Drew Smith of the Mets walks to the dugout after...

Drew Smith of the Mets walks to the dugout after the ninth inning against the Astros at Citi Field on Wednesday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Over the course of 75 hours, in two cities on opposite ends of the East Coast, after more than one superb start from the opposing pitcher and more than one highly unlikely ninth-inning home run from the other team’s backup catcher, it finally happened: The 2022 Mets lost three consecutive games. 

They made it nearly to the midway point, which will come next week, without reaching that low point — a relative term. But they dropped another to the Astros, 2-0, Wednesday afternoon at Citi Field after Justin Verlander tossed eight shutout innings and Drew Smith gave up a two-run homer to Jason Castro with two outs in the top of the ninth. 

“For that to be a note not too far from the halfway point is good,” said manager Buck Showalter, whose club is 47-29 and in first in the NL East. “I just hope we can get it headed in the other direction soon.” 

Taijuan Walker, who matched Verlander nearly out for out, added: “We got a good team over here. We battle every single game we got out there and try to win games, and we do it different ways. We’re never out of it.” 

The Mets lost all four games against Houston (47-27) this week and last by an aggregate score of 24-6. Their only run in the two-game home set came when Astros reliever Enoli Paredes, making his season debut, issued a bases-loaded walk in the ninth inning of a blowout Tuesday night. 

This game was very different, knotted at zero until Smith faced Castro. He entered the day hitting .095 with a .122 slugging percentage, zero home runs and one RBI in 33 games. When Smith left a 1-and-1 slider over the plate, Castro pulled it well over the wall in rightfield. 

It was reminiscent of Adam Ottavino giving up a walk-off blast to Nick Fortes on Sunday in Miami. 

 

“I was trying to go a little more down and in. It was down and in, just not quite far enough,” Smith said. “So if I had to do it again, I’d probably throw the same pitch. Maybe just make it a little better.” 

That wasted a spectacular outing from Walker and made a winner out of Verlander, who — at age 39, in his first season back from Tommy John surgery — became the first pitcher to collect 10 wins this season. 

Walker lasted 7 1/3 shutout innings, allowing four hits and two walks and striking out three, lowering his ERA to 2.72. Verlander gave up two hits and a walk, striking out six and lowering his ERA to 2.02. 

Beginning with Jeff McNeil’s nine-pitch strikeout in the first inning, which stranded a pair of baserunners, Verlander retired 22 of 23 batters. The lone exception: Ender Inciarte’s check-swing single, a slow roller up the third-base line. That was his first hit with the Mets, whom he joined Tuesday. 

“They got a good pitcher over there,” Walker said. “He’s a Hall of Famer.” 

Showalter said: “As a fan of baseball, you do appreciate what [Verlander] is doing at a high level late in his career . . . We had two hits, and one of them was a swinging bunt. It’s a tribute to their pitching. That’s the ballgame there.” 

Showalter lifted Walker for closer Edwin Diaz with the top of the Astros’ order due up in the eighth inning. Walker, who threw 93 pitches, said he would’ve liked a chance to finish the frame. 

“He had done his job,” Showalter said. “He was good. Really good.” 

The Mets will have to sit with this one, since they don’t play again until Friday night against the Rangers (the second half of an all-Texas homestand). Then they’ll try to avoid their first four-game losing streak. 

“We’re still going to keep doing exactly what we’ve been doing,” Luis Guillorme said. “It’s been working for us.” 

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