Competitive Carrasco runs into trouble in fifth inning

August 20th, 2023

ST. LOUIS -- Carlos Carrasco’s struggles continued Sunday.

Staked to a pair of one-run leads, Carrasco couldn’t make either hold up as the Cardinals avoided a series sweep with a 7-3 win, snapping the Mets’ four-game winning streak.

Carrasco (3-7) allowed three runs in four-plus innings. He gave up nine hits, walked none and struck out three.

But Mets manager Buck Showalter wouldn’t call it a struggle. He said Carrasco’s effort was competitive, especially given the hot and humid conditions, with a 95-degree temperature at first pitch.

“It was a tough day to pitch,” Showalter said. “Stamina is always an issue on days like this, but I thought he handled himself well and gave us a chance to win.”

Carrasco's day ended after Paul Goldschmidt blasted a two-run homer in the fifth inning. Goldschmidt also had an RBI single in the third.

Carrasco was pleased with his performance until the last inning.

“The last inning, I got behind in the count,” Carrasco said. “I came back [with] two strikes, 2-2, throw that changeup. That changeup, it just went like a two-seamer and just got a little bit inside instead of going down.”

Both of Goldschmidt’s hits against Carrasco had an exit velocity of over 100 mph. It was part of a trend as 11 of the Cardinals’ 18 batted balls in play against Carrasco had an exit velocity of 94.5 mph or greater.

Showalter pointed to other factors that played into the result.

“We didn’t score many runs,” Showalter said. “We've been scoring runs well, but we didn't today. We knew that their pitcher was a hot pitcher coming in, and you can see why, but Carlos is competing and giving us a chance.”

Carrasco is 0-4 with a 9.22 ERA in his past seven starts. It was the fifth time in that span that the 36-year-old right-hander was unable to complete five or more innings and the fourth time he allowed eight or more hits.

“I said it before, this is one of those seasons we're just trying to figure it out,” Carrasco said. “We’re going to have a lot of ups and downs. I'm pretty sure I’ve had more downs than ups. I’m just working every day, man, to get better, and that's what it is.”

Rafael Ortega got the Mets off to a good start, scoring all the way from first base on a Jonathan Araúz single in the third inning to make it 1-0. It started with a perfectly executed hit and run, coupled with an aggressive send by infield and third-base coach Joey Cora.

Ortega’s legs did the rest as he went first to home in 9.52 seconds. It was the fastest first-to-home time clocked by a Mets player this season, and it is tied for the 17th fastest first-to-home time in MLB this season.

“As he's gotten more and more comfortable, he’s really showing us who he is and the reason why his services have been wanted in a lot of different situations,” Showalter said. “So, he's presenting himself well, and he's actually gotten more confident in the outfield. He is throwing well. He's running the bases with some intelligence, he can bunt, he can do a lot of things.”

After Goldschmidt’s single tied it in the third, Pete Alonso answered with a solo homer off Dakota Hudson (5-0) in the fourth. The blast left Alonso’s bat at 113.5 mph and traveled 423 feet over the left-field wall.

It was Alonso’s third homer of the series, and he has four home runs and six RBIs in his past five games.

Carrasco’s short outing stretched the Mets’ bullpen. The Cardinals broke it open by scoring four runs in the seventh. All four runs were charged to Trevor Gott, who hadn’t given up a run since July 22.

Francisco Alvarez singled home Jeff McNeil in the eighth. Alonso also tried to score from first on the play after an error by left fielder Tyler O'Neill, but he was thrown out at home to end the rally.

Brandon Nimmo singled in the fifth to extend his on-base streak to 12 games, Francisco Lindor extended his hitting streak to seven games and McNeil has hit safely in 14 of his last 16 games.

DJ Stewart came inches away from hitting his second homer in as many days in the second, but Richie Palacios made a leaping catch over the wall to rob him of the dinger.

“Everybody goes through periods where they show what they're capable of, and I just like … our guys’ intensity they are playing with, and a sense of focus,” Showalter said. “It’s not just the young players trying to make an impression, but even the veteran players. It'll bode well for us in the future.”