They came in droves to Citi Field on Wednesday, bedecked in their neon shirts and eating cotton candy by the fistful. Hundreds of campers — some, no doubt, about to witness their first major league game — ready to watch the Mets battle the Rangers, one of the few teams in baseball farther back in the standings than they are.
But alas, there would be no rousing victory for those kids this afternoon. But would they like a harsh life lesson instead?
“You gotta learn how to fail,” manager Terry Collins said hours later, after the Mets lost, 5-1, their fifth defeat in six games. “Failure is tough sometimes . . . [but] you gotta learn how to get through it, you gotta learn how to deal with it. Those are things that, this time of year, young players, it’s good for them.”
The Mets failed on Wednesday. Rafael Montero failed to find the strike zone. The offense failed to produce against Rangers lefthander Martin Perez, who came in with a 5.46 ERA and left looking like Sandy Koufax, allowing three hits in eight innings. And the Mets again failed to provide a balm to the sting of this frustrating season. Afterward, Collins, talking about Montero’s struggles, outlined the bleak truth.
“We don’t have a lot of options right now,” he said when asked if Montero would keep being sent out there, despite the fact that he hasn’t exactly proved he can pitch at this level. “It will just have to be discussed the next couple of days. If we can’t come up with an option, he’s going to go back out.”
Montero was in trouble from the very beginning. He allowed a leadoff double to Shin-Soo Choo and then got hit by a comebacker with one out, putting runners on the corners. He balked home the first run before Joey Gallo’s two-run homer put the Rangers up 3-0. Now working without his changeup — normally his best pitch which, he said, was “sort of hanging in the middle” Wednesday — his control faltered. He hit a batter and walked another before eventually getting out of the inning. The damage, though, was all but done.
Montero lasted only three innings, and needed 87 pitches to do it. He allowed four runs, walked three and struck out five before ceding the ball to Josh Smoker. He falls to 1-8, with a 6.06 ERA.
“We’ve got to use our pitches,” Collins said. “We can’t live on one pitch and then have to try to be so fine, try to be so perfect with the location. That’s too hard to do. We’ve just got to continue to work at it and continue to understand don’t be afraid to make a quality pitch with your fastball and use your other stuff. They’re all caught up with not walking someone and then they do.”
Added Montero, through an interpreter: “I think the changeup for me is really important . . . it’s been going well and today was just a bad day. Pitchers go through that sometimes, when a pitch they trust doesn’t really go a certain way.”
The good news, Collins mused, is that they always had a chance. The Rangers left 15 men on base and struck out 15 times. The bad news was that this still somehow paled to the Mets own offensive difficulties. They didn’t manage a hit until the fifth inning — on Wilmer Flores’s leadoff home run — and Perez allowed only one baserunner in that span (he grazed Yoenis Cespedes in the first). Perez allowed only two other hits in eight innings — his longest outing since 2015.
“There was no rhythm, no rhythm,” said Jay Bruce, who went 0-for-3. “There was no — nothing ever seemed to flow, a real chopped up game. We spent a lot of time on the field and not very much time in the dugout hitting. It was just tough. It wasn’t a good game.”