Mets can’t win them all, but signs point to winning a lot

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WASHINGTON — It’s hard to draw conclusions after four games. This is only 2.5% of the 162 regular season games, so please read the following sentence with that in mind. The Mets are one of the best teams in Major League Baseball.

On Sunday afternoon, they were lucky enough to become the first MLB team to earn four wins. On a home run by shortstop Francisco Lindor and a single by outfielder Mark Canha, the Mets took a one-run lead over the Nationals in the fourth inning. But after some errors on the mound by Mets relief pitchers and on the field by first baseman Pete Alonso, they lost, 4-2, to the Washington Reconstruction at Nationals Park for their first loss of the season. .


Nationals 4, Mets 2 | Box score | game by game

“It’s good to win the first series of the year, but to drop this one late, it stinks, especially for me,” Alonso said. “I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to go out and let anyone down, especially anyone in the locker room. After not playing there, I let the team down.

Nobody wants to lose, and losses are inevitable during a six-month regular season. But in the season-opening series, there were encouraging signs for Mets fans that the team could be in contention for its first playoff spot since 2016.

First of all, the starting rotation was solid. With two-time National League Cy Young Award-winning ace Jacob deGrom possibly out for months with a right shoulder injury, the Mets will need the rest of the starting rotation to carry a heavier load. In four games, the starting staff has a 1.59 ERA

On opening day, Tylor Megill, making his 19th career start, replaced deGrom and went five scoreless innings. The next day, star pitcher Max Scherzer made his Mets debut and produced a solid outing despite the remnants of a minor hamstring injury. On Saturday, Chris Bassitt, a 2021 All-Star acquired from the Oakland Athletics in a trade in March, also made his Mets debut and pitched six scoreless innings with eight strikeouts.

“I don’t care who you are. I’m coming after you,” Bassitt said then, referring to the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, who are former most valuable players and two of baseball’s best hitters. “I’ve faced Ohtani a lot. I’ve faced Trout a lot. I don’t care what name is on the back of your shirt, I’m coming.

Right-hander Carlos Carrasco, in his second season as the Met, followed suit on Sunday. After undergoing surgery to remove a fragment of bone from his elbow last October and saying during spring training he felt like he had a new elbow, Carrasco backed up his comments. He allowed just one run in five and two-thirds innings and later said a healthy elbow allowed him to use all his throws more frequently and efficiently than before. His only flaw: Nationals designated Nelson Cruz’s hitter in the first inning, the 450th home run of his career.

“Carlos is in a different place right now than he has been in a while,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said, later adding, “It was good to see him get off to a good start to the season. because we could use it.”

Second, the Mets offense — and on-field versatility — has improved so far with help from newcomers such as infielder Eduardo Escobar and outfielders Starling Marte and Canha. Escobar is 3-for-11 and played well on defense at third base. Marte is 3 for 14 but has led in four races. And Canha, who had three hits on Sunday, played every outfield position and is 7 for 10.

One of the Mets’ weaknesses last year was their offense. They were 27th in runs scored per game (3.93), 20th in batting average (.239), 23rd in on-base strikes plus (.706), and 25th in home runs (176).

“The guys we brought in have settled in really well,” said second baseman and outfielder Jeff McNeil.

Bassitt said people should expect talent with a big payroll (the Mets’ franchise record of $286 million trails only the Los Angeles Dodgers for highest in MLB). But he praised the Mets’ approach, particularly at home plate.

“There are a lot of guys, a lot of teams, it’s all or nothing,” he said. “This team isn’t like that. We might be able to hit a few home runs. We’ll just grind you down until you crack. And that’s the mentality we’ve been preaching from day one. We have a pitching staff to keep it going until that happens.

That didn’t happen for the Mets on Sunday. Erick Fedde, the Nationals’ starting pitcher, allowed two runs in five innings and then four relievers combined to allow just two hits.

And in the eighth inning, the Mets pitching and defense faltered. Because a labor dispute led to an abbreviated spring training, Showalter was careful, trying not to overload his bullpen early. So instead of the team’s top relief pitchers protecting a 2-1 lead, he turned to left-hander Chasen Shreve and right-hander Trevor Williams, who combined to allow three runs. (The closest to the Mets, Edwin Diaz, is on the list of mourners after the death of his grandfather.)

The Nationals tied the game when they hit a safety pressure, with rookie Lucius Fox and Dee Strange-Gordon sliding home safely. Alonso said he gave his best on a tough game. Showalter pointed to the cold weather but said Strange-Gordon likely would have been out had Alonso pulled the ball out of his glove more cleanly to send it home after lining up the bunt.

Two plays later, Alonso’s wide throw to second base prevented the Mets from converting a late-inning double play. Two batters later, Cruz gave the Nationals a 4-2 lead with a two-run single.

Next up for the Mets are three games against the Philadelphia Phillies, one of the division rivals set to face them, and defending World Series champion Atlanta for first place in the NL East.

“This team is really good – position players, starting pitchers, everyone,” Carrasco said Sunday. “So we showed that we were really good. The important thing is to stay healthy and keep playing hard.

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