Cano would like a few Corbin fastballs back

Mets slugger pinpointed inability to jump on heaters as source of struggles

May 16th, 2019

WASHINGTON -- The Mets’ best chance to crack Patrick Corbin in their 5-1 loss to the Nationals on Wednesday occurred in the third inning, after Corbin put two men on base with two outs. J.D. Davis followed with an RBI double, bringing to the plate as the potential tying run in a two-run game.

Cano fouled off a waist-high fastball, ran the count to 2-2, then beat a slider into the dirt. The groundout ended the inning for a Mets team that never threatened again against Corbin.

It also marked the only instance all game in which Cano put the ball in play. Batting third, Cano finished 0-for-4 with three swinging strikeouts, dropping his May slash line to .191/.240/.255. Cano has not homered in 69 consecutive plate appearances. Before that, he went 51 straight trips to the plate between homers. He has just three on the season, offering the Mets precious little thump in the heart of their lineup.

“I don’t have [any] frustration,” Cano said. “We have a great team and I’m always positive. I’m never frustrated.”

Mostly, Cano blamed his inability to punish fastballs in the strike zone, like the pitch he fouled off in the third against Corbin. Of the eight fastballs Nationals pitchers threw him in the zone Wednesday, Cano took three for strikes, fouled off four and swung through another.

Overall, he is batting .245 with a .672 OPS -- numbers that would look far worse if not for a 12-game hot stretch in mid- to late April. The Mets’ concern with Cano is more long term than short term; when they traded for him this winter, they also traded for a contract that runs through 2023, when Cano will be 40 years old.

Those, however, are worries for another day. For now, the Mets will continue penciling him into the middle of their lineup -- manager Mickey Callaway said he hasn’t even thought about dropping Cano out of the three hole -- and hope he busts out of this early-season slump.

“Historically, he’s a Hall of Fame-type player,” Callaway said. “There’s always going to be high expectations on Robbie. He went through a spurt there where he was unbelievable. He’s had a couple of droughts. But if anybody knows how to fix it, and fix himself, it’s going to be Cano.”

New glove, who dis?

For days, the Mets waited for a relatively low-leverage situation to give a chance in left field. It finally happened in the eighth inning Wednesday, when the team subbed into the game for Jeff McNeil, and shifted Davis from third base to left.

A natural third baseman, Davis has been shagging fly balls in left for weeks as a way of increasing his versatility once Jed Lowrie returns from the injured list. Although Lowrie’s setback has made that mission a bit less urgent, the Mets still want Davis to grow comfortable as an outfielder. In that way, the Mets hope to see enough from Davis that they can consider starting him in left without sending him to the Minors first for defensive seasoning.

Davis did not receive a defensive chance in left field Wednesday, but he could see additional time there in the coming days.

Successful return

Two days after the Mets activated him off the injured list, Familia buzzed through the Nationals in order in a perfect eighth inning. The Mets are easing Familia back into high-leverage duties, believing his early-season struggles -- a 6.28 ERA in 14 games before landing on the IL -- were as much mental as they were physical.

“I felt great out there,” Familia said through an interpreter. “It was good to jump-start my confidence again. It was just good.”