They went into Miami with a 20-22 record, facing the worst team in the majors, a team riding a seven-game losing streak and a loser of 14 of its past 16. The Marlins had scored just eight runs in those seven defeats without hitting a single home run. This wasn't just a bad team with a bad offense, but a bad team with a historically awful offense. The Mets had Jacob deGrom starting on Friday and Noah Syndergaard on Sunday. It was a golden opportunity to win three in a row and climb back over .500.
This is why Vegas always wins in the end.
Friday: The Marlins win 8-6 as they score seven runs -- including a home run -- off deGrom in five innings. "Tonight's on me. I did a terrible job out there," deGrom said, saying he's not able to throw the ball where he wants to right now. At one point, Robinson Cano failed to run out an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play, later saying he thought there were two outs.
Saturday: The Marlins win 2-0 as Pablo Lopez and two relievers combine for the one-hit shutout, the only hit beingJeff McNeil's double on the first pitch of the game. "I do believe we have talent in there," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said after the loss. "We have to start making it happen, somehow, some way."
Sunday: It didn't happen. The Marlins shut out the Mets 3-0 behind Sandy Alcantara 's two-hit, 89-pitch complete game in a contest that lasted 1 hour, 59 minutes. It was like the Mets couldn't wait to get out of there. The low point came when Cano didn't run after hitting a little trickler that hit behind the plate but then rolled a few feet fair. He stood at home plate arguing the call as the Marlins completed a 2-6-3 double play.
"I understand that everybody is disappointed -- the fans, the ownership, myself, the team -- because this is not who we are," Callaway said.
Or maybe it is. Years ago, Bob Klapisch and John Harper wrote a book, "The Worst Team Money Could Buy," about the Mets in the early '90s. Maybe the 2019 Mets are merely The Most Mediocre Team Some Money Could Buy.
As you can imagine, Twitter had a field day, with rampant speculation about Callaway's future now in full "Game of Thrones" mode. There appears to be only one solution for the Mets:
Aside from that miracle happening, here are five players the Mets need to see improve:
1 and 2. DeGrom and Syndergaard: Look, this team was built around the idea that these two would be aces. But now deGrom is 3-5 with a 3.98 ERA and Syndergaard is 3-4 with a 4.50 ERA. It's not that they've been bad; they just haven't been as good as they were in 2018. Though deGrom is still 10th in the majors in strikeout rate, Syndergaard is just 36th and he's allowing home runs, never a problem with him before. Of course, deGrom had the rocky stretch in April when he had the sore elbow. Some teams can overcome the loss or the mediocre season of a star, and even if these two aren't the vocal leaders in the clubhouse, it's never a good feeling when your axis is a little off center. Of all the Mets' issues, this is probably the one I'm least concerned about, aside from the usual worry about their health.
3. Cano: Brodie Van Wagenen's deal for Cano and Edwin Diaz was certainly a risky type of challenge trade, giving up two excellent prospects for Diaz and assuming a large chunk of Cano's contract. Cano is hitting .245/.293/.374 with three home runs. The big red flag: His strikeout rate is at 20 percent, which is below the MLB average but a big increase for him. His swing-and-miss rate is up and his chase rate is up. We can't ignore that Cano had the performance-enhancing drug suspension last year, but he hit better after he returned from the suspension. I wonder if Cano is going down the same road as Joey Votto, where the bat speed suddenly ages overnight. He's 36. I'd be worried.
4. Amed Rosario: I've never been high on Rosario, but he comes with a lot of prospect pedigree and he's still only 23 years old. But, man, he has been a disaster in the field, error-prone and not showing the range you expect from a quality major league shortstop. He's just not good. The defensive metrics back that up, as he's been charged with minus-13 defensive runs saved, the worst of any player at any position (and Rosario was bad last year). There are potential backup options -- Adeiny Hechavarria started on Sunday and Jed Lowrie, if he ever gets healthy, is a possibility -- but this is a big concern.
