Yoenis Cespedes hobbled across the clubhouse late Thursday night, his left hamstring wrapped tightly in a bandage. The Mets called it a cramp. He likened the sensation to a “shock,” one that could sideline him for two or three days.
In that moment, Cespedes emerged as a poster boy for the Mets, a team in disarray after a 6-4 loss to the Phillies. The defeat was the Mets’ fifth in six games, a skid that precedes the season’s first visit by the NL East rival Nationals.
Cespedes, who left before the sixth inning after running awkwardly between first and second base, might miss the series. He is scheduled for an MRI exam this morning. While he insisted that his injury is not severe, he said doctors introduced the possibility of missing some time.
“It was not a cramp,” Cespedes said through a translator. “It felt like a shock.”
The timing could not be worse for a roster that already has been stretched to its breaking point. Lucas Duda (elbow) and Wilmer Flores (infection) likely won’t be available Friday night against the Nationals. As part of the fallout, Jay Bruce likely will have to start at first base, as he did Thursday night.
“It’s going to be a learn-as- you-go type of thing,” said Bruce, who has only four career starts at first.
Travis d’Arnaud (bruised wrist) was available only for pinch-hitting duty. Before Thursday night’s game, the Mets summoned catcher Kevin Plawecki. Nevertheless, the Mets’ bench essentially was left bare after Juan Lagares was pressed into action to fill in for Cespedes.
Placing injured players on the disabled list can be a straightforward proposition, but the Mets face a difficult scenario. Uncertainty hovers over Duda, Flores and d’Arnaud. Placing any of them on the DL would mean a 10-day absence during a pivotal time when it’s possible that each needs only a few days’ rest.
Beginning Friday night, the Nationals and Mets will play six games in nine days. It’s part of a stretch for the Mets that includes 32 straight games against NL East opponents to start the season.
So the Mets found themselves slammed with a perfect storm. They played shorthanded against the Phillies and might have to do the same against the Nationals.
“We worked so hard to keep everybody healthy,” manager Terry Collins said. “Our training room’s starting to fill up again. We don’t need that.”
Nor did they need the sloppiness they experienced against the Phillies. The Mets committed three errors, obscuring a pair of slick catches by Michael Conforto and a strong night from Noah Syndergaard.
Syndergaard struck out 10 in seven innings, the 11th double-digit strikeout effort of his career. He allowed five runs, three earned. The righthander has a 1.73 ERA and has not allowed a walk in 26 innings this season, an impressive feat of precision that is the longest such stretch in team history to begin a season.
But that sharpness was not matched by his team’s ham-handed defense. The Phillies took a 5-1 lead with three runs in the second and two in the third, with both rallies set up by bumbling defense.
Asdrubal Cabrera let a grounder go through his legs, Ces pedes misplayed a drive to left and Syndergaard himself committed a gaffe that helped the Phillies in the second. Bruce was charged with a throwing error on a play in which Syndergaard was slow to cover first base.
“It was kind of a messed-up play from the get-go,” said Syndergaard, who took responsibility for his miscue.
Neil Walker slammed his first homer of the year, a three-run shot in the third that whittled the lead to 5-4. But the Mets didn’t generate much more. “We’ve got to start getting some runs,” Collins said. “We’ve got to play better.”