The Mets signed veteran slugger Jose Bautista on Tuesday afternoon to beef up their lineup against lefthanders. By Tuesday evening, Bautista had flown from Tampa, Florida, to Flushing and was inserted into the lineup as the leftfielder and No. 5 hitter against the Marlins at Citi Field.
Bautista doubled in his first at-bat and finished 1-for-3 with a run and two strikeouts. But the Mets were otherwise stymied by lefthander Caleb Smith and saw their four-game winning streak snapped in Miami’s 5-1 victory.
The key moment in the game was a second-inning throwing error by Jose Reyes, who a growing number of Mets fans would drive to the airport if they could.
The Mets signed Bautista to help in the absence of the injured Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Lagares and Todd Frazier, three righthanded hitters you would have expected to see against Smith if they were not all on the disabled list. But they are, so Bautista rushed to Citi Field and the Mets rushed to put him in the lineup.
“It was one of my wildest [days] in baseball,” Bautista said. “Sitting at home on the couch at two o’clock and at 6:30 I was walking into the clubhouse.”
Bautista delivered with the double into the leftfield corner leading off the second inning and scored one out later on Tomas Nido’s sacrifice fly.
The problem was the Mets already were trailing thanks to the three runs Miami scored against Zack Wheeler in the top of the inning. Two of the runs were unearned because of Reyes’ error.
Reyes’ slow start and continuing presence on the roster (and occasional presence in the lineup) has been driving some Mets’ fans batty. It doesn’t help when the former fan favorite commits a mental and physical error like this one.
The Marlins were leading 1-0 on Miguel Rojas’ RBI single and had runners on first and second with one out when Smith lined a one-hop bunt at Reyes, who was playing third base. Reyes hesitated and looked around the infield before firing belatedly to first.
Second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera was covering and may have been screened by Wilmer Flores, who was sort of hovering aimlessly near first base. Cabrera could not scoop the low throw and the bases were loaded after the error.
“Nothing happened,” Reyes said. “I just threw the ball in the dirt. That’s an easy out there. I have to make a better throw. There’s no excuse.”
Wheeler got Martin Prado to pop to second for the second out. But J.T. Realmuto hit a slow bouncer up the middle that kicked off the sliding Cabrera’s foot and into center for a two-run single to give Miami a 3-0 lead.
“That was a tough play on that bunt/pop-up,” Wheeler said. “I think I could have gotten it, but I just let Jose take it. There’s a lot of talking going on right there, so he had a little indecision where to go. It’s a little tough play, especially when people are telling you to throw to every different base. I think that’s why he made that bad throw to first. I tried to get him out of it and pick him up, but it was a tough play.”
Reyes, who went 1-for-2 with a walk and is batting .145, committed another throwing error in the fifth.
The Mets, who came into the game with an MLB-worst .602 OPS vs. lefties, did not better that figure against Smith (3-5), who had a 7.71 ERA in nine appearances with the Yankees last season. Wheeler (2-4) went six innings and was charged with three runs (one earned). Derek Dietrich hit a two-run homer off A.J. Ramos in the eighth to make it 5-1.
Bautista, 37, is a six-time All-Star who has 333 home runs. He was released by the Braves on Sunday after hitting .143 with two home runs in 35 at-bats in a failed experiment to become Atlanta’s third baseman.