Tell me if you've experienced this before. You're excited for the New York Mets game. You clear your schedule so that nothing can bother you. Dinner is finished, the dishes are done, the kids are even in bed. Your phone is on silent. You grab your favorite beverage. You settle on the couch, but before you know it, the Mets have dug themselves an early hole.
If, like me, you watch every Mets game, then congratulations. You're a sick person. You've willingly subjected yourself to this exact scenario 10 times in just 32 games. Almost a third of the time, the Mets exit the first inning trailing by multiple runs, including in all three games in the soul-deadening sweep that just concluded at the hands of the Detroit Tigers.
Before the Mets came to town, the most apt way to describe the Tigers was "hapless." No longer. If, like Peter Pan, Javy Baez and company wished to travel to Neverland, they could now easily summon a happy thought by closing their eyes and picturing the Mets grooving first inning meatballs over the plate.
Even the supposed aces of the Mets staff aren't immune from an early drubbing.
Max Scherzer has given up multiple first inning runs in two of his five starts, while Justin Verlander tried his best to fit in with the Mets' rotation in his team debut yesterday by giving up two first inning homers of his own.
The problem is exacerbated by the Mets' inability to produce any offense themselves in the first inning. The team ranks dead last in the majors in first inning runs, with only five through 32 games. The 29th ranked team, the Miami Marlins, have double that total.
The Mets have given up 26 first inning runs, for a differential of -21. That means that on average, the Mets trail by about 2/3 of a run every game before reaching the second inning. With the stacked Atlanta Braves and last year's World Series runner-up Philadelphia Phillies also vying for the NL East crown, that is not a recipe for success.
How can the Mets fix this? For the pitching staff, there's no easy answer in sight. Most pitchers fare better on the first trip through the lineup, but the Mets keep getting battered early. This is having the compounding effect of over-taxing the Mets' bullpen, which as we all know, is already without Edwin Diaz.
No pitching staff in baseball has fewer quality starts than the Mets, who have four. That's four times out of 32 games that a Mets starter has gone at least six innings and given up three or fewer earned runs.
Take it from someone who has three young kids. I know disgusting. This is disgusting.
We all know the starting pitcher has been devalued in today's game, but even so, a team can't hope to make the playoffs, let alone contend for a World Series title, with this kind of starting pitching.
For Mets hitters, these numbers are bound to regress to the mean. New York's lineup isn't among the league's best by any metric, but neither is it near the bottom. The Mets rank 15th in the majors in OPS and 12th in RBI. Brandon Nimmo is off to an excellent start at the top of the lineup, and Pete Alonso has once again been one of baseball's best power hitters and run producers. Why the Mets have been unable to score in the first inning is likely just bad luck due to a relatively small sample size.
As fans, it's difficult to plan your afternoon or night around the Mets, only to see them stumble out of the gate over and over. Patience is difficult to have, even in a 162-game season. Maybe Buck Showalter can shake things up by moving Jeff McNeil or Brett Baty higher in the batting order. Maybe the starters can place more of an emphasis on limiting walks and not falling behind in the count.
Maybe Pete Alonso can give a fiery pregame pep talk to the team, or the scoreboard operator at Citi Field can play a better hype video or make a different pregame song selection. Hell, let's drag Timmy Trumpet out of the Australian outback and get him to Citi Field. He has to know something besides Narco, right?
With 20% of the season gone and the team now sitting at .500, Mets fans need to see some kind of improvement, otherwise it'll be nobody but us sickos tuning in past the first inning each night.