QUEENS — Buck Showalter, the veteran skipper who has as much as anybody in the game of baseball over the last three decades, doesn’t have a poignant philosophy that is going to help his Mets get out of their early-season slump.
“Play better,” he said after his team’s 13-6 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Sunday. “Nobody wants to hear it. There are plenty of things to grab onto. I understand everybody’s job is to want reasons to why [this is happening]. So is mine.
“Just play better. We control it. It’s not like there’s some outside element. Just play better.”
Yet the Mets’ play over these last two-plus weeks has been nothing short of obstreperous.
They are 3-11 over their last 14 games, which has dropped them to 17-18 — the second time this season that they are under .500. At no point last season were Showalter’s men under .500 or even at .500. The closest they were to it was Opening Day when they began the season with a three-game win streak.
The Mets have been outscored 80-46 in this 14-game stretch where the offense has been held to four runs or fewer nine times.
“It’s not quite as difficult as people make it or perceive it,” Showalter said. “It’s up to us to identify some of those things and get better at it and get back to things we do well and have done not only last season but this season. That’s where our hope is. Each day is a chance to get back on that path”
When they do hit that five-plus-run mark as they did on Sunday, though, they’re only 2-3 thanks to a continuing pitching problem.
New York starters have worked into the sixth inning just three times during that span, taxing a bullpen that has been forced to shuffle its ranks often to ensure fresh arms are available. It’s an even more concerning development upon the realization that Max Scherzer returned from his 10-game suspension in Detroit and went just 3.1 innings against the Tigers before Justin Verlander overcame a shaky start in his team and 2023 season debut, but only lasted five innings.
All the while, they’re still without Jose Quintana (rib surgery) and Carlos Carrasco (illness, bone spur), forcing them to rely heavily on the likes of Joey Luchessi — who went just four innings in the Mets’ loss on Sunday to the Rockies, Tylor Megill, and the recently-demoted David Peterson.
“They’re all somebody’s son. On any given night they’re good,” Showalter said when asked if he has a rotation problem. “We’ve seen Lucchesi pitch well… guys like Peterson and Megill are capable of pitching well. We know Max and Justin and Quintana at some point and Carrasco is around the corner… I trust the track record.”
But the Mets are already running out of time to get back on track. Entering Monday’s slate of games as they travel to Cincinnati for a three-game set against the Reds beginning Tuesday, they are seven games behind the Atlanta Braves for the NL East lead and just 2.5 games ahead of the cellar-dwelling Washington Nationals.
Showalter has shaken up his lineups in recent days, recently sitting the struggling Starling Marte, moving Jeff McNeil up to third, and batting Brett Baty fifth. But that appears to be more of a temporary band-aid for the Mets’ skipper.
“It’s not as simple as changing your batting order or playing somebody else or pitching somebody else,” he said. “There are a lot of things I can say but it sounds like excuses. We’re not going there. Play batter. Our guys know that. They’re a very accountable group through thick and thin and they will be this year.”