The unforgiving Astros continued their tour of New York City. After they split a four-game series in the Bronx over the weekend, they stepped on the Amazin’s necks in Flushing on Tuesday night.
The Mets were shellacked, 9-1, by the Astros in front of 36,673 at Citi Field. President Barack Obama was still roaming the White House the last time the Mets beat the Astros, on Sept. 28, 2014.
Carlos Carrasco (8-7, 4.85 ERA), coming off lower back pain, pitched like something was still amiss in his 4.1-inning outing against Houston. But something has been amiss for Carrasco in his last several starts. The veteran right-hander has allowed 25 earned runs in his last 35.1 innings pitched, with three of his worst starts in that span coming against the Angels, the Astros, and the Astros again.
Kyle Tucker silenced the rambunctious Citi Field crowd as soon as Carrasco’s 13th pitch of the night. Carrasco allowed all of his first four batters to reach base before Tucker let it rip on a fastball that fell into the meat of the plate. The Astros, not one team to miss any mistakes, exposed each and every one of Carrasco’s mistakes in an ugly first inning.
Rather than taking accountability, multiple times in his postgame interview, Carrasco said the game changed when umpires made the “wrong call” on Jose Altuve’s check-swing on a 3-2 count to leadoff the first inning. Altuve walked, and Carrasco was visibly upset. He found it hard to refocus afterwards.
“I think the umpire made the wrong call right there,” Carrasco said. “That changed the ballgame completely. … I think he screwed up right there, on that call. … If he made the right call, it should’ve been a different game.”
Though Carrasco settled down some, his pitch count was ascending just as fast as his June ERA. The 35-year-old allowed two more runs (the second a result of Chasen Shreve’s unsuccessful outing), before he was pulled in the fifth. Carrasco’s 6.07 ERA in six June starts is a troubling trend for one of the main pieces of the Mets rotation, particularly while Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom are still on the injured list.
When Carrasco left, a five-run deficit was easier to swallow than what transpired just a few moments later. Shreve coughed up a two-run home run to the first batter he faced out of the pen: who else but, Yordan Alvarez. The Astros slugger belted his fourth home run in three games against the Mets, and if Tucker’s home run silenced the crowd, Alvarez’s 403-foot two-run tater to left field took the life out of Citi Field.
But Shreve wasn’t done dealing yet. A few batters later, Yuli Gurriel took the Mets southpaw deep for another two-run shot in the fifth inning. Before the ball even landed in the left field seats, Buck Showalter was out of the dugout, mercifully ending Shreve’s night. After beginning the season with a 1.54 ERA in his first 10 outings, Shreve has a 10.67 ERA in his last 14 relief appearances.
“He started out pretty good this year, but most of it has been a command thing,” Showalter said of Shreve. “It’s been a challenging one to get back to that consistent level he was at for us earlier in the year.”
Carrasco and Shreve are not the only ones looking forward to the Astros leaving town.
The Mets (47-28) were hoping to bounce back and beat up on Houston on their own turf after getting swept at Minute Maid Park last week. Instead, Astros left-hander Framber Valdez held the Mets to eight shutout innings. But it’s not like the Mets didn’t have their chances.
The lineup’s best opportunity to respond to Houston’s no-mercy control came in the fourth inning with runners on second and third and one out. Then J.D. Davis struck out against Valdez, Eduardo Escobar walked to load the bases, and Mark Canha grounded out on the first pitch he saw to end the inning and the threat.
After going 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position against the Marlins in Miami on Sunday, the Mets went 1-for-9 with RISP on Tuesday. The only bright spot in the Mets lineup was Starling Marte, who went 3-for-4 with two doubles. And Wednesday’s series finale against Houston will offer no reprieve. On the hill Wednesday is two-time Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, carrying a 9-3 record and 2.22 ERA in 14 starts this season.
“The way that Valdez was pitching, there wasn’t going to be much margin for error,” Showalter said. “We’ll get it again tomorrow.”