WASHINGTON — The ouch factor is real for the Mets on multiple fronts.
There is the obvious: Robinson Cano was placed on the injured list Tuesday with a grade two left abductor strain, and two other players, Jeff McNeil and Amed Rosario, were sidelined and listed as day to day after receiving MRI exams for ailments.
But then there is the “ouch” of watching any pitcher other than Jacob deGrom or perhaps rookie David Peterson start a game for the Mets.
Steven Matz took his turn in the conga line Tuesday night and was yanked after three brutal innings. The Mets never recovered and lost 5-3 to the Nationals, in a game that included a rain delay before the eighth inning.
The bright spot for the Mets were the five combined scoreless innings by Paul Sewald, Jeurys Familia, Dellin Betances and Edwin Diaz and something of a comeback by this hurting lineup after falling into a five-run hole. But overcoming the early damage inflicted by Matz was too much of a task.
Matz allowed five earned runs on seven hits and threw 78 pitches over three innings. It followed Matz’s mediocre performance last week against the Red Sox in which he allowed two homers (and three runs overall) in 5 ¹/₃ innings.
Howie Kendrick and Josh Harrison continued the homer binge against Matz with a solo blast apiece in the first two innings. Then it got ugly in the third, when Matz allowed four hits and another three runs. Asdrubal Cabrera’s double put runners on second and third before Starlin Castro delivered an RBI single and Harrison followed with a sacrifice fly. Carter Kieboom’s RBI single brought in the last run against Matz.
The Mets had an opportunity in the sixth, after Andres Gimenez’s single put runners on first and second with two outs, ending left-hander Patrick Corbin’s night. With right-hander Ryne Harper in the game, it might have been an opportunity for manager Luis Rojas to deploy Dominic Smith, but Tomas Nido — even with three catchers on the roster — was allowed to hit, and grounded out. The Mets still trailed 5-3.
Familia entered with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth and struck out Yan Gomes to keep the Mets’ comeback hopes intact. Sewald had allowed two singles and a walk in the inning after working a perfect fourth.
Michael Conforto went to the opposite field against Corbin and just cleared the left-field fence in the fourth for a two-run homer that gave the Mets their first scoring. Pete Alonso stroked an RBI single the following inning that pulled the Mets within 5-3.
Before the game McNeil was diagnosed with a low grade right intercostal strain and Rosario with left quad tightness. Both players avoided the IL, but the ailments left Rojas scrambling to fill out a lineup card that wasn’t announced until about 30 minutes before the first pitch.
The 37-year-old Cano, who will miss at least 10 days, is hitting .412/.462/.559 with one homer in 11 games this season. He had recently been moved back into the middle of the lineup after hitting sixth and seventh for the first few games this season.
Cano’s absence is more pronounced after Yoenis Cespedes opted out of the season on Sunday.
“It’s really tough to lose those guys in the lineup,” Wilson Ramos said. “We need those bats in there, especially Robbie and McNeil, they are hitting the ball really well right now.”
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