Mets May Face Failing Angels Without Pete Alonso

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 an even more painful category: hit batsmen. And as manager Buck Showalter assessed grimly, before their series ended in a 13-2 loss to the Padres on Wednesday, “We’ve lengthened our lead.”

The Mets, who have the National League’s best record of losing two to three in the Padres, will welcome Thursday’s lone off-day in a 10-game, 11-day romp through Southern California. Chief among the reasons for a day’s healing are first baseman Pete Alonso (bruised right hand) and outfielder Starling Marte (sore left quadriceps), who hope to avoid injury list but will remain on the day-to-day series against the weekend. Los Angeles Angels spiraling.

In Alonso’s case, additional time off could be warranted. The National League’s leader in games, home runs and RBI said before Wednesday’s game that he hoped to avoid a repeat of the mistakes he made in the past while trying to play through such an injury. Even if Alonso is out, this weekend sets up An ongoing study in the vagaries of baseball. The Mets continue to lose key players – Alonso, Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer – yet pile up wins. The Angels, despite the presence of two of the game’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 at the time, the club fired manager Joe Maddon. Under Phil Nevin, the team’s interim manager, the Angels promptly lost a 13th consecutive game, setting a franchise mark for the longest single-season losing streak. Trout left the game with a groin injury.

Trout, who is considered day-to-day, sat out Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to Boston, which pushed his record-losing streak to 14 games.

The contrast between the franchises is extreme, with the Mets flexing their resilience and proving the value of an expensive roster built on star power but also depth.

“I think you have to give a lot of credit to not just the team but Billy Eppler, too, in how he built the roster,” said Mets outfielder Mark Canha, the club’s first-year general manager, who was one of the. Many executives who took turns trying to shore up the Angels. “We feel like we’re incredibly deep and we can count on any of our guys to jump in at a moment’s notice and do a good job.”

Eppler, who interviewed Showalter for the Angels’ manager job in 2019, struggled in five seasons in Anaheim despite plenty of marquee talent. In his first winter in Queens, he immediately tried to fix a weakness for his new team, landing in Canha and Eduardo Escobar, a pair of versatile players who could hit and play multiple positions. The Mets signed two of them, Marte and Scherzer in a major league baseball’s lockout before a November flurry.

In March, Eppler tackled more depth, trading for pitcher Chris Bassitt, a 2021 All-Star with Oakland. That deal seemed almost superfluous at the time, with Scherzer and DeGrom at the top of the team’s rotation, but it now seems prophetic, as the Mets have had at least one ace healthy all season.

Those moves – a luxury of an unlimited payroll courtesy of the team’s owner, Steven A. Cohen – have helped fill the injury void and keep the Mets from extended slumps.

A few games against the failing Angels could help rinse out the bad taste of the Padres series for the Mets, who were heavily relieved Wednesday when imaging tests revealed no breaks or fractures for Alonso. He was left in the second inning of Tuesday’s game when a 96-mile-per-hour sinker from Yu Darvish bore a checked swing on his pinkie above the meaty area.

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 have been hit 40 times, six more than the Baltimore Orioles and seven more than the Seattle Mariners. No other team in the majors has had a player hit even 30 times this season.

“There’s not a message going around the league hitting the Mets,” said Joe Musgrove, a starter for San Diego who didn’t face them this week. “You’ve got to understand, as pitchers, our job is to control the zone on both sides of the plate. With how good that lineup is, you have to throw inside. If you 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 every time Alonso is batting “and I see a ball go up high, I wince because I’m afraid of him, because I know they’re trying to get in. his kitchen. But it’s just scary because of the number of times he not only hit, but hit in the head. “

Alonso was one of three Mets batters Darvish hit.

“I’ve never seen so many people get hit in the foot area with curveballs,” Showalter said. “I’m not talking about just grazing. I ‘m talking about being smoked. I’m sure someone can come up with a reason why. But, unfortunately, we’ve had a lot of them up and in, too. “

Based on his own experience – he said he had broken his left hand three times – Alonso intends to exercise patience. This bruise, he said, is the reminiscent of the sprained right hand that he tried to play through last year before finally landing on the injured list in May. He said he was a “shell” of himself then and didn’t want to reach that point again.

“We have a chance to do something special, and I want to put my best foot forward,” Alonso said. “And if I don’t go out there feeling right, I’m not going to do this team for justice, because these guys are putting in a lot of hard work and I don’t want to have a weak link in the chain. “

So the Mets will be on the ice – in more ways than one – for Thursday’s off day. And while Alonso and Marte work on healing, and right-hander Tylor Megill prepares to leave the injured list and start Friday night’s game, Showalter said he will probably spend Thursday visiting 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 first 100 picks, and the Eppler administration will set a long-term course.

Showalter said he figured he’d “go over and stick my head in there” and see what was going on.

“Just basically have some goldfish with them. Goldfish and peanuts, and go home, “he quipped: a manager whose team keeps winning in spite of everything.

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