The Mets entered Tuesday’s contest against the defending World Series champion Houston Astros feeling pretty good about themselves.
They scored 11 runs to demolish Houston and got a magnificent eight innings from Max Scherzer to open the series on Monday. And with Justin Verlander on the mound for the second game, there was a good chance the Mets could take the first two, but that wouldn’t be the case.
Verlander was good, but there were a few moments that defined his start Tuesday, and one word that he could best describe it.
“A bit frustrated,” Verlander said after the game. “A 3-0 homer. I know Breggy does his homework and he sold out for a heater there. That’s on me, Should have known a little better. I was trying to limit the damage on the big inning by not walking him.”
Of course, Verlander is referring to the third inning where, after the Astros took a 1-0 lead, he gave up a two-run shot to Alex Bregman with two outs in the inning. That home run proved to be the difference in the Mets’ 4-2 loss.
After the third, Verlander would settle in and work into the seventh inning against his former team with the Mets down 3-0. However, another mistake put the Mets in a bigger hole. With two outs in the seventh and a man on second, Jose Altuve — who had a sac fly in the third — hit a single to put the Astros up 4-0.
“The last one bugs me,” Verlander said. “Trying to salvage a decent outing. Go seven and [give up] three and give your team a chance. Seems like a lot of balls put in play found a hole. Some of the hard-hit ones earlier in the night they found guys and then got settled in and got going a little bit. The last one really hurt.”
“Justin was good. Had a couple of soft balls, about four of them, that fell in there,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said of his starter after the game. “He had a chance to go into the eighth or ninth [inning] there.”
He may not have gotten into the eighth like Scherzer the night before, but Verlander pitched well enough. The future Hall of Famer went seven innings, giving up four runs on eight hits while striking out five.
It’s Verlander’s second straight outing where he went at least six and, more importantly, kept the team in it. It’s also the first time he’s done that all season, a far cry from a season ago when Verlander won the AL Cy Young as a member of the Astros with an 18-4 record and a miniscule 1.75 ERA.
When asked how he felt facing his former teammates, Verlander was honest.
“Didn’t love it,” he said with an almost nervous laugh. “Just freshly removed from knowing those guys so well. Try to turn that part of you off and just focus on pitching and attacking those guys. They came out on top. Would have felt great if we won but this is a competition. They feel good about it and I don’t.”
Verlander could have won if the Mets gave him anything resembling the offensive outburst they had on Monday, but Framber Valdez held New York in check. He pitched five perfect innings before the Mets finally got a hit in the sixth. And then it wasn’t until the eighth when they scratched two runs off the 29-year-old lefty.
“He pitched well,” Jeff McNeil, who went 0-for-3 Tuesday, said of Valdez. “We started to get to him in the later innings when guys started to see him and get more comfortable. Those first few innings we weren’t seeing the ball well.”
Those early innings went very fast, going about 20 minutes. The 40-year-old Verlander was asked if lack of rest in between innings because of the offense affected him.
Verlander was, again, honest.
“I actually felt ok. It’ll be nice if I can sit here and use it as an excuse to feel tired but I didn’t,” he explained. “I lost the zone and fell behind and gave up a hard hit. Yeah, that’s it.”
Tuesday’s loss puts the Mets at 34-39 and 5.5 games behind a final Wild Card spot. With almost half the season over, the Mets know they need to turn things around, and soon, if they plan to compete for a postseason berth.
“Last night was a good night, tonight was not,” McNeil said. “It’s tough, we’re trying to get on a roll. We need to get hot, we all know it. Start winning a lot of ball games and get right back into this thing. I know we’re not happy with how tonight went but come ready to play tomorrow and win the series.”
Source: Yahoo Sports