Mets know they have to pick it up on the road
Club falls to 10-20 away from Citi Field, where it holds 26-11 home record
TORONTO -- Canada is a long way from the Virgin Islands. The big leagues are a long way from Class A ball. And so as 22-year-old Akeel Morris climbed atop the Rogers Centre mound for his big league debut on Wednesday, giving up hit after walk after walk after hit, he must have felt immensely alone.
Morris' five-run blowup in the eighth inning turned the Mets' 8-0 loss to the Blue Jays into inescapable reality, demonstrating -- once again -- how much more comfortable this team feels at Citi Field than anywhere else. The Mets may have carved out one of the league's best home records at 26-11, but they are 10-20 on the road. And with so many of their remaining June and July games coming away from home, they know that has to change -- and quick.
"We've got to pick it up a little bit," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We've got to start playing better on the road."
This one was hardly the fault of Morris, a temporary extra bullpen arm whom the Mets demoted after the game. Nor was it particularly the fault of starting pitcher Jon Niese, who made three run-scoring mistakes over seven innings against the game's most potent lineup vs. left-handed pitchers.
It was less the fault of anyone in particular than of a general malaise. Collins mentioned the Mets' delayed flight on Tuesday night and subsequent 3 a.m. ET arrival in Toronto. But he wouldn't blame that, either.
Instead, Collins called the Mets' struggles away from Citi Field a fluke. An act of randomness. Something that must change, and probably will. For most of Collins' tenure, the Mets endured the opposite problem, winning on the road but not in Queens. It grew so pronounced that the Mets began changing everything they did at home, from the way they took infield practice to when they ate their meals.
Given all that, they chose not to fret after their eight-run loss, instead focusing on the positives. Niese was the most noticeable one, delivering seven innings of three-run ball against a lineup that came into the night hitting over .300 vs. lefties.
"People need to understand that we lost the game, but that might be the best lineup against left-handed pitching that there is," Collins said. "To give us seven solid innings and keep us in the game, he pitched absolutely outstanding."
It was not the top of Toronto's lineup -- Jose Reyes, Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista et al -- that damaged Niese, but the bottom. Eighth hitter Kevin Pillar finished 3-for-3 off Niese with a homer. Ninth hitter Ryan Goins was 2-for-2.
Combine those numbers with the Mets' offensive struggles -- they stranded a runner in scoring position in five of the first eight innings, for example -- and this was a game they flat out lost. By the time Morris entered in the eighth, hope was slim. By the time he exited about 10 minutes later, following three hits, three walks and five runs, it was nonexistent.
All the Mets could do was head back to their hotel rooms -- not their homes -- and figure out a way to change things on the road.
"It happens," Morris said. "You just shake it off and get back out there next time."