Peterson, offense still searching for groove

May 16th, 2023

WASHINGTON -- When the Mets left Citi Field the evening of May 1, having just split a hard-fought doubleheader with the Braves, they were 16-13 and three back of Atlanta in the ultra-competitive National League East. If they looked outward, they could see what looked like a gift: four straight series coming up against lesser teams, 13 games for baseball’s most expensive club to hopefully begin to hit its stride against.

When the Mets concluded that stretch Monday evening at Nationals Park, they sat at 20-22 and 6 1/2back of Atlanta in the division, having limped past the season’s quarter pole with a 10-3 loss to the Nationals. Settling for a split in this four-game wraparound series in the nation’s capital, the Mets wound up not winning any of those four series they were "supposed to win," finishing 4-9 against the Tigers, Rockies, Reds and Nats.

“There are a lot of parts we need to put together,” manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s not just one thing.”

Despite the disappointing stretch, some things look like they may be going right for the Mets. Their big-budget veteran rotation is inching back toward full strength. Their Edwin Díaz-less bullpen is subverting expectations. Their roster retains the bones of last year’s 101-win team, remaining flooded with talent and full of stars despite the results.

That said, many of the issues that befell the Mets over this stretch continued to hold them back in D.C. Here are a few observations from those games, including their defeat in Monday’s finale.

The power’s out
Despite their star power, the Mets’ lineup’s lack of actual power -- a concern entering the year -- is biting them right now. New York didn’t homer in any of the four games against Washington, and hasn’t homered since the second inning on Wednesday against Cincinnati, a span of 52 consecutive offensive innings.

“That’s difficult to believe,” said. “Sometimes those things are unexplainable. They don’t make sense. But it is hard to win that way in today’s game.”

Without thump, the lineup is stagnating. On Monday, long-struggling left-hander Patrick Corbin held the Mets to ’s run-scoring single and a sac fly across six innings, while Washington tagged David Peterson for six runs over five frames. The Mets have now scored three runs or fewer in five of their past six games, and nine of 12.

The larger issue is that outside of Nimmo and Pete Alonso, few of New York’s regulars are replicating their 2022 production a quarter of the way through ‘23.

2022: .326 AVG, .836 OPS
2023: .270 AVG, .718 OPS

Francisco Lindor
'22: .270 AVG, .788 OPS
'23: .224 AVG, .730 OPS

Starling Marte
‘22: .292 AVG, .815 OPS
‘23: .243 AVG, .598 OPS

Mark Canha
‘22: .266 AVG, .770 OPS
‘23: .236 AVG, .692 OPS

“There are a lot of things you could probably point out,” Nimmo said. “But it’s about, how do you fix that?”

Peterson requires a reset
David Peterson might not have been long for the rotation anyhow, with Carlos Carrasco set to return from the injured list later this week. But he did himself no favors with another ineffective outing, which swelled his ERA to 8.08. That’s the highest in baseball (minimum 30 innings).

“Going through tough stretches is about finding your way out of it and continuing with your work, and keeping going until you get it right,” Peterson said. “So that’s what I'm going to do: go back to work tomorrow and get on the right path.”

Their upcoming schedule is a bear
Clearly, schedules can deceive. Things don’t always go the way they should on paper. That’s why they play the games.

But New York’s upcoming schedule looks like a gauntlet. The Mets return home for six games against the MLB-best Rays and reigning AL Central champion Guardians. After that, they face the talented Cubs, the Rockies again and the division-rival Phillies, before an 11-game stretch against the Blue Jays, Braves, Pirates and Yankees. If this last stretch was supposed to be the easy part, the bad news for the Mets is that things certainly won’t get any easier.

“In September of last year, we were supposed to win every game, and we didn't,” Nimmo said. “And I think [the opponent] really just doesn't matter. If you don't come out here, don't execute, if you don't play well, it doesn't matter who you're playing in the big leagues. You're going to lose.”