Mets, Phillies trade barbs following Smith K

May 1st, 2021

By the eighth inning of their 2-1 loss to the Phillies on Friday, the Mets had ample reason to be frustrated, angry, upset -- and none of it had anything to do with José Alvarado. The Mets had their own problems. They had scored a total of two runs since Sunday. They weren’t hitting with runners in scoring position. They were barely hitting, period.

They were mad.

So when Alvarado struck out Dominic Smith to strand the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position in the eighth inning, frustrations bubbled into something greater. Alvarado began jawing at Smith. Smith barked back at Alvarado. Both teams spilled out of their dugout and bullpen. And while umpires helped diffuse the situation before it escalated, the Mets were left with a sour taste stemming from more than just their third straight loss.

“I don’t mind people pimping strikeouts, pimping stuff on the field,” Smith said. “I’ve never been a player like that, but I don’t mind it. I love it. But him pointing at me, coming after me, stuff like that? I’m a grown-ass man. Come meet me then if you really got a problem, and we can really handle it. So that’s how I look at that issue. He waited for his team to grab him and stuff, but I’m right there. And he can meet me in the tunnel tomorrow if he really wants to get after it.”

Only time will tell if this incident will jolt Smith and the rest of the Mets’ underperforming offense. It spoke volumes that, in the eighth inning of a one-run game, Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson elected to put the potential go-ahead run on base. The move set up a left-on-left matchup between reliever Alvarado and Smith, who had delivered an RBI single -- the Mets’ only hit with runners in scoring position all game -- in his previous at-bat.

Smith and Alvarado were already well-acquainted. On April 13 at Citi Field, Smith had jawed at Alvarado from the dugout after he hit Michael Conforto with a pitch, and Smith expressed his displeasure again when Alvarado plunked Jeff McNeil to open the eighth inning on Friday. Alvarado clearly took notice, because when he threw a 98-mph, 3-2 sinker past Smith to strand two runners on base, he immediately began celebrating and motioning to him. Once Smith realized what was happening, he whirled around and responded.

As players from both sides moved to break up the encounter, Alvarado pointed to his head while continuing to yell.

The Phillies did not make Alvarado available for comment after the game.

“I don't speak Spanish, so I can’t really interpret everything he said,” Smith said. “He was pointing at his head, he was pointing at me, he was pointing down the middle, he was saying stuff. Obviously, he felt some type of way because I yelled at him when he went up and in against Conforto and then hit Conforto. … Like their manager said, if you can’t throw strikes, you shouldn’t be in the big leagues. So I’m going to protect my guys. He’s throwing 100 out there. It’s not OK to just hit guys.”

The incident put a chaotic topper on what was otherwise another listless performance from the Mets. Although starting pitcher Marcus Stroman looked dominant, allowing only two unearned runs on a passed ball, a tight right hamstring prevented him from throwing more than five innings and 64 pitches. Three Mets relievers pitched well behind Stroman, but their offense mustered next to nothing against Chase Anderson, who entered the night with a 6.48 ERA.

The third of those relievers, Miguel Castro, again drew players out of the dugouts by throwing two inside pitches to Rhys Hoskins in the bottom of the eighth. That confrontation fizzled quicker than the first one, which still had Smith upset afterward.

“That’s baseball,” Smith said. “It’s a passionate game.”

Overall, the Mets finished 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position, dropping their league-worst batting average in those scenarios to .176. They’ve scored the fewest runs per game of any Major League team, stranding two key ones when Alvarado struck out Smith in the eighth. Things have grown so stale offensively that even owner Steve Cohen has begun tweeting about it, writing Thursday that “I think we are all surprised at the lack of hitting so far.”

Cohen added that “the season has a long way to go,” which is indeed true with 88 percent of it still to play. Perhaps, to that end, Friday’s loss can be the spark the Mets so badly need with two games still to play in Philadelphia.

“We’re division rivals,” manager Luis Rojas said. “We’re going to see each other a lot of times.”

Added Smith: “I’ll see him down the line, so I’m not too worried about it.”