SAN DIEGO — The Mets were leading the majors in an assortment of categories through Wednesday, including runs scored (299), hits (525), on-base percentage (.334) and batting average (.263).
Much to their dismay, they were also leading the majors in a way more painful category: hit batsmen. And as Manager Buck Showalter grimly assessed, before their series in San Diego concluded with a 13-2 loss to the Padres on Wednesday, “We’ve lengthened our lead.”
The Mets, who’ve the National League’s best record despite losing two of three to the Padres, will welcome Thursday’s lone off-day in a 10-game, 11-day romp through Southern California. Chief amongst the explanations is a day of healing for first baseman Pete Alonso (bruised right hand) and outfielder Starling Marte (sore left quadriceps), who hope to avoid the injured list but remain day-to-day ahead of a weekend series against the spiraling Los Angeles Angels.
In Alonso’s case, additional day off could possibly be warranted. The National League’s leader in games, home runs and R.B.I. said before Wednesday’s game that he hoped to avoid a repeat of the mistakes he had made previously when attempting to play through such an injury.Even when Alonso is out, this weekend sets up a unbroken study within the vagaries of baseball. The Mets proceed to lose key players — Alonso, Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer — yet pile up wins. The Angels, despite the presence of two of the sport’s most sensational players, Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, are losing in record proportions.
On Tuesday, with the Angels buried under what was a 12-game losing streak on the time, the club fired Manager Joe Maddon. Under Phil Nevin, the team’s interim manager, the Angels promptly lost a thirteenth consecutive game, setting a franchise mark for longest single-season losing streak. Trout left the sport with a groin injury.
Trout, who is taken into account day-to-day, sat out of Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to Boston, which pushed their record losing streak to 14 games.
The 2022 M.L.B. Season
“Chill out, all right? Don’t attempt to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls, it’s more democratic.”
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The contrast between the franchises is extreme, with the Mets flexing their resilience and proving the worth of an expensive roster built on star power but in addition depth.
“I feel you may have to provide plenty of credit to not only the team but to Billy Eppler, too, in how he’s constructed the roster,” Mets outfielder Mark Canha said of the club’s first-year general manager, who was one among the various executives who took a turn attempting to shore up the Angels. “We feel like we’re incredibly deep and we are able to count on any of our guys to leap in at a moment’s notice and do an excellent job.”
Eppler, who interviewed Showalter for the Angels’ manager job in 2019, struggled in five seasons in Anaheim despite loads of marquee talent. In his first winter in Queens, he immediately tried to repair a weakness for his recent team, landing in Canha and Eduardo Escobar a pair of versatile players who can hit and play multiple positions. The Mets signed those two, Marte and Scherzer in a November flurry before Major League Baseball’s lockout.
In March, Eppler tacked on more depth, trading for pitcher Chris Bassitt, a 2021 All-Star with Oakland. That deal seemed almost superfluous on the time, with Scherzer and deGrom at the highest of the team’s rotation, however it now seems prophetic, because the Mets have had a minimum of one ace healthy all season.
Those moves — a luxury of an almost unlimited payroll courtesy of the team’s owner, Steven A. Cohen — have helped fill the injury void and kept the Mets from prolonged slumps.
A number of games against the failing Angels could help rinse out the bad taste left over from the Padres series for the Mets, who were greatly relieved Wednesday when imaging tests revealed no breaks or fractures for Alonso. He had left Tuesday’s game within the second inning when a 96-mile-per-hour sinker from Yu Darvish bore into the meaty area above his pinkie on a checked swing.
Alonso, whose absence on Wednesday ended a streak of 151 consecutive games played, has been hit by a pitch seven times this season. The Mets overall have been hit 40 times, six greater than the Baltimore Orioles and 7 greater than the Seattle Mariners. No other team within the majors has had even 30 hit batsmen this season.
“There’s not a message going across the league to hit the Mets,” said Joe Musgrove, a starter for San Diego who didn’t face them this week. “You’ve got to grasp, as pitchers, our job is to manage the zone on each side of the plate. With how good that lineup is, you may have to throw inside. If you may have a fear that I’m going to hit someone, or he’s going to be pissed, or I’m going to be ejected, it’s not going to work.”
But with how often Alonso has been hit, an injury has begun to feel inevitable.
Canha said he recently told Jeremy Barnes, the team’s assistant hitting coach, that each time Alonso is batting “and I see a ball go up high, I wince because I’m afraid for him, because I do know they’re attempting to get in his kitchen. Nevertheless it’s just scary due to the variety of times he’s not only been hit, but hit in the pinnacle.”
Alonso was one among three Mets batters Darvish hit.
“I actually have never seen so many individuals get hit within the feet area with curveballs,” Showalter said. “I’m not talking about just grazing. I’m talking about being smoked. I’m sure anyone can give you a reason why. But, unfortunately, we’ve had plenty of them up and in, too.”
Based on his own experience — he said he had broken his left hand thrice — Alonso intends to exercise patience. This bruise, he said, is harking back to the sprained right hand that he tried to play through last 12 months before finally landing on the injured list in May. He said he was a “shell” of himself then and didn’t want to achieve that time again.
“We’ve a probability to do something special, and I would like to place my best foot forward,” Alonso said. “And if I’m going on the market not feeling right, I’m not going to be doing justice for this team, because these guys are putting in plenty of exertions and I don’t wish to be a weak link within the chain.”
So the Mets will likely be on ice — in additional ways than one — for Thursday’s off day. And while Alonso and Marte work on healing, and the right-hander Tylor Megill prepares to depart the injured list and begin Friday night’s game, Showalter said he would probably spend Thursday visiting with members of the Mets’ scouting department as they conduct West Coast meetings in preparation for next month’s amateur draft. The Mets own five of the primary 100 picks, and the Eppler administration may have a probability to set a long-term course.
Showalter said he figured he’d “go over and stick my head in there” and see what was occurring.
“Simply to principally have some goldfish with them. Goldfish and peanuts, and go home,” he quipped: the relaxing thoughts of a manager whose team keeps winning despite every thing.