Not Kuhl, Man...
Mets came up empty versus Pirates, which feels like a secondary plotline in the grand scheme of things
Another day, another storyline. These New York Mets have seen it all, haven’t they?
The Mets’ offense not showing up drifted into the background of the plot by the end of their 4-1 loss to the Pirates in Pittsburgh on Friday.
Pete Alonso’s three-walk night and the team’s only extra-base hit (a leadoff double in the sixth off former Mets reliever Chasen Shreve) was quite literally the only positive to take away from the batters’ box.
The Mets left nine men on base with just three hits total against a, um, subpar Pirates pitching staff. They went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Eight bases-on-balls couldn’t even spark this club on a night they really could have used a W.
These are opportunities that any contending team has to take advantage of, especially against a basement dweller in the Pirates. To be fair, this is a very talented offense.
Pittsburgh has nine players with wRC+ ratings at 100 or higher. It’s actually baffling that this team hasn’t made more trouble in the NL Central this season. They’ve certainly been a thorn in the Mets’ side.
Again, it’s not like the Mets didn’t have their chances. Surprisingly, New York has a slightly above-average wRC+ (102) with men in scoring position this season, good for 17th in baseball.
As encouraging as that is after the unproductive stretch the Mets traversed early in the year with ducks on the pond, consistency is key to making this thing work.
Since July 1, the Mets 1.7 wins above replacement ranks 11th in MLB and their 106 wRC+ is ninth. Things are turning a corner. Just didn't happen on Friday.
As if an overall bad night at the dish wasn’t enough to ring in the second half with a reverberating fart noise, an integral piece to not only the Mets’ recent offensive turnaround but a centerpiece of this team in general, Francisco Lindor, left early.
The 27-year-old — hitting .264/.361/.465 over 169 plate appearances since June 1 — exited with right side tightness after appearing to injure himself grounding out in the fifth against Bucs starter Chad Kuhl.
Kuhl had no command whatsoever, walking five but miraculously escaping with just an unearned run to his credit over five innings. Mets making average pitchers look elite is somewhat of a pastime around here.
Back to Lindor. Mets manager Luis Rojas had no updates on Lindor’s condition after the game, but additional testing is expected on Saturday.
Any time an oblique muscle comes into play, it’s concerning. Depending on the severity of the injury, the Mets may need to consider making some larger-than-expected waves on the trade front in a more expeditious manner than anticipated.
In the disappointing instance that Lindor is shelved for a while (six to eight weeks is what David Peterson’s oblique is expected to cost him), one would assume the Mets would employ a rotation of players on the left side of the infield to fill the gap.
Getting reacclimated to the outfield with Mets coach Tony Tarasco and getting comfortable with the glove and position at first base are two secondary courses of action that Rojas mentioned for Davis pre-game on Friday.
But for all intents and purposes, Davis is penciled in at third base and third base only unless absolutely necessary. The Mets do have another option, though.
If Lindor is indeed out for a while, replace a star with a star and make a push for Kris Bryant to share duties at third with Davis, allowing Villar and Guillorme to split time at shortstop, and you can even shift Bryant into left field when the situation calls for it.
That’s the sort of upgrade contending ballclubs make when the Nathan’s fries and chicken fingers hit the fan.
Lastly, a tremendous tip of the cap to Marcus Stroman, who finished the second inning pushing 60 pitches on Friday and still closed out the fifth at under 100 offerings (92).
His two-run, rain-delayed second inning could have been a lot worse but a tremendous split-change/dead-zone cutter sequence to strike out Bryan Reynolds with the bases loaded kept the Mets in the game.
We’d be remiss to gloss over John Nogowski’s clown act of barking at a clearly fired-up Stroman, which led to both benches and bullpens emptying, and even a few punches being thrown.
After inducing an inning-ending lineout, leaving Reynolds stranded at third to end the fifth and, again, keeping the game — now a 2-1 advantage for the Buccos — within reach, Stroman left the field showing emotion, as he and many do in this game.
Nogowski can be seen mouthing something to the effect of… you know what? Let our friends at Jomboy Media take us through the episode.
While you’d have hoped the incident would have fired up the Mets to the point of coming alive at the plate, it wasn’t to be on Friday.
After the game, Stroman addressed the situation with his signature authentic style.
“I have no idea [what happened], man,” Stroman said. “Just happy to kinda go five and keep it in arm’s reach for my team. Put my head down, literally looking at our dugout. You can look at the video. And [Nogowski] starts running his mouth, saying that I’m talking shit.”
“I’m never one to let any man talk down on me, especially when it’s not warranted at all […] He’s just a clown, man,” he said. “Hitters get on first base and do the macarena when they get a broken-bat single at times. I don’t say anything. It’s ridiculous. You see plenty of guys showing emotion these days, especially pitchers.“
“And, to be honest with you, I purposely have told myself to show less emotion and I’ve been extremely reserved out there and quiet,” Stroman said. “If I have any emotion it’s toward our dugout. It’s never at the other team, it’s never at any other players, and they know that.”
Never change, Stro.
As for the offense, gotta pick things up. Closeout the weekend strong. LFGM.
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