Mets must be willing to bench underperforming veterans

MILWAUKEE — This has been a very Mets-ian turn of events, wouldn’t you say?

The only way to climb out of this vicious cycle? Rely less on former Yankees.

OK, that’s oversimplifying matters, but the bottom line is that in order to guide his team out of this offensive funk, Mickey Callaway must change his lineup even more frequently than George Steinbrenner used to change managers.

A solid outing by Steven Matz went to waste Friday night as the Mets opened their road trip with a somnambulant, 3-1 loss to the Brewers at Miller Park. In tallying a modest seven hits and three walks and going 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, the Mets (16-16), dropping to .500 for the fourth time in seven games, also fell to 3-3 during their starting pitching renaissance, which has seen every member of the rotation pitch competitively.

“Our pitching has stepped up the last week or so, and we’re just not syncing the two up,” Callaway said. “Plain and simple, we’ve got to score more runs.”

As elated as they can feel after watching both Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard climb out of funks with dominant outings against the Reds, the Mets must curb their enthusiasm knowing all too well, from just last year, how a dormant offense can suck the life out of an entire roster. And if they’re nowhere close to the 2018 power outage that led to deGrom setting the record for fewest wins by a starting pitcher to claim the Cy Young Award, they sure as heck are trending in the wrong direction.

Remember that six-game showcase, from April 7-13, when the Mets tied a franchise record by scoring six or more runs in six straight contests? Since then, they’ve put up six or more runs three times … in 18 games. In their last nine games, since a 9-0 blanking of the Phillies that concluded with Jacob Rhame sending Rhys Hoskins to the floor, they have totaled 23 runs. They have scored 10 runs in their last five games. Consequently, they have stumbled toward the back of the pack, ninth place in the NL, with 151 runs scored.

“We’re not stringing things together,” Callaway said. “We’re not getting the big hit when we need it.”

Exhibits A and B: The beginning and the end of Friday night. After Wilson Ramos’ first-inning single scored Robinson Cano and put runners on first and third with two outs, Brandon Nimmo hit a comebacker to Milwaukee starter Brandon Woodruff. And Michael Conforto led off the ninth with a double, followed by a Ramos walk, at which point Brewers domineering lefty Josh Hader turned it up a notch and struck out pinch-hitter J.D. Davis, Todd Frazier and Amed Rosario to close this one with a flourish. Matz, meanwhile, gave up a pair of homers, a solo shot to Lorenzo Cain in the first and a two-run, 443-foot blast to Ryan Braun in the fifth, to register the loss.

So what to do? Give Davis, who has been productive overall, more starts at third base, at the expense of the former Yankee Frazier, who has a .167/.189/.333 slash line since returning from the injured list last week. If Jed Lowrie returns shortly from the IL as hoped, get him some starts at his primary position, second base, at the expense of Cano, who has largely underwhelmed (.264/.319/.418) in his first year as a Met. If things don’t improve, they’ll have to consider calling back Dom Smith, demoted to Triple-A Syracuse Friday for Adeiny Hechavarria, given how well he hit off the bench.

In short, Callaway, should use every piece given to him and not rely on veterans who aren’t living up to the backs of their baseball cards.

This is no time to lean on track records. For the track record of the historically inept 2018 Mets looms over this group, which desperately needs to carve a different path. A non-Metsian path.

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