The Mets were already bad at pitching, and now Jacob deGrom’s elbow is hurting

I’m annoyed with the Mets. They got off to a decent enough start this season. Beat the Nationals a couple of time, beat up on the Marlins, split with the Braves on the road. Nothing mind-blowing, but it was a solid start to a campaign that we needed a good start for. With so much competition in the National League East and the Central threatening to hog both Wild Card spots, the Mets needed to start hot in order to compete with a roster that’s not top-to-bottom as talented as Washington’s or Philadelphia’s.

The weird part is how the Mets won 10 of their first 16 games. They did it by allowing a bunch of runs but also scoring a bunch. It’s a template that the opposite of how the team was built to win. With Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz headlining the rotation, this is a team that’s supposed to win with strong starting pitching. Instead, Syndergaard and Wheeler have struggled while deGrom and Matz fell down to Earth after dominating in their first two outings. The bullpen has been worse, with none of the middle relief options emerging as a reliable entity.

My instinct is that the pitching will stay the same — it’s impossible for deGrom to be as good as he was last year anyway, and Syndergaard has always been more about style than substance — while the hitting comes crashing down. Maybe that won’t happen, though. This team hasn’t even needed Robinson Cano to play well in order to score almost six runs per game. Instead, Jeff McNeil has just kept on raking and Pete Alonso is hitting moon bombs all over the yard. Wilson Ramos has given the Mets a legitimate offensive threat at catcher and Michael Conforto could be beginning the consistently great season we’ve been waiting so long for.

Can it continue? McNeil is a contact machine who legitimately looks like another Daniel Murphy, and Conforto is making more contact than he usually does as well. Those are both good signs, but Alonso I could see slumping because he’s already striking out in 30 percent of his plate appearances and it doesn’t seem like opposing pitchers have figured him out yet. In a key spot against Philadelphia on Wednesday, he struck out on a ball in the dirt, but he’s also shown enough willingness to take walks that him mashing all year like Aaron Judge’s rookie season isn’t out of the question.

The emergence of J.D. Davis is truly weird, but maybe not insane since he did mash Triple-A pitching in Houston’s system. Hopefully he’ll stay hot long enough to cause issues when Jed Lowrie is ready for action. Or, more realistically, Cano or someone else will be hurt when that happens.

Speaking of getting hurt, the latest news out of New York is that Jacob deGrom is getting an MRI for his “barking” elbow.

That’s not great! And New York’s pitching rotation is already so paper-thin that the brass is trying to convince fans that Jason Vargas is still fit to take the hill every fifth game. Seth Lugo is someone who could shift from the bullpen to the rotation quickly, but that would only weaken the relief corps. Beyond Lugo and Vargas, the call-up options are guys like Corey Oswalt and Chris Flexen who were never hot prospect to begin with and have already proven lousy at the major league level.

If deGrom’s injury is as serious as fans are already assuming, the Mets are in big trouble. The only good thing that could come out of it would be ownership getting desperate enough to sign Dallas Keuchel, the former Houston ace who has been worth at least two WAR in each of the last five seasons. With the way the rest of the staff has pitched, deGrom is perhaps the most important player on the Mets, and replacing him with Keuchel might be the only way to keep opponents from scoring five or six runs every game.

But that’s all hinging on the MRI result. Maybe it won’t be as bad as we’re all fearing? Nah, this is the Mets we’re talking about.

What’s going on tonight

It’s the first night of Passover! As soon as I can get away from the Seder, I’ll have to check on how the Mets are doing in their series opener in St. Louis. Jason Vargas is starting for New York, and if he struggles again, fans will probably riot. Classic Mets villain Adam Wainwright will be toeing the rubber for the Cardinals.

Brandon Nimmo will miss his second straight game due to a stiff neck. Having McNeil at the top of the order is even better, but it was fun seeing Nimms start to heat up. Juan Lagares in center field hasn’t been as fun lately.

The top of that St. Louis order is scary, especially considering how seriously Marcell Ozuna is raking lately. Paul Goldschmidt is still a superstar, and Paul DeJong is one of the most underrated players in the majors… just not to Mets fans.

Elsewhere, the Yankees host Kansas City and the Dodgers are in Milwaukee for an NLCS rematch. Los Angeles took the first game last night thanks to a dominant Julio Urias performance.

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