Mets' Buck Showalter relieves Adam Ottavino in the top of...

Mets' Buck Showalter relieves Adam Ottavino in the top of the sixth inning against Atlanta at Citi Field on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

For one day, the boos returned to Citi Field.

Not the kind capable of drowning out the Delta Shuttle overhead, the jeers born from real disgust. We’ve heard those plenty in Flushing. So far, it hasn’t been the year for that.

No, this was the sound of the 23,973 fans registering their disappointment, aimed primarily at reliever Adam Ottavino, whose sixth-inning implosion Wednesday was the trigger for the Mets’ 9-2 loss to Atlanta.

Ottavino deserved the scolding. Called on to bail out Tylor Megill — whose nine straight hitless innings were done in by weak contact in that same sixth — Ottavino instead allowed all three of Megill’s runs to score before teeing up three more for Atlanta in a seven-run meltdown by the Mets’ pen.

The rapid implosion happened so swiftly that the Citi fans were probably in shock. That’s why the booing wasn’t any louder — along with the Mets being 18-9, and after splitting these four games, they’re the only team in the majors that still hasn’t lost a series (7-0-1) to date.

That’s not a bad consolation prize. Plus, Megill remains a monster, the Mets didn’t suffer any additional injuries, and even the Citi security guard who took Travis d’Arnaud’s sky-high foul pop squarely off the top of his head escaped without harm, according to the team.

Otherwise, what everyone witnessed Wednesday in Flushing was more of a hangover from the previous night’s doubleheader sweep, when the Mets burned through their bullpen to knock off the defending world champs. Plus, they also learned earlier that Trevor May — the designated reliever for that sixth-inning spot — would be out for up to three months with a stress reaction of his humerus bone (from elbow to shoulder).

That pushed Ottavino into being used for a third straight day, but he didn’t reach for that excuse afterward, as abysmal as his performance was.

“I felt good,” Ottavino said. “It’s immaterial to me.”

Could be something for the Mets to keep an eye on, however. It’s no secret that the bullpen is the most vulnerable department of this team, and they’ll need to poach a few closer-caliber types from white-flag clubs as we approach the Aug. 2 trade deadline. One name to watch is the Diamondbacks’ Mark Melancon, who just signed a two-year, $14 million deal this winter, and absorbing that kind of cash is where Steve Cohen’s wealth becomes the midseason MVP.

But fortifying the bullpen is likely weeks away, and Ottavino’s volatility is a problem. After allowing just eight (of 34) inherited runners to score last season, he’s already had five of the six cross the plate, including three in Wednesday’s loss. Granted, coming into this particular sixth inning, with the bases loaded and one out, wasn’t the ideal situation for a reliever with a Frisbee slider that needs to draw hitters out of the strike zone.

Ottavino walked d’Arnaud on five pitches to force in the first run of the game, gave up a two-run double to Adam Duvall and then flung a wild pitch to give Atlanta a 4-0 lead. Dansby Swanson finished him with an RBI single to centerfield.

The shame of it all was wasting another solid by Megill, whose ERA jumped from 1.93 to 2.43 despite carrying his streak of nine no-hit innings into the fifth. Atlanta only got him for four singles, none of them really squared up, and his trouble in the sixth began with a one-out infield single that was a replay overturn. Once Atlanta loaded the bases, Megill was at 94 pitches — his longest outing of the season, so Buck Showalter chose not to push him any further, even with his sketchy bullpen options.

“It was a lot of weak contact and snowballed after that,” Megill said. “It is what it is.”

Megill has pitched into the sixth in four of his six starts, and the Mets’ rotation has averaged 5.54 innings — the deepest of any group in the majors. Length from the starting staff is the best way to cover for any bullpen weaknesses, and Megill establishing himself has been one of the Mets’ most encouraging storylines this season. His nine consecutive hitless innings are tied for fifth-most in franchise history and he struck out 11 during that span against two very dangerous lineups.

“Especially in the division, with guys that have seen him before, too,” catcher James McCann said. “He’s been throwing the ball extremely well. One of the biggest adjustments I’ve seen him make from Year 1 to Year 2 in the big leagues is to make adjustments. Just to see that, if he’s not getting the result he wants from pitch to pitch, or inning to inning, he can make that adjustment. And that’s a huge factor to guys being able to sustain success at this level, how quickly you can adapt.”

Wednesday got away from Megill, and the Mets, in surprisingly messy fashion. But it’s happened so infrequently that it’s not really something to worry about. Not yet.


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