Cookie's injury throws wrench into Mets' starter steadiness

August 16th, 2022

ATLANTA -- Most of the issues surrounding the 2022 Mets -- and to be fair, there aren’t many -- are relative quibbles. The lack of a reliable lefty reliever. A lineup that could stand to hit a few more homers. The absence of consistent offensive production from the catcher position.

If there’s something that could spell real, lasting trouble for the Mets, it would be an injury to one of their excellent starting pitchers. While that list begins with Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer, it doesn’t end there. So the Mets had to cringe when one of their most consistent starters, Carlos Carrasco, departed Monday night’s 13-1 loss to the Braves due to left side tightness. Carrasco will undergo an MRI Tuesday morning to determine the severity of his issue.

“What happened is it just got tight, and I didn’t want to push it,” Carrasco said. “On the last pitch of the game, I just felt tight. … We’ve just got to wait until tomorrow, how I feel tomorrow, and then we’ll go from there.”

If Carrasco does miss significant time, it would have a profound effect on the Mets’ rotation. Until Monday, Carrasco had gone undefeated since the start of July, posting a 1.69 ERA in seven starts. The Mets won every one of them.

The tide began turning in the second inning at Truist Park, where William Contreras and Eddie Rosario hit consecutive homers off Carrasco. Four batters later, Ronald Acuña Jr. hit the first of his three RBI doubles, just before the skies opened. Following a 55-minute rain delay, Carrasco returned, retired one more hitter to finish the inning, then began clutching his left side in apparent discomfort. His night, at that point, was complete.

Things turned only uglier from there, as the Braves torched Mets relievers for 10 more runs. The lone bright spot was Darin Ruf, who entered in the seventh and retired six of the seven batters he faced on low-60s cutters, becoming the first Mets position player in history to throw multiple scoreless innings in a game.

“To be honest, it doesn’t matter who’s hitting,” said Ruf, who delivered 10 of his 14 pitches for strikes. “When you’re a position player [pitching], you just try to throw strikes, try to get the guys who have been on the field the whole game off as quickly as possible.”

The other bit of good news for the Mets was that the loss, as unpleasant as it felt, counted for only one game in the standings. But the effects of Carrasco’s injury could linger. The Mets had already been planning on calling their No. 6 starter, David Peterson, back up to pitch half of their doubleheader Saturday in Philadelphia. Without Carrasco, the Mets would need to find another starter for the other half, with Trevor Williams the most likely candidate.

In the quiet moments following the loss, manager Buck Showalter wasn’t willing to go there just yet. Mets officials were still hoping for good news from Carrasco’s MRI, despite making initial preparations to shuffle their pitching staff. The team plans to fly in some long relief help in time for Tuesday’s game.

“We’ll wait until we get the test back and see what we’re dealing with,” Showalter said.

As the Mets well know, midsection injuries can be tricky. Third baseman Eduardo Escobar recently suffered a bout of left side tightness and missed only one game, though he’s still dealing with the effects of it. On the other end of the spectrum, Scherzer strained his oblique in May and was sidelined for nearly seven weeks.

For now, the Mets won’t speculate; they can’t undo the past nor predict the future. Both Carrasco and Showalter insisted that the lengthy rain delay didn’t play into the injury, because Carrasco busied himself throwing indoors while the rain fell over Truist Park.

“He was good,” Showalter said. “It’s just that one pitch got him.”