Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Extracting the positives from a loss is usually as palatable as digging into the dry chicken dinner usually served at a sports banquet. Losing stings, regardless of what might have gone well during a game or a weekend.
But while the Mets squandered a nifty comeback Sunday in losing the finale of their opening series, 6-5, to the Nationals, what happened on the field during the three-game set could resonate throughout the year as the two clubs try to navigate the upper reaches of the National League East.
In fact, manager Mickey Callaway told reporters, the Mets' comeback "put something" in the Nationals' minds, even if that comeback wasn't completed.
"They have doubt," Callaway said.
We'll see if he's ultimately right. The Nats, after all, did counter-punch when Trea Turner belted a walk-off homer off Justin Wilson in the ninth.
But there is plenty for the Nationals to ponder coming out of this series. Perhaps the Mets forged an early mental edge with their resiliency, especially when it comes to the endgame.
The Mets battered Washington's bullpen in taking two out of three in this early showdown, torching Nats relievers for 10 runs and 16 hits in 7 1/3 innings. That's a 12.27 ERA.
On Sunday, the Mets tallied three times in the eighth inning to tie the score at 5, pumping adrenaline into what had been a mostly-lifeless afternoon. The Nats brought in their closer, Sean Doolittle, for a five-out save and it didn't work. Doolittle allowed two inherited runners to come in, knotting the score at 5.
The Mets also won a series in which the Nats started their three best pitchers: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, perhaps as formidable a top 3 as there is in the game.
The Mets, obviously, started their three best, too, and Jacob deGrom lived up to the billing on Opening Day. But Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler were pedestrian -- at best -- and the Mets still took the series. DeGrom threw six shutout innings to outduel Scherzer; Syndergaard and Wheeler combined for a 6.55 ERA in the other two starts.
And the Mets unveiled a player who could be immensely important this year and beyond -- Pete Alonso. Alonso, the slugging first baseman, has given the Mets a jolt of emotion on the field as well as power. He's 6-for-12 this season with three doubles and three RBI.
If you enjoy absurd, inflated early-season stats, how's this: Alonso has a 1.321 OPS. Oh, and he looks fine defensively at first base.
Everything wasn't perfect, of course. This is baseball. Wheeler made a mistake of his own to Turner in the third inning, getting "fastball happy." Turner smashed a three-run homer. Wheeler complained following the start that he failed to recognized that he lapsed into a pattern of going to the fastball too much. Turner was waiting for it.
While all small-sample-size disclaimers apply at this time of year, Brandon Nimmo is off to a slow start. He finally got his first hit Sunday. The Mets have just one homer -- Robinson Cano's shot on Opening Day.
There's more to cherry-pick, as there is with any team: Callaway likely will be second-guessed for several moves -- that's life as a big-league manager in today's hot-take universe -- including having Wilson face Turner.
It was Wilson's second inning of work, but Callaway explained that, because of usage, the Mets were hoping he could get through the ninth.
Callaway also didn't start Jeff McNeil the day after McNeil rapped four hits, since Corbin is a lefty. Maybe McNeil, who has done nothing but hit since he's reached the majors, should've had a crack at the Nats' free-agent prize.
Wilson Ramos didn't start, either, with Callaway saying he wanted to rest Ramos after Ramos spent much of Saturday on the basepaths.
It all almost worked out, anyway. The Mets stormed back to tie the score - Ramos delivered a key pinch-hit single in the eighth to bring the Mets within one -- and they perhaps delivered a message to the Nats.
How meaningful was it? We'll start finding out Monday night in Miami, where the Mets start a series against what could be the weakest team in the East.