NEW YORK — Only two weeks into the month of August, the Mets are in a freefall after their direction changed with a dramatic trade deadline sell-off.
After opening the month with a 2-10 record, the Mets entered Sunday night in last place in the National League East, slipping behind the Nationals.
A lineup featuring five players who have spent the majority of the season in the minor leagues was no match for the Braves, who boast the best record in Major League Baseball.
With the season slipping away, the main focus for Buck Showalter remains the same, but he must also balance the need for developing for the future.
“We’re all wired to win and trying to win a nine-inning baseball game every night. I would never give in to that,” I’m going to do what’s best for the New York Mets short term and long term. The challenge is trying to mesh those two things.”
The Mets will have a chance to get back on track this week when they face two teams with losing records: the Pirates and Cardinals. The first three will come at Citi Field, while the next four will be played in St. Louis.
After Mark Vientos was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse on May 17, the 23-year-old struggled to find traction as he battled through inconsistent playing time. Vientos only made 13 starts out of the 25 games he was up with the Mets.
But now after his second call-up of the season on July 21, the Mets are receiving a better glimpse of Vientos’ potential at third base, particularly after Brett Baty was sent down on Aug. 7.
“I think Mark’s made some plays that some people may think he couldn’t have made,” Showalter said. “He’s moving his feet, he’s getting his feet in a position to throw better. All of a sudden, everybody thinks his arm’s improved, it’s just his feet’s improved. He’s shown that he can finish plays.”
Vientos made a pair of highlight-reel plays at the hot corner on Saturday, diving to snare a pair of sharp ground balls to his left and popping up to seal the play.
Offensively, he’s shown flashes despite going 14-of-64 (.219) in his second stint with the Mets this season. He’s chipped in one home run, four doubles and four RBI in 18 games, but Showalter has been encouraged by his demeanor in the face of adversity.
“He doesn’t rattle when things don’t go well,” Showalter said. “That kind of bodes well for him in the environment that we’re going to need to play in here. He’s got thick skin. You’ll see him take a couple of swings that it doesn’t look like are good and then the next ball he’ll drive into left field and hit it sharp.”
Mets injury news and updates
Starling Marte is not expected to immediately return to the Mets lineup when he is eligible to come off the injured list on Aug. 16. Marte received an injection on Aug. 8 to try and help to ease the discomfort that he had been experiencing with a right groin strain. Showalter said that Marte remains “pretty sore” after the injection.
Marte has spent the majority of the month of August on the injured list as he tried to work through migraine headaches and now the groin issue. He had double groin surgery in the offseason. Marte could need a rehab assignment before getting back with the Mets.
Brandon Nimmo is still not 100 percent as he deals with a left quad contusion that kept him out of a series with the Royals to begin August. He missed the opening game of Saturday’s doubleheader and was shifted to left field for the night cap. Showalter said that is not a long-term play for Nimmo.
“We plan on Nim being our center fielder next year, and I think again this year, he’ll be back out there,” Showalter said. “He’s getting close to being back to 100 percent.”
Mets vs. Pirates: TV info, times and probable pitchers
Monday, 7:10 p.m., SNY: Carlos Carrasco (3-6, 6.42) vs. TBD
Tuesday, 7:10 p.m., SNY: David Peterson (3-7, 5.61) vs. TBD
Wednesday, 1:10 p.m., SNY: TBD vs. TBD
After giving up 21 runs across 15.1 innings in his first four starts out of the All-Star break, Carrasco finally pieced together a respectable effort his last time out against the Cubs. He allowed two earned runs on three hits and two walks with five strikeouts in five innings. The veteran right-hander received a no-decision, while the Mets dropped a 3-2 loss.
Peterson is continuing to stretch back out as a starting pitcher after spending about three weeks in the bullpen. The left-hander has fared better since starting the season with a 6.46 ERA in his first 11 starts of 2023.
In his last time out against the Cubs, Peterson threw 62 pitches across 3.2 innings, striking out five and allowing two earned runs on four hits and two walks.
The Mets and Cardinals are among the two most disappointing teams in MLB in 2023.
According to Tipico Sportsbook, the Mets entered the season with projected win total at 92.5 wins. The Cardinals were pegged to win 88.5 wins. The Cardinals enter the week with a record of 52-65.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: NY Mets: Looking ahead to matchups with Pirates, Cardinals