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Mets

Carlos Carrasco exits with back tightness as Mets get swept by Astros

HOUSTON — The last thing the Mets needed was another injury to a starting pitcher.

Carlos Carrasco exited his start with lower back tightness in the third inning of the Mets’ 5-3 loss to the Astros on Wednesday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.

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Carrasco gave up five earned runs on four hits, including three home runs, and struck out two over 2.1 innings and 53 pitches in his 14th start of the season Wednesday. Credit to Mets relievers Yoan Lopez, Tommy Hunter, Joely Rodriguez and Edwin Diaz who combined to pitch 5.2 scoreless innings after Carrasco’s early exit and kept the Amazin’s within striking distance.

But the Mets (45-26) fell short after multiple chances for a comeback and were swept by the Astros in the two-game set. They have lost eight straight games at Minute Maid Park dating back to 2011.

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“I’m not concerned,” said Carrasco, who will go for an MRI and remain with the team for their road trip to Miami. “I think I’m going to be fine.”

The Amazin’s best shot to regain control was in the sixth inning, when the lineup scratched a couple of runs across the board via Starling Marte’s RBI double and Pete Alonso’s sacrifice fly. But Eduardo Escobar and Dominic Smith left the bases loaded by popping out and striking out, respectively, to end the Mets’ threat. Escobar is batting .162 (6-for-37) with two outs and runners in scoring position this season.

Mets manager Buck Showalter said he has considered giving Escobar a day off from the plate in an effort to turn around his offensive troubles. The Mets third baseman is hitting .162/.175/.270 with 13 strikeouts, one walk, one home run and five RBI over the past two weeks.

“There aren’t any excuses for how I’ve played,” said Escobar, who added a day off from the plate would be like giving up. “I understand the frustrations of the fans. I’m a professional baseball player so I’m trying to do the best I possibly can. One day, I’m going to give them reasons to cheer for me.”

Carrasco was sidelined with a hamstring strain for the first half of last season, then he underwent surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow in the offseason. Carrasco entered the 2022 season finally healthy, with more confidence in his offspeed pitches and the results to show for it. His 8-2 record and 3.96 ERA entering Wednesday was the kind of production from the back-end of the rotation that the Mets could live with.

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But now four Mets starters are dealing with injuries.

Jacob deGrom (stress reaction on right scapula), Max Scherzer (left oblique strain) and Tylor Megill (right shoulder strain) are all on the injured list.

Of that trio, Scherzer is closest to returning to the rotation following his 65-pitch rehab start for Double-A Binghamton on Tuesday. DeGrom threw a live batting practice Tuesday for the first time since his shoulder injury. Megill is shut down from throwing for four weeks and will not return before the second half of the season. David Peterson is already a part of the starting five, filling in for the injured aces.

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Prior to Carrasco’s early exit, the Mets were considering activating Scherzer after just one rehab start so that he could take the hill on Sunday against the Marlins. His need to step into the starting five is only greater after Carrasco’s lower back tightness. But it may be unwise of the Mets to rush Scherzer back while he’s dealing with a tricky oblique injury. At the same time, if anyone knows his body well it’s the 37-year-old Scherzer.

“Max knows we want him to pitch for us for the rest of the season,” Showalter said. “Just because we’re having some challenges with some of the health of our starters, it shouldn’t affect at all his timetable. He wants to be here competing and contributing so bad, but I think he’s real smart about it. He knows that if there’s an issue with it again, it could be a long time.”

The Mets will lean on Scherzer as they navigate whether to bring him back, particularly because they lack starting pitching depth beyond Trevor Williams, who is better suited in the bullpen.

Either way, Mets GM Billy Eppler and his top lieutenants will have to figure out a solution for the Mets rotation, and fast. MLB’s trade deadline isn’t until Aug. 2 this season, but it’s becoming apparent the Mets will be in the market for a quality starting pitcher, with a billionaire owner who is ready to spend.


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