Boos rained down early and often Saturday night at Citi Field, where the Mets followed up their trade of ace Max Scherzer with a punchless performance against the last-place Washington Nationals.
Mets pitcher Carlos Carrasco surrendered eight runs — including four in the first inning — in his latest ugly outing, failing to get through three innings in New York’s 11-6 defeat.
The lopsided loss concluded a deflating day for the Mets, who established themselves as full-blown trade-deadline sellers amid their disappointing season by sending Scherzer to the Texas Rangers. Mets manager Buck Showalter insisted a trade had not been completed but acknowledged the situation may have served as a distraction during the game.
“We’re all human beings,” Showalter said. “I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘Absolutely not.’ … I make quite a few runs to the clubhouse, and certainly in today’s world of communication, there’s no secrets.”
Scherzer, 39, was in the second season of a three-year, $130 million deal with the Mets, who hoped pairing the three-time Cy Young Award winner with 40-year-old co-ace Justin Verlander would give them a dynamic one-two punch at the top of their rotation. Instead, Scherzer endured an up-and-down year. His 4.01 ERA is his worst in over a decade.
The trade came two days after the Mets (49-55) sent closer David Robertson to the Marlins and less than 24 hours after Scherzer said he wanted to speak with the front office about its intentions before Tuesday’s deadline.
“Honestly, shocked,” Mets star Pete Alonso said of the Scherzer trade. “Max wasn’t around the clubhouse and I didn’t really see him around today, so that’s when I knew it was like, ‘Oh man, this is legit. This isn’t just, like, clickbait.’ … It’s a loss for us for sure.”
Rain delayed the start of Saturday’s game by an hour and 20 minutes, setting the tone for a dreary day at the ballpark. The game began with a throwing error by Mets rookie third baseman Mark Vientos, and a barrage of hits by the Nationals followed. Joey Meneses recorded an RBI single, ex-Met Dominic Smith added a two-run knock and Stone Garrett lifted a sacrifice fly to account for the first-inning offense.
The booing started during that opening frame and grew louder with every Washington run. The contentious crowd let Carrasco especially hear it after a two-run double by Riley Adams knocked the 36-year-old pitcher out of the game with the Mets trailing 8-1.
Six of the eight runs against Carrasco (3-5) were earned, inflating his season ERA to 6.40. It was the third rough start in a row by the right-hander and the second consecutive game he only lasted 2.1 innings.
Nationals starter Patrick Corbin, who was born in upstate Clay, N.Y., entered Saturday with an NL-leading 11 losses. He allowed an RBI double to Vientos, a solo home run to Tommy Pham and a two-run shot to Fransisco Lindor but lasted 5.2 innings to pick up the win.
Coming off a 101-win season, the Mets entered the 2023 campaign with an MLB-record $360 million payroll and sky-high expectations. Saturday’s loss dropped them seven games out of the third-and-final NL wild card spot.
The Rangers, who lead the AL West by a game over Houston, hope Scherzer can bolster a rotation that’s missing Jacob deGrom, who recently underwent Tommy John surgery after leaving the Mets for a five-year deal in the offseason. To acquire Scherzer, Texas traded one of its top prospects in minor-league infielder Luisangel Acuna, the 21-year-old brother of Atlanta Braves superstar Ronald Acuna Jr.
Lindor, who is under contract through 2031, can envision the Mets making more trades before the deadline but said general manager Billy Eppler assured him the team is not pursuing a full rebuild. Eppler and Scherzer did not speak after Saturday’s game.
“There was a lot of conversations in the clubhouse, but that’s not the reason why we lost today,” Lindor said after Saturday’s game. “As professional baseball players, we need to have the ability to separate business, the game, relationships. … We can’t just stay in the past.”
The Mets won the first two games of their four-game set against the NL East rival Nationals, who are 44-61. The series concludes Sunday afternoon, with Verlander — also the subject of trade rumors — scheduled to pitch against Washington’s Trevor Williams (5-5, 4.47 ERA).