The New York Mets will not lose another spot in the National League East standings during a three-game series against the visiting Washington Nationals that is scheduled to begin Tuesday night.
Now in third place, the Mets have a 6 1/2-game cushion on the fourth-place Nationals, but another ignoble feat – falling below .500 – is within reach for the free-falling club.
Carlos Carrasco (0-0, 3.24 ERA) will look to stop the Mets’ skid Tuesday, when he takes the mound against Paolo Espino (3-3, 3.66) in a battle of right-handers.
Both teams were off Monday after their second-half slumps continued with losses Sunday. The host Philadelphia Phillies completed a three-game sweep of the Mets as Zack Wheeler tossed a two-hitter against his former team in a 3-0 win. The visiting Nationals fell 5-4 to the Atlanta Braves.
The loss completed a disastrous road trip for the Mets, who went 1-6 against the Phillies and Miami Marlins while losing five games and two spots in the NL East standings. They went from 2 1/2 games in front of the division to 2 1/2 games back and in third place.
The Mets led the NL East for 90 consecutive days before falling out of the top spot with Friday’s 4-2 loss to Philadelphia. They slipped into third place with Sunday’s loss and the Braves’ win.
At 56-55, the Mets are in danger of falling below .500 for the first time since they were 12-13 on May 5.
The collapse has been a total team effort for New York, which has scored three or fewer runs 29 times in the past 51 games and has received a win from a starting pitcher just four times in that span.
Despite all the discouraging signs, Mets first baseman Pete Alonso – who was hitless with six strikeouts and eight walks over his final 29 plate appearances of the road trip – struck an optimistic tone Sunday afternoon and asked fans to do the same.
“Mets fans, believe in us – and don’t just believe, know,” Alonso said. “I understand that it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating for us. But just understand that we’re here together. We’re all in this together and we’ve got this. We’ve got this. Just smile and know that we’ve got this.”
The Mets are just a half-game better since the All-Star Break (9-15) than the Nationals (8-15), but Washington’s struggles have occurred as the franchise embarked upon a rebuilding plan by dealing eight veterans. Among those traded were Yan Gomes, Daniel Hudson, Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, who were all core members of the 2019 World Series winners.
On Sunday, the Nationals’ lineup featured five players 28 or younger. Last Wednesday, the four homers hit by the Nationals were all delivered by players 24 or younger.
“I think what’s understood doesn’t need to be explained,” third baseman Carter Kieboom said last week, one day after he hit one of the homers by the 24-or-younger group. “We just go, we show up every day and we do our job.”
Carrasco didn’t factor into the decision Wednesday, when he gave up two runs over 4 1/3 innings in the Mets’ 5-3 win over the Marlins. Espino took the loss Wednesday, when he allowed six runs over five innings as the Nationals fell 9-5 to the Phillies.
Carrasco is 0-1 with a 5.14 ERA in two games (one start) against the Nationals. Espino is 1-0 and has yet to allow a run against the Mets over eight innings and three appearances (one start).
–Field Level Media