After the Mets’ 9-1 pummeling by the Astros, in which they neither pitched nor hit well, resulting in one of their most lopsided and uncompetitive losses of the year, Carlos Carrasco said the whole game Tuesday night turned on a borderline check-swing call to the first batter.
Jose Altuve had fallen behind 0-and-2 but worked the count full. When Carrasco threw a slider outside, Altuve began to offer at it but held up to the degree that he could. First-base umpire Chris Segal ruled that it was not a swing, so Altuve took his base on ball four instead of retreating to the dugout with a strikeout.
Game over, apparently.
“The umpire made the wrong call right there,” Carrasco said, the first of several mostly unsolicited references to the play. “It changed the ballgame completely.”
Manager Buck Showalter said: “He probably should’ve been out of the first inning, but he didn’t get a call . . . There’s enough opportunities to make that not matter. Obviously, it was a swing. But those things come and go all season long.”
The next batter, Jermey Pena, sent a grounder to shortstop for the first out — but which should’ve been the second out, in Carrasco’s view. Then Yordan Alvarez and Alex Bregman had back-to-back singles to plate a run, even though that run allegedly never should have reached base. Then Kyle Tucker walloped a three-run homer to right-centerfield.
Just like that, the Astros led by four. Against Framber Valdez, who tossed eight shutout innings to lower his ERA to 2.65, that proved insurmountable.
“You’re a human being, so I was trying to think about (refocusing after a call he disagreed with),” said Carrasco, typically among the more happy-go-lucky Mets. “We got one out right there. Ground ball, another out. Maybe Alvarez, another out right there. It should’ve been a different game.”
Houston wound up crushing Carrasco for six runs and six hits in 4 1/3 innings. It was the third time in four starts he failed to finish the fifth. He walked three and struck out four.
Over his past two starts — both against the Astros, both messes — Carrasco’s ERA has shot up from 3.96 to 4.85.
Last week, when Carrasco attributed the struggles to back tightness that forced him out of the game in the third inning, Houston scored four runs before making an out. This week, when Carrasco said his back wasn’t an issue, they scored four runs before making a second out.
Houston (46-27) added a run in the fourth when Tucker singled, stole second and scored Jake Meyers’ single to center.
“Everything was good except the first inning,” Carrasco said. “If he made the right decision, the right call, it should’ve been a different game.”
He added later, on the topic of whether he is glad not to have to face Houston again: “They’re a good team. I was with a different mentality this time, to go out there and attack. That’s what I did. Coming back to the first inning, that wrong call right there made the difference in the game.”
The game fully got away from the Mets (47-28) when lefthander Chasen Shreve entered in the fifth. His first batter, the lefthanded-hitting Alvarez, crushed a two-run shot to center. A few batters later, Yuli Gurriel did the same. Showalter started his walk to the mound to pull Shreve before Gurriel had even rounded third base. His ERA is 6.58.
The Mets’ hitters, meanwhile, had a predictably difficult time against Valdez, a 28-year-old who has emerged as a top starter for the Astros.
“You could tell by the way Valdez was pitching,” Showalter said, “there wasn’t going to be much margin for error.”