No team in the majors has spent more time in first place this year than the New York Mets.
But that may change unless the Mets get going soon, starting Wednesday night against the host Miami Marlins.
The Marlins, last in the National League East, have won the first two games of this four-contest series, including a 5-4 victory Tuesday.
New York has lost 12 of its past 20 games, including three in a row.
“It’s just a little rut,” first baseman Pete Alonso said of the Mets, who lead the second-place Philadelphia Phillies by just 1 1/2 games. “I don’t think it’s any long-term concern.”
Mets manager Luis Rojas, whose frustration spilled out into an ejection in Tuesday’s loss, sounds a bit more concerned.
“I think we haven’t been aggressive consistently,” Rojas said. “We have been in between a lot.”
The Mets did get good news Tuesday as center fielder Brandon Nimmo returned to the starting lineup and reliever Miguel Castro was reinstated from the injured list after having previously tested positive for COVID-19.
Nimmo, a key part of New York’s lineup because of his role as the leadoff batter with an excellent on-base percentage, went 1-for-4 on Tuesday. He had missed three straight starts.
The Mets on Wednesday will start Carlos Carrasco (0-0, 2.25 ERA). Carrasco had missed the entire season due to a hamstring injury before making his debut last Thursday.
Carrasco, who is 1-0 with no earned runs allowed in two career starts against the Marlins, wasn’t bad in his 2021 debut, but he didn’t give his team much length since it was just his first start. He lasted just four innings in New York’s 6-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds — allowing three hits, one walk and one run.
Miami will counter Carrasco with rookie Zach Thompson, who has never faced the Mets.
Thompson (2-4, 2.33) has been impressive in eight starts. However, the league may be adjusting to Thompson, who had a 1.50 ERA in June and a 3.05 ERA in July.
As for Miami’s lineup, Jazz Chisholm Jr., a rising star at second base, was placed on the injured list on Tuesday, further weakening the offense.
Prior to last weekend’s trade deadline, Miami traded two star outfielders, Starling Marte and Adam Duvall. Another starting outfielder, Corey Dickerson, was traded earlier in the year.
Still, the Marlins are taking it to the Mets in this series, and that happened again Tuesday as Miami gave catcher Jorge Alfaro his first career start in left field. Prior to Tuesday, Alfaro had just four career innings as an MLB outfielder.
“We want (Alfaro) to be as versatile as he can be,” Marlins general manager Kim Ng said. “One thing I’ve seen in the market is that having positional versatility is great for your entire team.
“The rigors of catching and the power potential (Alfaro) has — and with him as dynamic an athlete as he is — we want to get that bat in the lineup every day.”
Alfaro said, “I’ve been working. I’m ready to help the team in any way I can.”
Alfaro’s replacement at catcher on Tuesday was former Atlanta Braves prospect Alex Jackson. In just his second game with the Marlins, Jackson came up big, slugging his first MLB homer.
Prior to the game, Jackson was batting just .037 this season (1-for-27).
–Field Level Media