Verlander hammered in Citi Field debut, Mets beaten by Rays 8-5 in series opener

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Tampa Bay Rays’ Isaac Paredes hits a three-run home run during the third inning of the team’s baseball game against the New York Mets on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

QUEENS — Remarkably enough, the Mets are finding new depths to plunge into amidst their heinous spring stretch.

Justin Verlander was tagged for six runs on eight hits — headlined by two home runs and five RBI by Isaac Paredes — with three strikeouts and two walks in his Citi Field debut as the Mets were booed off the diamond in an 8-5 loss to the MLB-best Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night in an ugly series opener. 

Since starting the season 14-7, the Mets (20-23) have now lost 16 of their last 22 games.

“Today was a tough one, no doubt about it,” Verlander said. “The challenge is they’re not swinging and missing much and when you make a mistake, they were able to capitalize on it.”

A fifth-inning solo shot from Brett Baty ended the team’s 56-inning homer-less drought before Pete Alonso launched a two-run bomb for his 14th round-tripper of the year in the seventh. In 8-3 game, Eduardo Escobar hit a pinch-hit, two-run home run with one out in the ninth off reliever Jake Diekman to pull the Mets within their final deficit of three.

“We were in a good place offensively, manager Buck Showalter said. “But when we made pitches where we’re supposed to get them throughout the night, we didn’t.”

Paredes first got to Verlander in the third inning, jumping on a two-out, 3-2 curveball that hung up in the zone and sneaking it just above the orange line of the top of the left-field wall to clear the bases and give the Rays a 3-0 lead. 

“I was surprised that left,” Verlander said. “I thought it was a pop-out off the bat. I felt like the ball was carrying out to left.”

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New York Mets’ Justin Verlander pitches during the first inning of the team’s baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Harold Ramirez scratched another two-out Rays run across Verlander’s ledger in the fourth when he drove in Christian Bethancourt, who doubled, home.

Paredes put Tampa Bay out of sight with his second long-ball of the night, a towering two-run shot that hit the base of the left-field foul pole to make it 6-0.

“It was just a matter of fair or foul,” Verlander said. “The ball’s right down the line. If it squeaks just to the left of the foul pole, maybe we win the game. But this isn’t a game of what-ifs…

“None of that matters I didn’t make the pitch and I need to be better.”

Baty’s home run in the fifth was immediately canceled out by a Jose Siri laser off reliever Dominic Leone in the sixth. The Rays catcher unleashed a blast that left the bat at 113.7 mph into the left-field seats to put Tampa back up six.

Following a Jeff McNeil lead-off single in the seventh, Alonso towered a 1-0 slider from Yonny Chirinos over the left-field foul pole — a 107.3 shot off the bat that sailed an estimated 412 feet. 

Tampa made it eight in the eighth when Ramirez singled home Siri, who managed to slide around a diving Francisco Alvarez to avoid the tag.

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