Mets pitcher Trevor Williams throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks during...

Mets pitcher Trevor Williams throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning on April 23 in Phoenix.  Credit: AP/Matt York

PHOENIX — At this early stage of the season, with the Mets off to one of the best starts in club history, their path to success has been obvious: Boast the best starting pitching in baseball and the rest will fall into place.

But in a 5-2 loss to the Diamondbacks on Saturday night, they encountered about the only problem that could exist with such an approach: They didn’t have a starting pitcher.

Deploying a series of relievers instead of calling up a one-day fill-in, the Mets fell behind fast and never recovered. Trevor Williams, the first of those relievers, allowed four runs and seven hits in two innings (plus one batter in the third), and Arizona added another run against Adam Ottavino in the sixth.

Mets hitters had a tough time with the D-backs’ spot starter, righthander Humberto Castellanos, who allowed two runs in five innings.

“We scored two runs. I knew we were going to have to score runs tonight. That’s the story of the game for me,” Buck Showalter said. “[Castellanos] had an idea of what he was doing. Attacked and commanded the zone and benefited from a lot of borderline calls. All through the night. A lot of 50-50 pitches that didn’t go our way . . . That isn’t what beat us, but it’s frustrating for good hitters.”

Pete Alonso, whose body language conveyed his displeasure and surprise with plate umpire Will Little’s strike zone, agreed.

“The strike zone isn’t necessarily a definitive thing. It’s honestly how someone judges it or perceives it,” he said. “I thought [a pitch that could have been ball four but was ruled strike three] was off. The umpire didn’t. That’s the way she goes. Baseball is a beautiful game. Sometimes that happens to you.”


The Mets (11-5) will settle for a rubber match Sunday as they seek their fifth consecutive series victory to begin the season.

Entering the day, the Mets’ rotation led the majors in ERA (2.07), WHIP (0.82), opponents’ batting average (.173), strikeouts (89) and innings (82 2⁄3). And that was without ace Jacob deGrom, who is out indefinitely with a stress reaction in his right shoulder.

They were lacking a starter Saturday because of their rainout Monday and doubleheader Tuesday, which meant neither Tylor Megill nor Max Scherzer was fully rested. They will pitch on Sunday against the Diamondbacks and Monday against the Cardinals, respectively.

The trouble for Williams started early. Daulton Varsho’s leadoff single, David Peralta’s well-executed hit-and-run single and Christian Walker’s RBI groundout yielded a run in the first inning. The Diamondbacks plated two more in the second when the bottom third of the order — Carson Kelly (.063 average entering the day), Sergio Alcantara (.091) and Geraldo Perdomo (.120) — loaded the bases via soft singles. Walker scored in the third after ripping a double down the leftfield line.

It was a tough assignment for Williams, who has been a starter for most of his career but pitched just 1 2⁄3 innings (two appearances) across the team’s first 15 games. “Trevor’s the one guy that I haven’t felt good about creating a lane for him to contribute yet,” Showalter said before the game.

He added afterward: “Capable of better. Kind of tough for him to get into a groove with the way we’ve used him. He’ll be better.”

Williams said he has “been embracing this challenge” of a funky and unpredictable schedule. “It’s something that I knew coming into this year was going to be a challenge and I’ve accepted that,” he said. “It’s been fun being locked in every night as a reliever and learning a different side of pitching that I’m not necessarily used to.”

The bright spot for Mets pitching was Sean Reid-Foley until he left because of cramps in his right and then his left leg. He covered 2 2⁄3 scoreless innings, though he did allow the runner he inherited from Williams to score. Showalter said Reid-Foley is likely to avoid the injured list as the cramps appeared to actually be just cramps.

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