There weren’t too many highlights for the home nine in the Mets’ 5-1 slog of a loss to the Rangers on Wednesday afternoon at Citi Field.
That’s hardly a surprise when your starting pitcher balks in the first run of the game and throws 40 pitches in a three-run first inning. Rafael Montero was on pace to throw 360 pitches after one inning, but he got that down to 333 after a 34-pitch second inning.
One of the few highlights for the Mets was a play in the second inning by 21-year-old rookie shortstop Amed Rosario, who was playing in his eighth big-league game.
There was a runner on first when Elvis Andrus grounded what looked like a sure base hit up the middle. Rosario ranged far to his left and grabbed the ball with a dive. He rolled over, angling his body so that he was facing second base, and shoveled the ball while on his back to Jose Reyes for the 6-4 forceout.
In the context of the game, it meant nothing because Andrus then stole second and third on consecutive pitches and scored the Rangers’ fourth run on a grounder to second.
But in the context of what the Mets have left to accomplish this season, it meant a heckuva lot.
Here’s what the Mets have left to accomplish this season:
- See how Rosario and (eventually) first-base prospect Dominic Smith adapt to their first tastes of big-league life;
- See if Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Jeurys Familia can return from their injuries and have some positive momentum going into 2018.
- See if the team will call up Tim Tebow in September.
That’s pretty much it.
Wednesday’s game was a case in point. Manager Terry Collins, who probably won’t be back next season, used 15 of the 25 players on his roster. Of those players, maybe six will be back in significant roles in 2018: Rosario, Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Travis d’Arnaud, Wilmer Flores and Seth Lugo. And Lugo, a pitcher, was used as a pinch hitter for Montero in the third inning.
Of that group, Rosario is the greatest unknown. Fans were clamoring for his ascension to the majors for months, and Rosario dropped a few not-so-subtle hints on Twitter that he was getting tired of waiting for the bright lights and big city.
Since getting called up on Aug. 1, Rosario has shown to be as advertised on defense. He’s a rangy, lithe, gun-for-an-arm shortstop.
At the plate, Rosario is what polite people call a “work in progress.” Mostly, he has been swinging wildly and missing often. An eighth-inning single to center snapped an 0-for-13 skid and made Rosario 5-for-28 (.179). He has struck out 11 times.
“That felt good,” Rosario said through a translator. “I’ve had a few turns up there at bat where I haven’t had anything.”
Rosario said he went to hitting coach Kevin Long recently so they could make a few adjustments. If that’s how it happened, it shows an uncommon level of maturity from such a young player.
Rosario has impressed Collins and his teammates with how he has handled his first week-plus in the bigs. He has been the center of constant media attention, mostly because there’s not much else to talk about around the Mets right now.
“He’s got all the tools, all the talent,” Jay Bruce said. “If we’ve got [more] young guys down there, I’m sure we’ll see them.”
After Smith, who should be up soon, there’s not much else down there at the moment. Unless you count Tebow.
“God, no,” he said with a derisive snort when a reporter jokingly suggested a Tebow callup in September. “Next question.”