Whenever New York Mets fans think they have hit rock bottom, a shovel and pickax are thrown their way and they are ordered to dig deeper.
It’s bad enough that the Washington Nationals swept the Mets last weekend or that they looked lost over the past two days against the Atlanta Braves … or that they lost 10 of their last 11 games. But it’s the injuries that continue to pick the roster apart.
The latest victims are ace Noah Syndergaard, who was scratched from his start against the Braves on Thursday afternoon because of a tired arm, and Yoenis Cespedes, who had to leave in the fourth inning after pulling his hamstring while legging out a double.
It’s an especially frustrating turn of events for Cespedes given the way the Mets handled the problem. The left fielder has been dealing with a hamstring issue over the past week but instead of putting him on the disabled list to get proper rest, the Mets decided to bench him for fear of losing him for the long term. Regardless of their intentions, it looks like that could happen.
Manager Terry Collins believed that Thor’s tired arm is actually biceps tendinitis, which is not major, but the Mets cannot exactly afford to lose him given their start to the season.
Matt Harvey started in Syndergaard’s place, which made Thursday the second-consecutive time he has been rolled out a day early in order to relieve an injured arm.
Jacob deGrom battled a stiff neck last week that forced him to miss his scheduled start on Friday against the Nationals.
It was a big ask for Harvey, who is coming off thoracic outlet syndrome surgery last fall and hasn’t exactly been a pillar of consistent health himself. He was tagged for six runs in 4.1 innings as the Mets fell 7-5 on Thursday.
If this team does not have healthy pitching, then a tense fan base and the franchise could grow even testier despite not even being a month into the season.
Granted, the Mets haven’t had fully healthy pitching at all yet as they are still waiting for Steven Matz and Seth Lugo to join the team after picking up knocks late in spring training.
The offense simply cannot outscore teams early on, which has put plenty of pressure on the pitchers that are left. New York sported a .208 team batting average entering Thursday, which is the second-worst mark in the majors as it is a lineup incapable of playing small ball.
With a .286 team on-base percentage, also second-worst in the league, the Mets cannot manufacture offense without the home run. In fact, they had only had 101 at-bats with runners in scoring position through 20 games, by far the worst in the majors.
Names that they have relied on over the past few seasons have been a no-show. Jose Reyes has been forced to vacate his spot as the lead-off man with a .137/.231 slash while Curtis Granderson, who also moonlighted as the Mets’ guy at the top of the order, is batting .147/.195.
Neil Walker isn’t adding much to the middle of the lineup with a .227 batting average. More pressure has been placed on him too due to Cespedes’ injury along with first basemen Lucas Duda and Wilmer Flores making their way to the disabled list.
The only two players that are contributing so far are Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto. The latter was not even supposed to make the team out of spring training, but injuries to Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo allowed him to make the big club.
So is it time to hit the panic button? Not yet, but no one blames you if you already did.
After Thursday’s loss to the Braves, New York has a three-game set against the Nationals in Washington. Another sweep could have the team looking at a divisional deficit as large as 10.5 games.
The icing on the rancid cake would be an extended trip to the disabled list from their best pitcher in Syndergaard and Cespedes, forcing Mets fans to deal with the harsh possibility of the team slumping back down into the depths of mediocrity once again.