5. Brandon Nimmo: I was very high on Nimmo coming into the season after he posted a .404 OBP last year and hit 17 home runs in 433 at-bats. He looked like he'd be one of the best leadoff hitters in the league, even a candidate to lead the league in runs scored if he played every day. Instead, he has gone backward. He's still drawing walks, but his strikeout rate was prodigious at the start of the season and he's not driving the ball, so his average has dropped from .263 to 200. A hitter who looked like a potential .400 OBP guy with 20 to 25 home runs is instead hitting .200/.344/.323. It's also worth noting that 10 of his home runs last year came in a 24-game stretch in May and June. The good sign is he at least has cut down some on the swing-and-miss the past couple of weeks, so maybe he'll head into a hot streak.
This is surely coincidence, but after beating the Phillies 9-0 on April 23, the Mets were 13-10 and FanGraphs gave them 20.1 percent odds of winning the division and 48 percent to make the playoffs. That 9-0 win was also the game Jacob Rhame threw at Rhys Hoskins in the ninth inning. Those odds are now down to 6.8 percent and 16.4 percent.
Maybe the baseball gods have spoken.
Alcantara's gem: Let's not skip over Alcantara's shutout, because it was a terrific outing. It was the third "Maddux" of 2019 -- a complete game in under 100 pitches, the third of 2019 (after just two in 2018) -- and offers a glimpse of the upside the Marlins saw when they got him as part of the Marcell Ozuna trade with the Cardinals.
He's just the fifth pitcher in the past five years to throw a complete game in under 90 pitches:
Kyle Hendricks: 5/3/19 (81 pitches)
Rick Porcello: 8/3/18 (86 pitches)
Rick Porcello: 9/19/16 (89 pitches)
Jeff Samardzija: 9/21/15 (88 pitches)
By the way, Greg Maddux's fewest pitches in a nine-inning complete game was 77 -- 63 of them for strikes. He had seven sub-90 pitches complete games in his career (oddly, six of them were shutouts, but the 77-pitch game was not).
Bieber's game: Alcantara's start, however, wasn't the best pitching line of the day. That belonged to Shane Bieber with this game in a 10-0 victory over the Orioles: 9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 15 SO, 107 pitches.
ESPN Stats & Info reports that Bieber is the fourth pitcher 23 or younger to throw a shutout with 15 strikeouts and no walks. The exclusive club: Dwight Gooden (19 years, 301 days), Kerry Wood (20 years, 324 days), Vince Velasquez (23 years, 312 days), Bieber (23 years, 353 days). Since 1908, it's only the 15th shutout with at least 15 K's and no walks (Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez each have two).
Ryu, 31 and counting: Or maybe Hyun-Jin Ryu had the most impressive start, considering it was his third straight scoreless start, running his scoreless streak to 31 innings in a row.
Get ready for a Harper hot streak: After belting a 466-foot home run on Saturday, Bryce Harper went yard again on Sunday with another long blast in a 7-5 victory over the Rockies:
Harper has six RBIs his past three games, following an eight-game stretch in which he hit .148 with no RBIs. "We all knew this moment was coming," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "When he's on, he's so captivating and charismatic."
Harper's weekend was good news for the Phillies, but Kyle Freeland continues to be bad news for the Rockies. He was pulled in the second inning of this game, laboring through 65 pitches and seeing his ERA climb to 6.05. Freeland was a clear regression candidate after posting a 2.85 ERA last year, but I still expected a sub-4.00 ERA and a good season. Last year, he was the master of soft contact, but his hard-hit rate has increased from 29.1 percent to 39.2.
Get ready for a Vladdy Jr. hot streak: Wait, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. may already be on one. He homered for the fourth time this week on Sunday in a 5-2 win over the White Sox:
Guerrero's week: .333/.417/.905, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 3 BB, 1 SO.
Welcome to The Show, kid.
Alcantara tosses two-hit shutout
Sandy Alcantara tosses a shutout with eight strikeouts in Miami's 3-0 win.