There were any number of Mets-related topics we could have discussed after Thursday’s home-opening 4-0 loss to the Nationals.
Pete Alonso’s Flushing debut, for instance. Noah Syndergaard allowing only one hit but taking the loss in his return to the Citi stage. Seth Lugo’s deepening malaise. The Mets’ 14 strikeouts.
Instead, we got Dom Smith’s bladder. And really, does a Mets home opener get any more Mets than that?
Smith didn’t see a pitch Thursday, nor did he wear a glove. He made it only as far as the on-deck circle, as the announced pinch hitter for Juan Lagares in the seventh inning, before Smith was called back for J.D. Davis.
But Smith did make an impact, albeit indirectly, when his inability to produce enough urine for MLB drug-testers late Wednesday night delayed the Mets’ departure from Marlins Park by 40 minutes, in his estimation.
So an already tight turnaround — 6:10 p.m. start in Miami followed by 1:10 the next afternoon at Citi — was squeezed even further. The Mets didn’t arrive in Queens until roughly 3 a.m., or 10 hours before first pitch.
Nobody was blaming Smith, of course. Biology just wasn’t on the Mets’ side, and it can be tougher with the clock ticking.
“After I went, on the way to the airport, it was three more times,” Smith said, “Then five times on the plane.”
TMI, Dom. TMI.
But you get the idea. The Mets’ travel follies in the past week have been well-documented, started by Syndergaard’s beef with the preseason Syracuse trip and complicated by that plane’s mechanical issues. That controversy had a brief shelf life, however, once the Mets took two of three in D.C. followed by a sweep of the Marlins.
Getting a good night’s rest for the Citi opener was going to be an issue. The Mets already knew that when the schedule came out. But after such a positive-vibe trip, they figured to ride the adrenaline wave right through Thursday’s circadian dip.
But things didn’t go quite that way, thanks in part to the PED police. The Mets were able to begrudgingly accept that, although Smith seemed to feel bad about holding things up.
“I had to wait until my bladder was ready to go,” he said.
So how much did the abbreviated bed rest really derail the Mets? That depends on whom you ask. Syndergaard flew a day ahead of the team and managed to hold the Nats to two runs in six innings, with the big blow Victor Robles’ solo homer leading off the sixth. As for the delayed Mets, they mustered a total of four hits — all singles — and only two runners made it as far as second base.
Players also look tired when they strike out 14 times, and Syndergaard — the Syracuse antagonist — didn’t hesitate to exploit this Miami escapade.
It was Syndergaard who ripped the team’s higher-ups for scheduling the Carrier Dome junket because it ran contrary to their constant preaching about smart health routines and nutrition all spring. On cue, he pretty much picked up where he left off when asked about Thursday’s performance.
“I don’t think we were in a proper situation to win a ballgame,” Syndergaard said, “based on the rest of the guys’ sleep and travel.”
That’s debatable. Teams have to deal with this stuff all season long, to varying degrees. It’s just life in the big leagues. To pin the blame on Thursday’s quick turnaround is an insult to Stephen Strasburg, who is no slouch, and the Mets had to be big enough to admit that.
“You’ve got to give him credit,” said Michael Conforto, who went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. “He was very good. He did leave some pitches out there for us, so we have to look internally as well.”
In addition, Lugo helped double the Mets’ 2-0 deficit in the ninth by allowing a pair of hits and a sacrifice fly, his only out before Mickey Callaway yanked him. That left Lugo, a key bullpen piece, with a 12.27 ERA in four appearances.
We didn’t ask Lugo afterward if he was sleepy, but Callaway wasn’t buying the pillow-talk excuse when it was floated to him.
“No, I thought it was good energy,” he said. “We just didn’t get the big hits at the right time today.”
Callaway doesn’t have to do much more than a brisk walk to the mound during the course of a game, so being sleep-deprived isn’t really a factor for him. Going forward, however, maybe the Mets should make sure to be better hydrated in case the PED cops show up again on a travel night. Or keep a water bottle in Smith’s locker.
“Some guys don’t have to go right at the end of a game,” Brandon Nimmo said. “It’s not his fault at all. That’s the way it goes.”
So were the Mets beat? Or did the Nats just beat them? Probably a combination of both led to the loss on Opening Day. And they’ll sleep well regardless.