Starling Marte bails out Mets after bullpen blowup

·4 min read

The Mets have suddenly found an extra gear when they need it most.

After the bullpen blew a three-run lead in the top of the eighth, turning a 3-0 advantage into a 4-3 debacle, Starling Marte immediately answered with a go-ahead two-run homer in the bottom of the inning, helping the Mets along to a 5-4 defeat of the Guardians Sunday afternoon in the first game of a split-doubleheader.

Marte has struggled in the early going — .620 OPS on the season — however, his clutch 3-for-4 performance gave his club its fourth straight come-from-behind victory.

“With Starling, I think sometimes we got to keep in mind what he did this offseason [double groin surgery]. It’s not just going to happen overnight…

“He’s a very proud man, could you imagine having that type of [talent] at your disposal and you can’t get to it for whatever reason? It’s very frustrating for players in general. I’m sure [the groin surgery] has had something to do with [his struggles].”

Marte owned a .814 OPS during his All-Star campaign in 2022 and was a mainstay at the top of the order. This season, he’s been bumped down to the six-hole as his underperformance has been detrimental to the Mets’ offensive — 17th in baseball with a .717 team OPS.

Despite the poor outing from the stable, it wasn’t all bad news in the pitching department as the Mets got as close to vintage Max Scherzer as they’ve seen this season.

The veteran tossed six shutout innings allowing three hits and one walk. It’s just the second time this season Scherzer has completed six frames as his five-strikeout performance was arguably his best of the season despite a callus splitting open on his right thumb.

“I was on a bad thumb today,” said Scherzer. “So the only thing I could really [throw] was the curveball and I shifted the grip on it. Surprising enough, when you bring your thumb up on your curveball, it was actually one of the pain-free pitches I could throw today.

“So, the curveball and changeup were pain-free for me today. Because of that, I was actually able to snap off some good curveballs and use it when I needed it.”

The 38-year-old has now strung together two strong outings in a row as his start against the Nationals on May 14 — five innings of one run ball — appears to have been a building block for the three-time Cy Young award winner as his season ERA (4.01) creeps closer to normal after a brutal start to the year.

Scherzer’s co-ace,  Verlander, set the mark for the longest outing by a Mets’ starter this season. The 40-year-old tossed eight innings mowing through the Guardians’ allowing just one run while striking out five as he walked off the mound to a standing ovation. The only blip on his line was Ramirez’s solo bomb in the first inning.

“[It] felt great [to get a standing ovation],” said Verlander. “I enjoyed the ovation coming off for the eight more than I did walking out. You try not to get too caught up in those moments when your still going to work. In the moment, it’s great, you hear it and it’s wonderful but it’s kind of like alright, let’s keep out focus. But I 100 percent appreciate it.”

Verlander’s counterpart, Shane Bieber, was nearly as good as the right-hander tossed eight innings of his own. However, he allowed two runs in the midst of his masterpiece which was the difference in the game. Francisco Lindor homered in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game at one and Jeff McNeil poked a sacrifice fly in the eighth to give the Mets the lead and the victory.

Bieber’s allowed seven hits while striking out four in his eight innings of work.

David Robertson secured the victory in game one — after allowing a two-run homer to Ramirez in the eighth that temporarily gave Cleveland the lead — and Brooks Raley closed out game two as the Mets winning streak reached five games.

Showalter’s squad will have the night off Monday as the head to Chicago to begin a three-game set with the Cubs on Tuesday. Kodai Senga is scheduled to take the ball to begin the Mets’ six-game road trip.