HOUSTON — The Mets have a problem.
Carlos Carrasco departed the Mets’ 5-3 loss to the Astros on Wednesday with lower back tightness, presenting yet another challenge for their thinning rotation. Already, three of their top six starters are out hurt: Max Scherzer (potentially returning Sunday), Jacob deGrom and Tylor Megill.
The Mets won’t know more until after Carrasco’s MRI, but he downplayed any concern, saying, “I think I’m going to be fine.”
His pitching, though, was not fine. The Astros rocked him for five runs, including four before they made an out, in 2 1/3 innings. All four hits Carrasco allowed went for extra bases. Three were home runs. Two were from slugger extraordinaire Yordan Alvarez.
“I couldn’t finish my pitches,” Carrasco said. “That’s why I talked to [catcher Tomas] Nido. He said, ‘What happened?’ I couldn’t get to my pitches. Everything was in the zone. Every pitch they hit out, it was right in the middle. I couldn’t finish my pitches.”
Wearing a heat patch on the left side of his lower back, Carrasco said the tightness bothered him the entire outing but worsened in the third. His last pitch was a well-below-average 89-mph sinker.
“A lot of guys have stuff like that over the course of a game that doesn’t get broadcast because they’re pitching well,” manager Buck Showalter said. “For Carlos to come out of a game, you know it was bothering him.”
That sent the Mets (45-26) to a second loss in a row against their 1962 expansion cousins, the first time this season they have been swept. They still have not lost three consecutive games.
They also have lost eight consecutive games at Minute Maid Park. They last won there on May 15, 2011, when Houston (43-25) was still in the National League.
Astros righthander Luis Garcia allowed three runs in five innings plus three batters in the sixth, when the Mets made it close with a pair of runs.
But they couldn’t capitalize further when they loaded the bases with one out. Ryne Stanek retired Eduardo Escobar (popout) and Dominic Smith (strikeout).
Escobar is batting .231 with a .684 OPS.
“I’m expecting to wake up and show everybody the type of player I really am. At the end of the day, there aren’t really any excuses for how I’ve played,” he said through an interpreter. “It’s my responsibility to figure this out, and that’s what I’m planning on doing . . . The frustration is the last thing that’s on my mind. I have faith that I’m going to be able to bust out of this.”
Showalter said he has considered sitting Escobar for a few days to let him reset. Escobar said that would not help.
“Me saying ‘give me a couple days off’ is essentially giving up, and I need to be out there,” he said.
The late innings featured a pair of familiar names out of the Houston bullpen. Hector Neris, who had a 5.01 ERA in 50 appearances against the Mets during his years with the Phillies, worked around a baserunner in a scoreless seventh. And Rafael Montero, a former Met who was considered a better prospect than deGrom when they came up around the same time in 2014, did the same in the eighth.
Altering the eighth-inning dynamic were a couple of super questionable strikes called by plate umpire Adam Hamari. One was a called third strike on Pete Alonso. Another put Mark Canha in an 0-and-2 hole (on his way to a groundout). Canha, who rarely shows emotion on the field, was furious — as was Alonso, who started shouting from the dugout when Canha expressed displeasure to Hamari.
“They were balls,” Showalter said. “Adam is a good umpire. He was having a really good game until those pitches. They make so many calls back there, and the two — unfortunately it was really bad timing.”