Harrison Bader #44 and Brandon Nimmo #9 of the New...

Harrison Bader #44 and Brandon Nimmo #9 of the New York Mets can't come up with a ball hit in the fifth inning for an RBI double by Bryan De La Cruz #14 of the Miami Marlins at Citi Field on Tuesday, June 11, 2024 in the Queens borough of New York City. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Mets didn’t lose their baggage on the flight back from London, and in this case, that was a bad thing.

After a gritty win against the Phillies salvaged a London Series split, the Mets returned to form and returned to Citi against the lowly Marlins and made them look a whole lot less lowly – dropping the series opener 4-2 behind some feeble hitting and two key defensive miscues that paced a two-run fifth.

Tylor Megill allowed the three runs, two earned, on four hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. The Mets defense collected their 43rd and 44th errors of the year – second in the National League to…well, the Marlins – both leading to unearned runs. This also happened after coming into the day with -31 defensive runs saved above average, according to Baseball Reference, which is the second-worst in baseball.

Carlos Mendoza said he didn’t see a through line in their defensive malaise.

“We’ve got some good defenders there,” he said. “But it feels like every time we make an error, they make us pay. I know it’s hard but when you give extra outs, extra bases – we haven’t been able to overcome those issues.”

The Marlins – the Mets' lone buffer to the NL East basement – struck in the second inning, when Jesus Sanchez doubled to the corner in left, moved to third on a groundout and then came home on Tim Anderson’s line drive single to left.

The Mets scored all their runs in the bottom of the inning, on Mark Vientos' two-RBI double.

 

In the fifth, Megill let up another single to the light-hitting Anderson, who went first to third on a hit-and-run groundout. Jazz Chisholm Jr. walked and Bryan De La Cruz doubled when he hit a ball to left-center that dropped in as Brandon Nimmo converged with Harrison Bader, who smacked into the wall – a play that allowed the Marlins to tie it at 2.

One batter later, Jake Burger hit a ball to the right of Vientos at third; Vientos made a nifty diving stop, but he threw wide to Pete Alonso to score Chisolm and end Megill’s night.

“I was making the same pitches that I was early in the game and they’d just foul it off,” Megill said. “You tip your hat to them for hanging in there and making my life harder.”

If there was a bright spot Tuesday, it was Francisco Alvarez’s much-anticipated return (though “bright spot” is relative – it certainly could have gone better). He batted eighth and caught for all nine innings, going 0-for-3. He also threw the ball away on Otto Lopez’s stolen base in the ninth, chasing Lopez to third. Lopez scored on a sacrifice fly.

“I feel very excited,” Alvarez said before the game. “I feel like everything feels good and I’m happy to be back…I felt bored every day when I started to do my rehab because I couldn’t do anything. When I started to do a little more, I started feeling a little bit better – when I started hitting, throwing, I felt better.”

After more than a decade with the organization, Tomas Nido was designated for assignment to make room for Alvarez – meaning Luis Torrens won the backup catcher role.

Alvarez, who had been out since April 19 after getting surgery on a torn ligament in his left thumb, played in six rehab games before his return, caught a combined no-hitter with Single-A Brooklyn, and went 3-for-19 with a homer and three RBIs. He said he had no concerns about his timing despite his long layoff, and will continue catching with a splint on his thumb for at least a few more weeks.

“I feel great,” he said. The splint feels “comfortable now for catching and for hitting.”

Mendoza also praised some of the more intangible benefits of Alvarez’s return.

He brought “the energy – the energy not only behind the plate, but in the locker room and in the dugout," Mendoza said. "He’s very intense. He’s competing every pitch. He’s on the guys all the time and it’s good to have him back."

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