The New York Mets are 12 games over .500, sitting atop the NL East with a comfortable seven-game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies.
The team had avoided their first series loss of the season until this past weekend when they dropped two of three games to the Seattle Mariners. With a chance to get back on track and take three of four from the St Louis Cardinals, the Mets entered the 9th inning of Thursday’s game with a 5-4 lead. But in the blink of an eye, Edwin Diaz was victimized by a soft hit infield single and later by an error from third baseman Eduardo Escobar that allowed the tying run to score. Mets fans had seen this movie before. But for this matinee showing, fans may have been treated to the director’s cut. With the Cardinals now leading 6-5 in the 10th (thanks to the dopey extra-inning ghost runner rule), Pete Alonso saved the day and Mets fans further heartache with his mammoth walk-off two-run home run. Further heartache, you ask?
The Mets’ strong start to their season- highlighted by multiple, seemingly impossible, come-from-behind wins- would be a reason to start purchasing playoff tickets. But in the middle of the Mets Thursday win, turned loss, turned win again vs. the Cardinals, Mets fan’s greatest fear came true.
That is the news about Max Scherzer, who pulled himself from his start Wednesday due to an apparent injury in the middle of an at-bat. An MRI on Thursday revealed an oblique strain for the 37-year-old future Hall of Famer and a 6-8 week recovery timeline. Despite the absence of their ace Jacob DeGrom, Mets fans felt some security knowing Scherzer could hold down the fort until his return. They’re both shelved for at least the next month and a half.
Billy Eppler has made it clear- the New York Mets are a win-now team. The team signed Scherzer this offseason, three new starting position players in Mark Canha, Starling Marte, and Eduardo Escobar, and traded for starting pitcher Chris Bassitt. But without DeGrom. Without Scherzer. With Tylor Megill already enduring a stint on the injured list. The New York Mets need to trade for another starting pitcher.
Yes- it’s early. No- it’s never wise to negotiate in desperation. It’s something that even the most optimistic of Mets fans would admit about the state of their rotation right now. But something Mets fans are all too familiar with is the midseason swoon that has doomed this franchise year in and year out.
Last season the Mets held first place for over 100 days—longer than any other division winner in the league. But the Mets not only did not win the National League East. They didn’t even make the playoffs, finishing eight games under .500 with a 77-85 mark.
And while that Mets team was not nearly as talented as this one, thanks to the offseason additions made by Eppler and approved by owner Steve Cohen, the core pitfalls of the 2021 disaster mirror what the 2022 Mets currently face. The Mets, already without DeGrom and now without Scherzer, will have to go into the deepest crevices of their starting rotation depth for the interim. And there is a very real possibility the Mets will see 2 to 3 turns in their rotation feature Taijuan Walker, David Peterson, and Trevor Williams on the bump.
The trade market surely hasn’t developed, but perhaps the Mets should be the first to jump in the pool. Frankie Montas and Luis Castillo are the first two pitchers to come to mind. Two starters are pitching for teams that figure to be in the basement all year long with Oakland and Cincinnati.
It would be hard to envision the Mets making a trade of that magnitude at this early juncture of the season. But perhaps a pitcher of less pedigree, such as Chad Kuhl of the Rockies, could be serviceable for the time being. A former Pittsburgh Pirate, Kuhl has a 3.77 ERA pitching in the unfriendly confines and thin air of Coors Field. Would someone of that ilk be enough to help carry the freight while the Mets’ two aces are on the mend? Maybe. Maybe not.
But one thing is for certain- one month into the season, the New York Mets have been forced to scrape the bottom of their starting pitching depth barrel, just as they were forced to in 2021. And we all know how that season ended.
Yes, it’s early. But The Mets have seen this film before. Will they cut this tape differently? Or watch a repeat? Will it feature that same bitter, cruel ending?