BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
The Mets needed that.
It’s crazy to say when they have a comfortable first-place lead in the NL East as one of the best teams in baseball with a quarter of the way through 2022 season. But in a long season of ups and downs and twists and turns, they could use a moment to make a crisis be forgotten for at least a few minutes or a day.
Prior to Thursday’s series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field, the Mets announced Max Scherzer is out six to eight weeks with an oblique strain he suffered during Wednesday night’s start. This comes after Tylor Megill landed on the 15-day injured list because of biceps tendinitis last week. Those two joined Jacob deGrom as three members of the starting rotation on the injured list.
To make things worse, Edwin Diaz blew his second save of the season that had the Cardinals tying the game at 5 in the ninth inning on Paul Goldschmidt’s RBI single that had Harrison Bader scoring home. The Cardinals took a 6-5 lead in the tenth on Albert Pujols’ double play, bringing home Dylan Carlson, the ghost runner that started the inning.
The situation called for a Met to be a hero in their last inning of the game. With Francisco Lindor as the ghost runner at second, the opportunity found Pete Alonso to get it done. He did by hitting a two-run home run that gave the Mets a much-need 6-5 victory. It gave them the series win against the Cardinals after losing their first series of the season this past weekend to the Seattle Mariners. They improved to 26-14, and their NL East lead is up by seven games on the underachieving Philadelphia Phillies, heading to a six-game trip out West to play the Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants.
Yeah, they needed that with the road trip and the team getting nicked by injuries all of a sudden.
There’s something to be said about getting off to a great start. Slumps will happen, and the Mets will encounter it sooner or later. No one escapes a slump over the course of a 162-game season. Injuries also happen with the wear and tear of the body that comes with grinding every game. After boasting a good starting rotation that had deGrom and Scherzer anchoring it to start spring training, they are in a bind. No one knows for sure when any of the three are coming back. The team can afford to shake off injuries for a while with the idea David Peterson and Trevor Williams can step up.
Make no mistake. This is a crisis. The Mets are going to have to get one or all of the starters back from the injured list. It could happen. It may not. Injuries are tricky.
We have no idea if deGrom will pitch this season. The Mets claimed he could be good to go in July, but who knows? This is their best hope. The Mets are now planning to have him pitch only for a few months, which could ease him to the postseason. They hope a shortened season could be a payoff for him to do well if the Mets make the postseason.
Yes, the word if. It’s not as fait accompli as it seems. Blown leads in the division occur often that cost a team a playoff spot. Just ask the 2007 Mets and 2011 Boston Red Sox. Sooner or later, the Atlanta Braves and Phillies will take off in a long season.
With injuries that could plague the team, it’s understandable why there should be a concern with the Mets. Forget the injuries now. There’s no guarantee Taijuan Walker and Carlos Carrasco can pitch a whole season since they have been marred with injuries over the years. We thought Scherzer would be durable until Wednesday night.
There’s no guarantee that deGrom may even pitch this season. His shoulder and body could act up with the stress he puts on his body when he pitches. He has gotten hurt frequently going back to last season. It just could be injuries caught up to him for good. The Mets are understandably tight-lipped about him. They don’t even know what to expect.
Scherzer being out for two months is not an ideal situation for the Mets. That’s two months of missed quality starts right there. Forget the fact he gives them a chance to win. This means now the Mets are going to have to rely on openers and use the bullpen more. Those two months could have been served for him to start extending himself to more innings to give the bullpen rest.
The best case scenario would be him coming back in August, and that’s no guarantee. He is 37 years old, so his injury may take time to heal, and there’s a good chance he won’t be 100 percent this season. If anything, his absence hurts more than deGrom’s. The Mets are not into false pretenses thinking deGrom would be back this season. They did not expect Scherzer to be out because of how durable he is.
Maybe Megill can come back quickly. He did not have an arm injury. But then again who knows? He has pitched well this season, and he has made the Mets overcome deGrom’s absence. At least, he is going to start throwing this weekend, so that should be encouraging. How it all works out is another story.
But then again, a Mets fan read about Walker using a heating pad on his back during his start last week against the Washington Nationals. So if Megill comes back, Walker could be out with his injury history.
Yeah a long season can be hard to navigate. Mets manager Buck Showalter always talk about now wallowing in self-pity since no team would feel sorry for his ballclub. He is right on that. Depth and maybe making a trade can overcome injuries, but the Mets would be hard-pressed to win games if they keep losing guys. That’s just reality.
That’s why Alonso’s home run and winning another series change the narrative for a day.
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