Mets pelted by boobirds in May: ‘I thought we’d come out of the chute a little better than this’

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Justin Verlander Mets
New York Mets starting pitcher Justin Verlander reacts after Tampa Bay Rays’ Isaac Paredes hit a two-run home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

QUEENS — The Mets were booed in the fourth inning after a third-consecutive 1-2-3 frame. Justin Verlander was booed off the mound after a fifth inning in which he gave up a second home run to Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Isaac Paredes to make it a 6-0 game. 

And manager Buck Showalter completely understands the reaction.

“When people come out here they want to see the Mets win, they want to see us do well,” he said. “They get frustrated just like we do. They care as much as we do… It’s tough when you’re doing something that’s very important to people.”

The Mets lost their 16th game in 22 tries on Tuesday, falling to 20-23 on the season — a surprising development for a preseason World Series contender that spent the majority of its night in mid-May dodging jeers from a restless Citi Field crowd. 

“I thought we’d come out of the chute a little better than this,” Verlander, who was throttled for six runs on eight hits in his five-inning Citi Field debut, said. “But at the same time, baseball is a long season.

“I understand the fans are frustrated. We’re frustrated too. We expect to be better, I expect to be better. I think this entire organization expects to be better. There’s only one thing left to do and that’s put your head down, work hard, and find your way out of this slump.”

Mets Buck Showalter
New York Mets’ Buck Showalter yells on the field after being ejected by MLB umpire Mark Wegner during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati, Tuesday, May 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Standing at his locker with his hands on his hips, the veteran right-hander couldn’t label one thing as the largest issue plaguing the Mets, and understandably so. Only seven teams in the majors average less than the Mets’ 4.16 runs per game. The team that predicates itself on small ball had been even more toothless in the power department before Tuesday’s three-homer night as they had gone 56 innings without a round-tripper. 

Their starting pitching, which finally has Verlander and Max Scherzer back atop its ranks, has been one of the worst collective units in baseball.

“It just seems like when we pitch [well], we haven’t hit,” Verlander said. “When we hit, we haven’t pitched. I can’t put my finger on one thing.”

Recent history does provide the tiniest glimmer of hope, regardless. Simply put, the Mets’ roster on paper has to perform better than it currently has and baseball’s long season should allow enough time for them to stabilize and be in the postseason hunt. 

Last season, the Philadelphia Phillies were 21-29 on May 31 and still won the National League pennant. The Atlanta Braves were 20-24 on May 20, 2021, struggled to stay at .500 into August, and turned it on to win the World Series. 

The 2019 Washington Nationals were 19-31 on May 23 and also recovered to win a championship.

“There’s teams that click at the right time and find their mojo,” Verlander said. “I think we’re past the point of just waiting for that to happen and I think we need to make it happen. We have the guys in here to do that. I look around this locker room and I know everybody’s working their tail off and nobody’s complacent… hopefully, it clicks.”

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