After spending the weekend cooped up inside their homes following a player and coach testing positive for COVID-19 last Thursday, the Mets resumed their season Tuesday.
They were quickly reminded of frustrations that don’t exist in quarantine: rain delays, runners left in scoring position and all-around sloppy play.
What was a problem before the Mets’ layoff remained a problem after the layoff, as they struggled to hit in timely spots in both games of a doubleheader and got swept by the Marlins at Citi Field.
Seth Lugo was impressive in the nightcap, throwing three perfect innings with five strikeouts in his first start in two years as he began to break into the rotation. But things unraveled after he left, with the Marlins pouncing and the Mets remaining stagnant as they went on to lose Game 2, 3-0.
Rick Porcello gave up four runs in a three-inning start that was cut short by the rain in Game 1, a 4-0 loss for the Mets.
In the two games combined, the Mets left 19 men on base and went 0-for-15 with runners in scoring position. They had at least one base runner in 13 of the 14 total innings, but failed to do anything with the traffic.
“Noticeable again,” Luis Rojas said after Game 1. “Tonight, once again, we just got away from our approach every time we had runners in scoring position. We keep reinforcing it, keep repeating it to the team that we gotta stay within our approach when that happens.”
Even when they did have good at-bats with runners on, they still came up empty. Their frustrations hit a peak in the sixth inning of Game 2, when they put runners on first and second with one out and Luis Guillorme lined into an inning-ending double play.
To make matters worse, in the bottom half of the inning — the Marlins were the home team because the game was a makeup of last Thursday’s postponement in Miami — Jon Berti stole three bases to take a 3-0 lead. With Jeurys Familia pitching and Ali Sanchez catching, Berti stole second, stole third and then stole home on delay, even after stumbling and hitting all fours with about 30 feet to go.
The Mets (12-16) had won three straight games before getting shut down because of their two COVID-19 cases last week in Miami. They had also gotten hot at the plate — after struggling to hit with runners in scoring position for most of the season — making the unwanted layoff all the more frustrating.
The Marlins (14-11), who experienced a full-blown COVID-19 outbreak at the end of July that reached 18 players and two coaches, have since rebounded and are ahead of the Mets for second place in the NL East.
In Game 2, the Marlins took the lead as soon as Lugo left the game after 39 pitches. Jared Hughes walked the leadoff batter in the bottom of the fourth and one out later, after a single by Corey Dickerson, Brian Anderson ripped a two-run double to make it 2-0.
Anderson had given the Mets trouble in Game 1, too. He hit a pair of doubles off Porcello, one of them sparking a three-run rally in the second inning and the other leading to a run in the third. Porcello also hit a batter in the second inning, which helped open the door to the Marlins’ rally.
“It’s not like I feel like I’m a mile away from consistently pitching good ball games,” said Porcello, who didn’t return after the 65-minute rain delay and now owns a 6.43 ERA through six starts. “It’s just been a couple things here and there and for whatever reason, it’s been lingering around up to this point. Keep working and keep getting after it. For me, that’s the only way I know how to do it.”