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Mets Playing Just Well Enough To Lose

Throughout the first month of any baseball season, there is a constant reminder that it’s a marathon not a sprint. Seven months or so, 162 games, it’s a lot. So much so, that we’re cautioned not to take too much away from the opening games. Whether the Mets had won their first two, split the first two, or as they ultimately did, lose their first two, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s just two games, barely more than 1% of the season.

Still, there are some important takeaways from the first two Mets games against the Brewers, Friday and Saturday.

First, the good. And yes, even though the outcomes were disappointing, there were some positives.

  1. Edwin Diaz made his first appearance since 2022 and looked right at home, ending a scoreless top of the 9th in Saturday’s game with a strikeout of Brewers top prospect Jackson Chourio. With each appearance, Diaz’s 2023 knee injury will become less of a topic, and the more he pitches like he did on Saturday, the more the focus will be on the present.
  2. Starling Marte has looked more like 2022 Starling Marte than 2023 Starling Marte. Sure, it’s just 2 games, and still, it seems like both games were better than anything he did last season. That might not be factually accurate, and still the perception is there for a reason. Marte’s play will impact the Mets success over the course of the season, so it’s encouraging to see him have a good start.
  3. The offense bounced back in the second game of the season. After only mustering one hit on Opening Day, the Mets pounded out a dozen on Saturday, 3 of which were home runs. Seven of those hits, including 2 of those home runs, were against lefty pitching, an area in which they struggled last season.
  4. One of those home runs against a lefty on Saturday came off the bat of pinch hitter Brett Baty. This is significant because one of Baty’s offensive issues since coming to the majors was that he hit the ball on the ground too much. He said last month that he had been working all winter on lifting the ball more, and if his Saturday blast is any indication (and it’s definitely a big “IF”) it might be working. Similarly, if Baty can show an ability to hit left-handed pitching, he might officially claim the third baseman role that many have expected him to own.
  5. The team showed some fight following an “iffy” slide by Rhys Hoskins on Opening Day. Over the last two seasons, the Mets have led the league in getting hit by a pitch, and some have felt the Mets spent more effort complaining (or at least wincing) than retaliating. While their methods of retaliation may still need some work, there was something uplifting, in a sense, about seeing them angry as a team.

Of course, when the team loses both of the first two games to start the season, there is obviously some bad to call out.

  1. Jose Quintana, the de facto ace of the Mets staff, threw way too many pitches without even lasting 5 innings on Opening Day. While it’s true that, in the end, he didn’t pitch poorly, the Mets are going to need him to go deeper into games. This is an especially sensitive issue for the Mets who burned out their bullpen early last season when their starting pitchers consistently failed to get into, let alone go beyond, the middle innings.
  2. Brandon Nimmo has struck out in 4 of his first 9 at-bats. While there’s little worry that he would keep up this exact pace over the course of the season, there will always be some concern that his strikeout rate will affect his productivity. Over the past few years, Nimmo has basically stayed within the 23%-25% rate of strikeouts per at-bat, his best season in terms of runs scored was in 2022 when he was able to lower that rate to 20%. Along those lines, his worst season across the board was 2019 when he struck out in just about 36% of his at-bats and batted just .221. With an unreliable pitching staff, the Mets are going to need to hit this year, and for that to happen, Nimmo is going to have to do an especially good job at the top of the lineup. Striking out 44% of the time (or anywhere near that number) is not going to do it.
  3. Luis Severino is going to have to do much better if he’s going to prove that last year’s shortcomings were an injury-related fluke. While there’s something to be said for not walking a batter and striking out 6 over 5 innings on Saturday, Severino looked remarkably hittable throughout his Mets debut. In fact, he yielded the most hits (12) in any start of his entire career. Jose Quintana was never intended to be the #1 pitcher in this rotation, and until Kodai Senga returns, there’s an opening for any of the Mets starters to step into that role. Instead, on Saturday, Severino took a step back.

The Mets wrap up their opening series against the Brewers on Sunday. They’ll obviously be looking to get their first win of the season, and rookie manager Carlos Mendoza’s first career victory.

Shai Kushner
Shai Kushnerhttps://mlbreport.com/
Shai Kushner, is a seasoned sports journalist and versatile professional deeply embedded in the world of baseball. Since 2014, Shai has been a trusted voice covering the New York Mets for BaseballDigest.com and GothamBaseball.com. Before his journalism career, he served as a video engineer for the Mets Baseball Operations department.


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