Joon Lee, ESPNMay 16, 2023, 11:39 PM ET
- Previously a Staff Writer at Bleacher Report
Cornell University graduate
NEW YORK — When the Mets signed Justin Verlander, they expected the reigning Cy Young Award winner would bring joy to fans at Citi Field.
But his first impression Tuesday brought down boos.
Verlander struggled in his debut in Queens, his third outing since recovering from a teres major strain that delayed his start to the season. He allowed six runs on eight hits, including two homers, with three strikeouts and two walks across five innings as the Mets dropped an 8-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. New York now sits at 20-23, a season-worst three games under .500, while Tampa Bay improved to 32-11.
“I understand the fans are frustrated; we’re frustrated, too,” Verlander said. “We expect to be better. I expect to be better. I think this entire organization expects to be better, and there’s only one thing left to do, and that’s put your head down, work hard and find your way out of this slump.”
Mets manager Buck Showalter said the fans’ boos aligned with the current vibe of the Mets’ clubhouse.
“People come out here and want to see the Mets win, want to see us do well, and they get frustrated just like we do,” Showalter said. “I understand that, but we control it every night. They want us to do well. We control that. Play better and that won’t happen. That’s part of playing here when you’re doing something that’s very important to people.”
After looking sharp through his first two outings with the Mets, Verlander looked shaky Tuesday.
The right-hander allowed a pair of base-runners in the first and second inning but got out unscathed. The Rays created pressure again in the third with a leadoff infield single from first baseman Harold Ramirez followed by a walk from shortstop Wander Franco. After a Brandon Lowe strikeout and a Randy Arozarena pop out, Verlander allowed his first homer of the night, hanging a breaking ball to Rays third baseman Isaac Paredes, who promptly deposited the pitch into the left-field seats to make the score 3-0.
The trouble piled on in the fourth when Verlander allowed a one-out double to Christian Bethancourt that led to a two-out RBI single from Ramirez to make the score 4-0.
Paredes got Verlander again in the fifth when he hit a two-run homer to left field on a 94 mph inside fastball that the Rays infielder again hit into the left-field seats.
The start was Verlander’s worst of the season after he allowed two runs in five innings in his season debut May 4 against the Detroit Tigers and only one run in seven innings Wednesday against the Cincinnati Reds. In his three starts this season, Verlander has a 4.76 ERA, allowing nine runs in 17 innings pitched.
Verlander did not mince words about how he felt about his start Tuesday.
“Like s—,” he said. “Not a lot of positives to take out of it. I guess the only positive is that I know I got some work to do. I already started looking at some video trying to find — I think there’s a little something off of my mechanics. I need to fix it and I need to fix it in a hurry.”
To top it off, in the sixth inning, the new scoreboard at Citi Field malfunctioned, displaying an enormous Rays logo across the entire screen, twisting the knife on an evening when the Mets found little optimism.
While New York got scoring off a solo homer from third baseman Brett Baty, a two-run shot from first baseman Pete Alonso and a two-run, pinch-hit homer from Eduardo Escobar, the Mets still fell short.
Verlander said he was surprised the Mets are three games below .500 halfway through May and sitting in fourth place in the National League East, ahead of just the Washington Nationals.
“There’s teams that click at the right time and find their mojo and go from there,” Verlander said. “I think we’re past the point of just waiting for that to happen and I think we need to make it happen.”