Every time the Mets take another punch, and no team in baseball has taken more across the first quarter of the season, Buck Showalter likes to say that just because it’s raining doesn’t mean the sky is falling. But it figured in the week when Max Scherzer joined Jacob deGrom on the injured list, that it was snowing when they got to Denver for their weekend series against the Rockies.
Friday night Buck was talking about all of it.
“My dad told me something once,” he said. “Jobs that don’t have any problems don’t pay very much.”
And despite all the problems Buck Showalter’s team has had before we even get to Memorial Day in baseball, the Mets came into the weekend with the biggest lead of any first-place team in baseball, having lost exactly one series, to the Mariners last weekend. And even at the end of that one, the Mets came from 8-5 down in the bottom of the 9th at Citi Field to make it 8-7 with the potential tying and winning runs on base.
In a very short time, Spring Training only officially having started little over two months ago, Showalter’s flinty team has become the Next Mets Up.
“These players don’t listen to the noise,” Buck said. “They don’t give in. Their attitude is, screw it, we’re gonna just keep showing up and giving ourselves a chance, and try to treat losing like it’s some kind of fluke. You know who wants to listen to oh-woe-is-me? Nobody. They’ve got their own problems.”
If you think that doesn’t have something to do with who is managing the Mets now, think again.
“I got with my coaches the other day,” Buck said. “And I told them ‘This is what we do. This is why we’re hired.’ We’re going to keep going about our business in a professional way and do things by the right code we’re trying to play by, and tell ourselves that we’re not going to let more bad news affect us, because too much good has gone on so far.”
deGrom, who has two Cy Young Awards, hasn’t pitched since Spring Training. Scherzer, who has three Cy Youngs and has been a generational pitcher longer than deGrom has, and in three cities, was pitching just swell until he took himself out of his start against the Cardinals this past week with what turned out to be an oblique injury on his left side that is scheduled to keep him on the sidelines for from six to eight weeks.
“They’re both gonna be back,” Showalter said.
The Mets’ best setup man, Trevor May, went on the injured list in the first week of this month because of a forearm injury. James McCann is out with a broken left wrist. Tylor Megill (4-2, 4.41 ERA), who got the Opening Day start that deGrom was to get in Washington, is scheduled to return soon after his own time on the IL because of a biceps injury. This past week, they even lost Starling Marte for their 4-game series against the Cardinals because he was on the bereavement list, having lost the grandmother who raised him.
How did the Mets react to all of this? By taking three of four from the Cardinals. The last game of the series felt like as big a win as they’ve had all season, a season that includes some rather Amazin’ 9th-inning rallies, one from being down 7-1 to the Phillies. Alonso finally hit a walk-off home run at Citi Field after Edwin Díaz pitched out of a very big jam in the top of the 10th.
“If you want to know look at the end of that game,” Showalter said, “starting with Edwin. So much happened in the top of the inning. There was an error on a grounder that looked like it might end the game. So he’s still out there, on his way to throwing 35 pitches. Usually that doesn’t end well for your closer. The game gets all-the-way away from you. Except it didn’t happen. Edwin got us into the dugout instead of imploding.”
The Mets went to 26-14 that day. Showalter said that one thing he has done with the injuries is make sure his players have all the information he does.
“There’s no secrets around here,” he said from Denver. “What I know, they know. ‘Here’s how we think it’s going to go with Max. Here’s how we think it’s going with Jake. We think McCann will be back around this date.’ This stuff matters because they matter.”
The other night when Scherzer took himself out, Pete Alonso was one of the Mets watching how the manager reacted, letting the trainer do his job, not rushing out there, looking at the card in his hand, deciding who was going to relieve Max Scherzer.
“Pete was, like, ‘I get it, there was still a game to be played,’” Showalter said. “I told him that the wheel doesn’t stop.”
The Next Met Up that night was reliever Adam Ottavino, who put down all four hitters he faced. The Mets blew the game open with five runs in the 8th. They won again, even without Scherzer. Snowing when they got to Denver. Sky still not falling with the Mets.