There was never really going to be any easy way of settling into the season for the Mets, not when they were set to face Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin all twice in their first nine games.
But their objectionable travel schedule aside — making Friday’s off day much needed — the Mets’ first week and a half figured to serve as an early challenge, particularly for their young hitters. They had a solid first trip through the top of the Nationals’ rotation. Now comes the quick rematch and necessary adjustments for both sides.
Strasburg won round two on Thursday, holding the Mets hitless through four innings and finishing with 6 ¹/₃ shutout frames less than a week after the Amazin’s got to him for four runs on seven hits over six innings. How the Mets bounced back against Corbin on Saturday and Scherzer on Sunday remained to be seen.
“I think it can be beneficial [facing them twice in a week], but I have to look on how [they] approached me last time and kind of maybe make some adjustments and understand how [they’re] going to pitch me,” Pete Alonso said Thursday as the Mets opened at Citi Field with a 4-0 loss.
It is a process Alonso, who has started his MLB career batting 9-for-26 with seven RBIs, won’t be going through alone. It will be similar for teammates like Jeff McNeil and J.D. Davis, facing a full season of NL East foes for the first time, knowing the results are not always linear for young major leaguers.
Amed Rosario learned the lesson first-hand last year, playing the full gamut for the first time and experiencing all the swings that come with it. He, too, had a nice start to last season, batting 9-for his first-31, before going cold and hot — more of the former than the latter — over the next few months. After 107 games, Rosario was batting .230 with a .619 OPS. But his second-half adjustments allowed him to finish on a high note, hitting .303 with a .779 OPS over his final 47 games of last season.
The 23-year-old shortstop is by no means finished developing, starting the year 7-for-28 with a hit in every game, but manager Mickey Callaway said he believes he may be better off because of what he went through in 2018.
“He worked so diligently last year,” Callaway said. “We led him off the second half of the season, just to continue to work on [pitch selection], to kind of stress it to him in that leadoff spot, you need to be a little more patient. He grabbed the bull by the horns and took ownership and has gone out there and made some real big adjustments. Now we’re seeing the fruits of that labor. He put a lot of work in this offseason, a lot of work in at spring training, and Robbie Cano has been a huge influence on him.
“He’s becoming quite the player right in front of our eyes. It’s real fun to watch.”
Even with those hot starts at the plate, the Mets haven’t been without their early struggles team-wide, striking out 78 times in seven games, the fourth-highest average per game in the limited sample size. But Callaway insisted that was more about the competition instead of a potentially alarming trend.
“We’ve been facing really good pitchers, obviously, and we got two more to go in this series,” Callaway said. “I think that comes with who you’re facing and things like that. So I’m not concerned about that.”