Coming off a rousing series split in San Diego last weekend (yes, a split can be encouraging), the Mets landed in Baltimore with some momentum — and the rest of the NL East — behind them.
They’ll arrive back at the team hotel on Tuesday night with one of those things still intact.
Before we jump into Tuesday night’s proceedings, the Mets got some encouraging news on the injury front ahead of the game. Finally. And en masse.
Jeff McNeil (left hamstring strain) is set to begin a rehab assignment in Triple-A Syracuse this weekend
Luis Guillorme (right oblique strain) is knee-deep into his rehab stint
Albert Almora (shoulder) is starting his way back in Syracuse on Tuesday
And Michael Conforto (right hamstring strain) is eyeing running the bases this weekend at Citi Field.
All good things. Barring any setbacks, there’s actually some light at the end of this not-as-dark-as-expected tunnel.
With a 3.5-game lead in the NL East heading into their two-game tango in Baltimore, the Mets have been moving along swimmingly despite the adversity. Though, a healthy dose of starters reinserted back into the lineup certainly couldn’t hurt.
The front of the Mets’ rotation — Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, and Taijuan Walker — have been tremendous, and even Joey Lucchesi is beginning to find his rhythm. After that, things have been a bit of a crapshoot.
Since his pristine outing in Tampa, David Peterson had allowed 11 earned runs over 11 innings pitched (three starts), including five earned runs over one-third of an inning last week in Arizona, heading into his start Tuesday.
The current predicament the Mets find themselves in — lacking capable bodies at every turn, rotational depth included — likely leaves Peterson in the mix for the foreseeable future. His only option left at this point is to improve.
Mets manager Luis Rojas offered the 25-year-old left-hander a public vote of confidence during spring training, essentially dropping a rotation spot into his hands.
Trial-by-fire produces mixed results, as Peterson’s experienced, but the southpaw appears to have the intestinal fortitude to withstand the inevitable shellackings he’s been on the receiving end of at points this season.
As we’ve noted here in the past, without a ton of minor-league experience to fall back on, Peterson’s basically learning how to adapt to pro hitters on the fly.
A 4.89 ERA over 24 starts at Double-A Binghamton in 2019 was his professional zenith before being called up last season. He found success in 2020, but these are professional hitters who now have a scouting report on him.
Without the capability to adjust with his counterparts in real-time, any pitcher is going to fall behind in that battle. Without the experience to roll with those punches, it could have long-lasting effects on that player’s development. Psyche is everything.
There was always gonna be an adjustment period associated with this scenario. Bumps in the road had to be expected. As has been this team’s modus operandi so far this year, Peterson’s just gotta keep it moving forward.
We talked in-depth about Peterson’s struggles after his last outing. He hasn’t appeared to rediscover that groove just yet.
Facing the last-place Orioles on Tuesday at beautiful Camden Yards should have been just what the doctor ordered to get Peterson back on track. Not so.
Pete Alonso's two-run frozen rope — his eighth of the season (111.2 MPH exit velocity, 408 feet) — in the top of the first (Francisco Lindor walk) staked Peterson to an early 2-0 lead, and off we went. Check out this rocket. Woof.
He should have been out of the inning on Ryan Mountcastle’s would-be double-play groundball. The O’s second-year star was called safe initially, but after review, despite clearly being out, the call stood.
Gary Cohen and Ron Darling were delightfully incredulous on the broadcast (there’s nothing more entertaining than Gare’s ire being drawn), but no harm, no foul. Freddy Galvis grounded out to strand runners on the corners.
The good luck wouldn’t last.
Cedric Mullins (10-for-his-last-11 entering the series — yes, that’s correct) drove Malaika home with a right-center gap double, giving Baltimore a 3-2 lead, still with none out… and so much for that early momentum.
That’s the second time in his last two starts that Peterson’s given back a multi-run, first-inning lead. That’s not gonna fly. And it didn’t get much better before the towel was thrown.
Galvis doubled with one out in the third, Severino followed with a single, Valaika ate up Dominic Smith in left field with a double off the wall to bring home Galvis, making it 4-2, and the left-hander’s night ended prematurely once again.
Robert Gsellman was called on to clean up Peterson’s mess (again; 3.2 scoreless piggybacking him in Arizona) and did so successfully, stranding Severino and Valaika in scoring position to keep the deficit at two.
But that wasn’t to last either. Mullins doubled again leading off the fourth and Mancini singled behind him to extend the O’s lead to 5-2.
We’ve seen this team pick themselves up too many times this season to write them off after four innings, but things weren’t looking great in that regard.
Orioles’ left-hander Bruce Zimmermann came into the evening with a 4.92 ERA over 11 starts the season (13 career starts; 5.25 ERA).
Naturally, this guy gets the job done against the pitching-and-backup juggernaut that is the first-place New York Mets. So it goes…
The O’s tacked on three more against Gsellman in the fifth via Franco’s three-run moonshot down the line in left field to make it 8-2.
Baltimore scored another in the sixth on Mountcastle’s RBI single (Jacob Barnes in), scoring Santander, who reached on the O’s seventh double of the night, stretching that to 9-2.
Santander crushed a solo shot off Drew Smith in the eighth to make it a 10-2 ballgame and that was pretty much the theme of the evening. Battered in Baltimore.
Alonso added his second homer of the night — a monstrous blast, at that — with two outs in the ninth to close things out at 10-3.
Nights like these are unavoidable. That’s baseball, baby. It’s all about how you come back from it. There was no coming back on Tuesday, but tomorrow’s another day.
Good times. Until then, family.
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