Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
It's hard to say whether Met hitters flailing and failing Thursday afternoon was the result of a nifty Stephen Strasburg start or exhaustion stemming from a bizarre travel schedule the previous night that included a delay while poor Dom Smith chugged water so he could take one of MLB's random drug tests.
Maybe it was a combination and that added up to a dismal showing by their bats in a 4-0 loss to the Nationals. And another oh-fer perhaps cranked up concern about a player who was a smiley, on-base revelation last season - Brandon Nimmo.
Yes, it's a small sample size, but Nimmo has been one of the few bleak spots of what's been a nice 5-2 start for the Mets. After going 0-for-3 with a walk Thursday, Nimmo is batting .087 with just two singles in 23 at-bats. He has struck out 14 times, including once leading off against Strasburg, who finished with nine Ks.
Not that he was alone Thursday. In being blanked in a home opener for the first time since 1992, the Mets fanned 14 times and managed just four measly singles. They had two runners on in both the fifth and seventh innings, but could not get one in.
The top four hitters - Nimmo, Pete Alonso, Robinson Cano and Michael Conforto - combined to go 0-for-14 with seven Ks. Conforto, the cleanup hitter, was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
Whether or not the Mets were tired, their offense was sluggish. Mickey Callaway rejected the idea that the quick turnaround played a huge factor, saying, "We just didn't get the big hit when we needed it. That happens. That's usually why you lose when you pitch a pretty good game."
Here are the details on the Mets travel: They played in Miami Wednesday night in a 6:10 p.m. start with a 1 p.m. home opener looming Thursday. Now, MLB players deal with loony schedules all the time, so this is part on-the-job hazard, but there was a twist for the Mets.
They were slowed because Smith had to wait to provide the necessary urine sample. "I went, but I didn't go enough," Smith said. "I had to wait until my bladder was ready."
That took "another 35-40 minutes," Smith added, so the Mets departure from Miami was delayed. Had it not been getaway day, Smith would've waited at the ballpark to perform the test while teammates departed. Then Smith would've taken an Uber back to the club's hotel. Since the Mets were playing at home Thursday, they had to wait for him to fly.
"It's not Dom's fault," Nimmo said. "It's just the way it goes. Just bad timing."
The team arrived in New York around 2:30 a.m. Nimmo, who said he's been under the weather, didn't go to sleep until 4:30 a.m. and "I probably laid there another 30 minutes," he added. Smith estimated he went to bed at 4 a.m.
"Most of us are probably running on five hours sleep," Nimmo said. "It's a tough one, but that's how baseball is sometimes. You get the short end of the stick and you still have to perform. None of us tried to make it into an excuse."
You don't snooze, you lose? Or something like that.
Starter Noah Syndergaard had flown ahead, so he presumably got a good night's rest. No surprise, then, that he was the best Met of the day, allowing two runs and on hit in six innings.
"I thought it was a good job by Noah keeping us in the game," Nimmo said. "We just couldn't get the offense going."
Starting with Nimmo, who admitted he is frustrated with his play so far. "I've been letting the team down," he said. "But they've been picking me up. Today, it happened to be pretty much everybody. That's the way it goes."
Nimmo says he'll watch video of at-bats from last year when he was thriving. He says he's had some pitches to hit, including Thursday, and he's simply missed them.
Callaway indicated that Nimmo might be having trouble with a particular pitch - up and in and just out of the strike zone. In the past, the Mets manager said, Nimmo has fouled off pitches in that spot, getting another chance for the pitcher to make a mistake.
"Seems like they're attacking that spot a little bit," Callaway said. "He's not recognizing that pitch as well as he normally would. He's doing a great job on pitches down and away. He's still getting some of his walks, but he's not spoiling those pitches as well as he's been able to in the past…He's kind of swinging through those now.
"He's in a little bit of a down cycle."
In a start that's mostly been an up cycle for the Mets, so were the rest of the hitters on Thursday. That can change quickly when the series resumes Saturday - at least the Mets will have had an off day to rest.