DENVER -- “Some unfortunate happenings.”
“What did Max [Scherzer] call it?” manager Buck Showalter asked after his team fell behind early, then surged back before blowing the lead for the second straight game. “Playing on the moon? That’s a pretty good description.”
Therein lies the difficulty of evaluating the Mets’ performance this weekend in the Mile High City: Objectively, the box score tells us their pitching had a nightmarish two games after New York took the series opener, 5-2. It also tells us that offense was not a problem. But this is a venue in which those phenomena are commonplace.
Also commonplace this time of year is evaluation. Memorial Day is traditionally a time to check the barometer against preseason expectations. Coming off a 101-win season last year, and with the highest payroll in Major League history, it’s safe to say those expectations are high in Queens.
But with Sunday’s loss, the Mets fell back to .500, at 27-27. They’ve had their ups and downs so far, winning eight of nine in mid-April before dropping 16 of their next 22. Then they had a run of dramatic comebacks and memorable moments when they won five straight against the Rays and Guardians before embarking on the just-completed 2-4 road trip.
If there’s any Met with a perpetually positive outlook, it’s center fielder Brandon Nimmo, who went 5-for-10 with two triples and five walks in the series. He offered a realistic assessment of the series at Coors Field, 100 miles from where he grew up in Cheyenne, Wyo., and the season overall. But he also noted what he sees ahead.
“Obviously, not exactly where we want to be,” Nimmo said. “But I think we’re seeing some good signs here. The offense is coming alive and doing well, and we’re starting to find a groove there -- a little more consistency there. Going into the summer months, that’ll probably help. We’re just trying to piece it all together.
“We’re a better team than what our record is right now, but it’s just going to take putting the pitching and the hitting together.”
The Mets scored 22 runs in the three-game set against the Rockies. Yes, the games were in the altitude of Colorado and in a ballpark with a cavernous outfield. But the club arrived in Denver just having scored 10 runs in their series finale at Wrigley Field, their second 10-run performance in six days.
And there have been certain hitters in the lineup who have been red-hot. That would include Pete Alonso, who doubled and tripled in five at-bats Sunday after launching his MLB-leading 20th homer of the season the night before.
It would also include rookie catcher Francisco Alvarez, who continued his sensational May at the plate with his second three-run homer in as many days on Sunday. It was the eighth homer of the season for the backstop Showalter referred to as “a force,” and his seventh in 15 games.
The bullpen, particularly the middle relief, has been suspect for New York thus far, especially this month. The Mets’ relief corps entered play Sunday with the sixth-highest bullpen ERA in May, at 4.75. While Coors Field is undoubtedly not an ideal place to pitch, the inconsistency of Mets relievers was a trend long before they took the mound here.
The starting rotation has been inconsistent, too. Much of that may be due to the fact that co-aces Scherzer and Justin Verlander were sidelined for some time due to injury and Scherzer’s suspension for violating prohibitions on foreign substances. Scherzer had his best outing of the season Friday night before Verlander was pummeled for six runs Saturday.
Will these issues iron themselves out? Are reinforcements on the horizon as trade season begins to heat up with the weather? Only time will tell.
“If our hitting keeps doing what it’s doing, and we keep having consistent at-bats, the pitching’s going to come around,” Nimmo said. “It’s going to be fine. And we have guys coming back [from injury]. So I’m really excited about that.”
For his part, Showalter has seen a lot of baseball from the manager’s seat. But prior to Sunday, he had never heard that Memorial Day was a traditional time of assessing the state of a team.
“It is? Is that written down somewhere?” he asked before offering his outlook for the rest of the season:
“Good things ahead.”