The Path To Glory Is Paved In High Fastballs And Lower Back Tightness

Carlos Carrasco Houston

Today might have been a pivotal day for the 2022 Mets. And I state that not to overstate it. The Mets are still comfortably in first place, and dropping two games to the Houston Astros with Trevor Williams and a compromised Carlos Carrasco on the mound isn’t going to necessarily change the overall feeling about this team. But the 5-3 loss today did show some holes that the Mets have to look at and see what methods they want to use to fill them up.

Carrasco gave up bullet after bullet in the first inning after leading off his day with a walk to Jose Altuve. Michael Brantley hit the top of the wall to bring home Altuve, and then bombs to Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez made it 4-0 before Cookie even got an out. Somewhere in the middle of that sequence, it was noted that Carrasco was only hitting 91-92 on the gun (after averaging 93.3 mph coming in) which made me worry that he wasn’t quite himself. And sure enough after giving up another homer to Alvarez in the third and pitching to a couple more batters, he left the game with what the team called lower back tightness. The Mets have been largely escaping serious injury this season (even Scherzer is going to come back sooner than espected) so lower back tightness is a welcome outcome, more than shoulder impingment or biceps tendinitis or “an army of knife wielding rabbits in his elbow” (I think that one was a Victor Zambrano injury).

But all the little injuries highlight the need for a mid-rotation anchor so they don’t have to depend on guys like David Peterson to carry a bigger load than he should. Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez got hurt in 2006 and the Mets had to depend on John Maine, Oliver Perez, and Steve Trachsel to back up Tom Glavine. Luckily the Mets are going through all of this injury angst now and not in September which the Mets couldn’t do anything about when it was Petey and El Duque.

Now is the time where the Mets can think about trading for a starter, some bullpen help (which they will definitely need to fortify what they already have, which isn’t bad … hell, Yoan Lopez and Tommy Hunter did an excellent job keeping the Mets in the game after Cookie left), or for a big bat at DH. That last option comes into focus as some of the Mets struggled in key spots today where a hit could have tied the game or given them the lead. Notably, Eduardo Escobar, who popped the ball up with one out in the 6th against Ryne Stanek with the bases loaded after the Mets had cut the lead to 5-3, and struck out with two outs in the 8th against old friend Rafael Montero. While there’s no shame in losing battles to those two, who have been terrific for the Astros this season, it’s the way that Escobar has looked. This slump doesn’t seem like the others. He’s swinging at pitches in the dirt, at his eyes … he’s pressing. Maybe this is the time for a couple of days off for him to step back and take a breath.

The other reason for a renewed priority for another bat is the performances of J.D. Davis and, to a lesser extent, Dom Smith. Davis has been easy to pitch to in big spots lately. High fastballs, sliders away. And I’m not sure it’s fair or reasonable to have a lot of faith in Dom Smith to pick up the slack. So the Mets have to really look at things to see if they believe outside help would be the play for the lineup. But the Mets have to be careful here. For a team with the record they have, there are still multiple holes to fill. Thankfully they’re not giant holes, and that’s why it would be silly to sell big pieces for a rental. There have been too many Melvin Mora for Mike Bordicks and Jason Isringhausen for Billy Taylors to lament over. Those two trades were for stopgaps in the middle of playoff seasons, and Mora and Isringhausen had long, fruitful careers. Is trading a chip like that, or a chip like Mark Vientos or Bret Baty worth the risk for a stopgap who may or may not work? Or in the case of Bordick and Taylor, may not or may not work?

Billy Eppler is going to have his work cut out for him. Not because the ship is sinking by any means, but he’s going to have to weigh risk vs reward and do it with a farm system he’s barely familiar with. Brodie Von Monorail traded Jarred Kelenic, and I’m sure a part of that thinking was that he wasn’t one of his choices so he didn’t give a hoot. Conversely, I think Pete Crow Armstrong suffered the same fate because he was a Brodie guy and the 45 GM’s who were in place after Brodie and before Billy probably had no idea who Armstrong was. (I’m being facetious, but you get the point. He wasn’t their guy so he was a little more expendable.) I think this group will be smarter about this and not take stupid stuff like that into consideration. The Mets spent money this off-season in part so that they didn’t have the strip the farm system bare. They still don’t have to do it for the parts that they really need, and that means that Eppler isn’t going to have an obvious trade out there. He’ll have to do his homework and depend on his people to guide him through this. Today laid out the road a little bit for Eppler. Hopefully he doesn’t end up in a ditch on the side of Victor Zambrano Avenue.

Today’s Hate List

1. Jeff wilpon
2. Alex Bregman
3. Jose Altuve
4. Michael Brantley
5. Yordan Alvarez

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