Syracuse, in which he gave up five runs in five innings.

Mark Vientos went 2-for-4 with a homer and a double in a rare start against a righty. That has been Brett Baty’s job, with Vientos playing against lefties, but with three righthanders this series, Mendoza decided to give Vientos a shot.

“It felt good,” Vientos said. “But we ended up short.”

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