New York Mets manager Luis Rojas is sounding like a broken record. Probably because he has no logical answer for a team that simply refuses to answer the bell in threatening offensive situations.
The Mets were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday night with a whimper, a meager 14-4 showing spoiling any sort of moral victories that came with pushing one of the best teams in the National League to extra innings the two previous nights. That’s if you’re into scrambling for consolation prizes in a season that continues to disappoint — which most of you are understandably not about.
While they spent most of the evening playing catchup, trailing 6-0 after just two innings, the Mets still ground out some opportunities to get back in it. But they went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position — and 2-for-29 over the three games against Los Angeles — as their ineptitude to come up with big hits while ducks are on the pond continued.
“We have to get the hitting going, once again,” Rojas said, again. “We created some chances, put some runners on, and just didn’t finish.”
In recent weeks, Rojas’ tone has descended from somewhat blind optimism to uncertain urging as his pursuit of answers for a lifeless offense comes up empty.
The Mets rank 28th out of 30 teams in runs scored per game (3.79), 24th in team batting average (.235) and OPS (.693), and 26th in home runs this season — a driving force as to why they’ve lost 12 of their last 17 and why they now sit in third in the NL East. Quite the resounding thud for a lineup that once looked on paper as though it would be one of the very best in franchise history.
Injuries can certainly be blamed. Francisco Lindor is out, Javier Baez is out. Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, and Michael Conforto have missed significant time.
But Conforto is trying to work through a miserable three months — arguably the worst in his career. The timing couldn’t be worse considering Conforto’s in his walk year, and had figured to land a major multi-year deal in free agency.
McNeil, who was a .319 career hitter over his first three MLB seasons, is batting .260 in 2021. James McCann has a .656 OPS during his debut season with the Mets after a 149-game stretch from 2019-20 with the Chicago White Sox that saw him post an .808 OPS.
Dominic Smith, a top-10 bat in the NL last season has just one more home run (11) in 112 games than he hit last year in just 50 games while his average is nearly 60 points lower than in 2020.
Now, what does it say about a team that is starving for a player in Francisco Lindor to return from an oblique injury during a season in which he’s slashing a career-worst .228/.326/.376 (.702 OPS)?
Are he and Baez really going to be the spark that will suddenly turn the Mets around once they return from their injuries?
Something is just rotten in Queens, right now.
“Our hitting coaches work really hard every day, trying to find different things to improve things,” Rojas said. “I’m committed to that. I’m a part of that process. I’m talking to the players, asking what they see, because I’ve known them for years… These guys are good hitters. We’ve seen it in the past. We’re working… we’re doing everything in the book.”
Should this kind of inadequate offensive production keeps up, it’s going to be those hitting coaches and Rojas who will be forced to take the fall, regardless of how much work they’ve put in trying to get an underachieving team out of its funk.
Of course, Rojas isn’t blameless in all this — far from it. His lineup cards have been mystifying and his management of the bullpen hasn’t been anything to write home about, either.
But this Mets offense was supposed to cover up the minor blemishes. Instead they’re only magnifying it.
Now their season comes down to its make-or-break moment with 10 games remaining on a brutal gauntlet against the San Francisco Giants — the best team in baseball — and the Dodgers.
“We have to get on a roll because we’re going to see these guys again,” Rojas said. “We’re going to see the Giants first. To win these games, we have to finish what we start. We have to drive some runs in.
“We can’t be too down right now. We just have to regroup.”