If you look at the standings, the Mets are more-or-less fine. They’re comfortably atop the National League East. They’re six games over .500. They are, in all respects, the team to beat, and even a 3-0 loss to Atlanta at Citi Field Tuesday did little to change that.
The problem, though, is the Mets have been beaten – over and over, and over. Just not always necessarily in the ways that show up in the win-loss column. They officially lost Joey Lucchesi to Tommy John surgery Tuesday and then, hours later, starter Marcus Stroman left the game with left hip discomfort. He recorded just three outs and the Mets will need to conduct further tests Wednesday to determine the extent of the injury.
"In one of the pitches, he landed and he felt like he hyperextended it a little bit so he started getting sore," manager Luis Rojas said of Stroman. "He wanted to stay but I think it was wise that he came out."
Their bullpen is depleted after Robert Gsellman and Jeurys Familia were shipped to the injured list Monday, and their bench was nearly non-existent after Monday’s doubleheader also claimed Jonathan Villar and Tomas Nido, who are day-to-day. Rojas was so desperate for a bat – any bat – that he had pitchers David Peterson and Jerad Eickhoff pinch hit in the third and fifth innings. The Mets will now have to turn to Triple-A Syracuse for their Wednesday starter, in the form of righthander Tyler Megill. They’ll also need to be cautious with their bullpen, The Mets used five pitchers Tuesday, are down at least one starter and have their second doubleheader in a week on Friday.
They also managed only two hits in the loss and haven’t scored in 17 innings.
So yes, things are starting to get very worrisome in Flushing, what with the July 31 trade deadline so far away and the Mets running out of bodies.
Acting general manager Zack Scott, who spoke before the game, said they’ve found ways to weather the storm before and they’ll do so again, using both internal and external options. He was, however, wary of overpaying for a player rather than waiting until the deadline is a little closer.
Scott added that there are players in the farm system that can help – both Megill and lefthander Thomas Szapucki were mentioned – and that he’ll continue to keep an eye on the waiver wire.
"It's hard to feel like you have to do something," Scott said. "You're kind of painting yourself in a corner when you do that. There are all sorts of ways to stabilize, really. There are different ways to do it. We'll just continue to explore different avenues to build up depth in the minors. It could be finding a starter, it could be going with quote-unquote bulk guys to get you through some innings. There are different ways to do it and we need to explore all options."
But that doesn’t quite erase the number of people the Mets are losing at an alarming rate.
Losing Stroman, who’s been one of the most consistently healthy members of the Mets rotation, was a particularly disheartening blow.
After throwing three pitches to Austin Riley in the second, Stroman summoned Rojas and assistant trainer Joseph Golia. He made a valiant effort to stay in, throwing one warm-up pitch, consulting with Golia again, and throwing two more, but was soon lifted for Yennsy Diaz.
Diaz allowed two walks and a single to load the bases (one of the walks was charged to Stroman) but he struck out the next three to squirm out of the no-out, bases-loaded jam. Diaz’s luck would run out in the third, though, when he served up a 96-mph fastball up in the zone to Dansby Swanson, who deposited it in left for a three-run homer.
Meanwhile, Atlanta starter Charlie Morton carried a no-hitter into the fifth, when Eickhoff, who hadn’t registered a hit since 2017, singled on a swinging bunt. The Mets' only other hit came on James McCann's two-out, ninth-inning double. Aaron Loup tossed three scoreless innings, matching the longest outing of his career.
"They’re tough," Rojas said of the injuries. "None of these come easy . . . [but] we’re going to keep battling. It’s baseball season. It’s been a little bit unusual, even though you expect some injuries to happen, but I think we’ve handled it the best way."
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