On Tuesday night, the Mets only needed one inning of offense to secure a win over the Braves. On Wednesday, however, that production didn’t quite cut it.
New York jumped out to a two-run lead in the first at Truist Park, but Atlanta fired back early and often to hand the Mets a 20-2 loss. In a disastrous fourth inning, the Mets spent over half an hour in the field as the Braves sent 12 batters to the plate and scored seven of them. Matters hardly improved from there, and the Mets allowed 20-plus runs for just the fourth time in franchise history.
Even with an off-day back on June 24, the Mets have played 22 games in their past 20 days (thanks to a trio of doubleheaders in that span). They’ll have to play each of the next 11 days, too, before the All-Star break mercifully occurs July 12-15.
“There’s guys that, day-to-day, they felt some level of fatigue at times,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “I think we’ve done a good job of managing the days off, or when to pull a guy out of the game, or different things like that.”
There were plenty of opportunities to pull guys from Wednesday’s game, but the first Met to leave did so involuntarily: Starting pitcher David Peterson exited with right side soreness after a tumultuous three-plus innings, in which six of his final seven batters reached safely.
Another injury for a starting pitcher is the last thing the Mets need: Even with the emergence of Tylor Megill, they’ve barely piecemealed together a full rotation while four would-be starters sit on the injured list.
Rojas said Peterson felt a “sharp pain” in his side during the fourth inning, but the team is still awaiting test results on the severity of the issue.
“Let’s pray he’s OK,” Rojas said.
The fourth inning continued to unravel from there, as Sean Reid-Foley allowed four hits and a walk to six batters and failed to escape the inning. That at least gave way to the game’s lone silver lining for the Mets, which was the long-awaited MLB debut for No. 10 prospect Thomas Szapucki. The 2015 fifth-round pick missed some of 2017 and all of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but he’s since managed to climb the Minor League ladder.
“I’ve been working for this a long time,” said Szapucki, who threw 82 pitches over 3 2/3 innings and allowed six runs. “Obviously not what I was looking for, but I was super happy I was able to get the team the innings they needed, and now our ‘pen’s fresh.”
While the Braves piled on in the run column, Rojas used the blowout as a way to give several of his regulars a breather. Francisco Lindor, Pete Alonso and Kevin Pillar were all lifted from the game, while James McCann moved from catcher to first base (the Mets intend to use McCann as a catcher on Thursday).
When Szapucki tired in the eighth, yielding a double and two walks to the first three batters, Rojas brought outfielder Albert Almora Jr. in to pitch. The results weren’t pretty -- a walk, a hit batsman and a three-run homer -- but at least nobody else in the bullpen was burned.
“There’s been a lot of things that we’ve done just to survive this stretch,” Rojas said.
Despite Wednesday’s ugly loss, and the fact the offense has averaged 2.4 runs over its past 16 games, the Mets can win a road series against the reigning National League East champions on Thursday. Oh, and the club is still clinging to a lead of its own in the division.
The grueling pre-All-Star stretch is far from over. But all things considered, the Mets are still in decent shape. Sometimes you plan to give certain players a day off, and other times an 18-run loss dictates those decisions.
“When you’re going through this stretch, you’ve still gotta give guys those days off,” Rojas said. “That’s what we’ve done. To make sure everyone goes through this (stretch) and is healthy, fresh and getting to the goal line.”