The Mets completed a homestand that defined their 2023 squad to date — inspiring enough to sweep three from the Phillies, inadequate enough to be swept three by the Blue Jays.
Fittingly for this one step forward, one Met back club, it left them at 30-30.
“We are capable of better,” Buck Showalter said.
That could be their motto. For, so far, there have been hints of running off something positive only to U-turn quickly. Which makes .500 feel right.
It is hard to run off the kind of 15 wins in 20 games stretch that would elevate the Mets in the meh National League without being stellar in at least one phase, if not two or three. And they are currently at zero.
In fact, they lost 6-4 on Sunday to the Blue Jays due to breakdowns in each area of the game — starting, relieving, defense and hitting.
Kodai Senga, who began the homestand so encouragingly with his best start of the season against the Phillies, closed it with his first start on standard four days’ rest. It did not go well. Showalter acknowledged the short rest left the righty “not as crisp.” And how exactly do the Mets get on a rotation roll — which it looked like might be forming before Sunday — if one member proves incapable of working every five days? After all, the Mets have struggled to find five healthy, capable starters.
For Senga, the Blue Jays were way more disciplined than the Phillies in recognizing and mostly laying off his signature forkball. That led to Senga walking five of 17 hitters. He also yielded a two-run double to Whit Merrifield and a solo homer to Vlad Guerrero Jr. The fourth run came when Francisco Alvarez tried to back-pick Matt Chapman at second and had the ball kick into center field. Chapman rose and scored all the way from second when Tommy Pham did not initially race in quickly to backup. That blighted what otherwise was a strong defensive Mets game.
Senga said he was “prepared … mentally” to handle what he knew was coming, working in a five-man rotation. But he lasted just 2 ²/₃ innings. Showalter had hoped for five because he had chased a victory Saturday by using his three primary relievers — Brooks Raley for the third time in four days and Adam Ottavino and David Robertson (28 pitches) for the third time in five days. The Mets lost the game and, Showalter determined, that of his big three, perhaps he would use Ottavino if a ninth-inning save arose.
With Senga recording just eight outs, the Mets instead had to begin the wheel on a depth-challenged pen. Ultimately, Dominic Leone served up a tie-breaking, two-run homer to Brandon Belt in the seventh inning.
That came after Pete Alonso and Starling Marte hit the third and fourth Mets homers of this game to tie the score in the sixth. It is not often that a team can hit four homers and be insufficient on offense. The Mets managed that act.
All four homers were solo shots. The Mets had just three other hits. They were 0-for-6 with runners on base and 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position. That made them hitless in 19 at-bats with men in scoring position as they scored five runs in this three-game series.
Francisco Lindor broke an 0-for-16 slide with a third-inning single, but struck out in his other three at-bats. He has eight hits in his last 56 at-bats, and has whiffed in eight of his last 12. Brett Baty (who didn’t play Sunday) and Alvarez have followed initial bursts of energy and production by looking like overmatched rookies. Starling Marte does seem to be breaking out, but Jeff McNeil has one extra-base hit in his last 31 games.
Showalter cited the need to be “operating on more cylinders,” but after rolling off various areas, he pinpointed, “The first thing is consistency offensively.”
But maybe this is just the 2023 Mets. They are inconsistent. They have the biggest payroll ever and star names. But fortune and fame has yet to translate into depth and performance. Alonso said after the weekend sweep, “It’s frustrating, 100 percent it is.”
So the Mets headed to Atlanta for the first time since being swept there in the penultimate series last year. That basically cost them the NL East title. They were overwhelmed by the Braves’ homer bats (out-homered 7-3 in that series) and the Mets are again in a homer deficit this year overall, 78-65. They don’t produce enough homers. They gave up too many. There are not enough hits or defense or bullpen to fully compensate.
It is one step forward, one Met back. Inspiring and inadequate in the same homestand — and for 60 games. Half good, half bad, 30-30 and .500.