Homers costly as Colon drops Mets debut to Nats
Righty gives quality effort over six innings; C. Young exits hurt
NEW YORK -- The season is long and things will change for the better. The Mets will not strike out over 2,500 times, a number they are currently on pace to reach. They will not give up anywhere close to 1,100 runs. They will not lose every game of the season.
Nor will their three main offseason investments contribute so little. Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young will all play better, because the alternative is unimaginable.
Count the things that went wrong Wednesday night: Colon lost his first game with his new team despite a quality start; Granderson descended ever deeper into an early-April slump; and Young left early with a nagging injury as the Mets lost, 5-1, to the Nationals at Citi Field. The defeat dropped New York to 0-2.
"It's not the way we wanted it to start," Granderson said.
Sharp early, Colon began struggling in the fourth, when Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche tagged him with back-to-back doubles to plate a run. An inning later, Ian Desmond and pitcher Gio Gonzalez each hit solo homers to give the Nationals all the offense they needed. By the sixth, Colon had thrown 110 pitches, given up nine hits and walked to the bench in line for a loss.
"What you saw today is not his best stuff," manager Terry Collins said, and Colon later agreed with that assessment. "I never saw, in the last few years, Bartolo pitch up so much. His ball just didn't have the depth it normally has."
Colon also came up short in his most critical plate appearance, unable to lay down a sacrifice bunt with a man on first and one out in the fifth. The next batter, Juan Lagares, hit a double to left, but the inning ended when Bryce Harper threw out Ruben Tejada trying to score from first.
So it went for the Mets, who came up short in every aspect of the season's second game. Shouldering the heaviest offensive burden was Granderson, who finished 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and is 0-for-9 with five whiffs on the season.
But Granderson was far from alone. Other than Lagares, who tripled and doubled as the leadoff man, and David Wright, who plated the team's only run with a sacrifice fly, the Mets were positively punchless against Gonzalez and the Nationals' bullpen. Striking out 13 times, the Mets increased their total to -- according to the Elias Sports Bureau -- a Major League-record 31 whiffs in the first two games of the season.
"Certainly we've got to do a better job of putting the ball in play with two strikes, there's no doubt about that," Collins said.
The Mets' other significant issue was Young, who debuted after sitting out Opening Day with a mild right quad strain. He didn't last. Playing left field in the top of the first, Young aggravated the injury while chasing down a LaRoche foul ball that went out of play, departing after meeting with the training staff back in the dugout.
"It's the last way you want to come with a new team," Young said. "I feel terrible about it. At the same time, you can't control it. It's not where I want to be right now, but all I can do is try to get well as fast as possible and continue to support my teammates. It's just tough to be in this position right now."
It is indeed a trying time to be a Met. Though starting pitchers Dillon Gee and Colon each performed adequately in their season debuts, every Mets reliever not named Jose Valverde has struggled. Things are no better over by the bat rack, where Granderson, Travis d'Arnaud, Josh Satin, Wilmer Flores, Eric Young, Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are a combined 0-for-31. Through two games, the Mets are simply not making contact, and are not doing anything else quite well enough to make up for it.
But it is only two games, they know, and the Nationals are one of the best teams in the Majors. Things will improve. Simple logic dictates that they must.
"Two games in, it's not anything to throw up a white flag over," Collins said. "We've got a long way to go. We've got to get going, and we will."