'We are capable of better': Mets take stock after home sweep

June 4th, 2023

NEW YORK -- What a difference a year makes. After 60 games last year, the Mets were in first place in the National League East at 39-21, 6 1/2 games ahead of the Braves. This year, after the same amount of games, New York is in third place with a 30-30 record, 5 1/2 games behind the Braves.

The Mets’ 30th loss came on Sunday afternoon. They went deep four times but fell short to the Blue Jays, 6-4, at Citi Field as they were swept in the three-game series.

The game was tied at 4 after six innings, but Toronto untied the score in the top of the seventh when Brandon Belt hit a two-run home run off right-hander Dominic Leone to give the Jays the lead.

“You don’t expect that ball to necessarily go out either,” Leone said. “But [Belt] is a really good professional hitter. He has been doing it a long time. He made a really good swing on it. I certainly don’t regret anything. Maybe just getting the ball down a little bit more. But that’s part of the game, part of pitching, part of playing baseball.”

The Mets now travel to Atlanta to play a three-game series against the Braves starting Tuesday night. It seems manager Buck Showalter has a lot to be concerned with. The offense, for example, has been in a funk of late. With a .241 batting average, the Mets are currently 20th in the Major Leagues in hitting. But the offense isn’t the only problem.

“It’s getting back to operating on more cylinders than we are right now,” Showalter said. “We are doing some things well, but not enough. We have to regroup, travel. We have some pending things coming up. We just have to play better. There are good teams. This is the big leagues.

“If you want us to get into exactly, ‘I want us to do this one thing better,’ it’s not that simple. We knew we were short in the 'pen today. I thought we would get five innings out of Kodai [Senga]. No go, and those guys gave us a chance to get back in it and we did. I was proud of that. We had four solo home runs. I wish one of them had some people out there.

“The first thing that hits you is consistency offensively. We know what guys are capable of, but we haven’t put that together. Then you have a game where you don’t play well defensively. Then you have a game you don’t pitch well. It‘s a constant chase for having perfection in every phase in the game. I know it doesn't happen. We are capable of better.”

Sunday’s game started off slowly for the Mets. Senga, arguably the Mets' most consistent starter this season, pitched on four days’ rest for the first time in his Major League career and it ended up being his worst start of his career.

When Senga left the game in the top of the third, the Blue Jays had a 4-0 lead. Whit Merrifield jumpstarted the scoring with a two-run double in the second inning.

Senga said pitching on regular rest had nothing to do with his disappointing outing. The Blue Jays adjusted to his pitch mix and he had problems locating his pitches.

“There were a lot of times when their lineup would be taking my offspeed offerings,” Senga said through interpreter Hiro Fujiwara. “There were adjustments I needed to make in-game. I wasn’t able to do that.”

In the sixth inning, the Mets came back to knot the score at 4, though that tie was short-lived. Tommy Pham finished the game with two solo home runs, while Pete Alonso and Starling Marte both belted solo shots.

Alonso broke a tie with Lucas Duda when he hit his 72nd home run at Citi Field, the most in the history of the ballpark, which opened in 2009. The homer, his MLB-leading 21st of the season, was a low liner to left field off Nate Pearson in the bottom of the sixth inning that required an umpire review after it hit right above the orange line at the top of the outfield wall.

Alonso didn’t know what he accomplished until a member of the media informed him of that tidbit.

“That’s sick. That’s awesome. Hopefully, I hit more of them here,” Alonso said.

If the Mets want to go to the postseason for the second consecutive season, they know every game is important. Their potential upward climb could start against the rival Braves on Tuesday.

“Every game is big for us,” Alonso said. “We need to take as many wins as we possibly can. Play well, win ball games.”