Mets' quiet bats put magnifying glass on every other detail

June 4th, 2023

NEW YORK -- In some sense, it was the margin for error that doomed the Mets on Saturday afternoon.

Mustering just one run in a 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays, New York put itself in a situation where every Buck Showalter decision, every at-bat, every piece of the game was bound to matter.

That was the situation in the top of the ninth inning at Citi Field, when former American League MVP runner-up Vladimir Guerrero Jr. came to the plate in a tie game with two outs and a man on second base. Baseball strategy would generally suggest walking Guerrero, one of the sport’s most thunderous hitters, in that spot -- especially with light-hitting Cavan Biggio on deck and no notable threats looming on Toronto’s bench.

Instead, Showalter chose to pitch to Guerrero, who -- like father, like son -- reached down to scoop a low curveball out of the dirt and line it past diving third baseman . The resulting RBI double sent the Mets to their second consecutive loss.

“It didn’t work out, so it’s something that’s going to be critiqued,” Showalter said. “If it had, we’d have been in a really good situation.”

Had Robertson escaped that jam, Showalter continued, the Mets would have been set up well heading into extra innings. But much like a manager who saves his closer for a save situation that may never occur, Showalter found the decision biting him when his club could not rally in the bottom of the ninth.

That much was no surprise, given the proceedings of the previous eight innings. After being shut out on Friday night, the Mets mustered their only run on a RBI double in the second. The middle of the order notably struggled, with Lindor finishing 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.

Lindor, who also failed to glove Alejandro Kirk’s game-tying single in the sixth inning, is in a 2-for-30 slump with five strikeouts over his past two games.

“It’s a constant fight that I’m fighting uphill,” Lindor said. “I’m in it right now. It’s frustrating, because I’m not getting the results that I want, but I’ve just got to trust the process, fight the fight, continue to walk the line. And good things will come out of it. If we would have gotten a ‘W’ today, I would have felt much better.”

The Mets’ offensive struggles are not all the fault of Lindor. No individual hitter -- not even , who has gone six consecutive games without a homer -- has been immune to the issues that have plagued this lineup throughout the late spring. The team has averaged 2.2 runs per game during its current six-game homestand, and things won’t grow easier when the Mets travel to Atlanta to face their archrivals next week.

In the interim, every decision, pitch and at-bat seems magnified. Such was the case when Guerrero stepped to the plate in the ninth with the game riding on his potent bat.

As any manager would, Showalter said he considered walking Guerrero, who entered the day with an .801 OPS. But Showalter has been trying to get extra outs from his pitchers where he can, in large part because his options late in games are so limited.

Without for the whole season, and with limited on Saturday, Showalter extended starting pitcher when he had him return for the sixth inning at 92 pitches. That cost the Mets their first run. Then the manager tried to cobble together three full innings from and Robertson.

“I wasn’t thinking about it,” Robertson said of the idea of intentionally walking Guerrero. “I was thinking, ‘Throw strikes, get the guy out.’ It doesn’t matter who it is up at the plate. I’m in this role to face these guys and get outs.”

He didn’t, and now the Mets could be without all three of their top relievers for Sunday’s series finale. Such is the nature of risk-taking in baseball: a single decision can haunt a team for days.

“We just didn’t have much margin for error,” Showalter said. “Obviously, we’ve had trouble scoring runs.”