<
>

After another loss to Tigers, Mets sinking closer to .500

DETROIT -- The New York Mets are sinking dangerously closer to .500 as their warts continue to surface.

Logan Verrett was knocked out in the fourth inning, and the Detroit Tigers held on to beat the Mets 6-5 on Saturday at Comerica Park. Jay Bruce was thrown out at the plate to end the game by right fielder J.D. Martinez on a would-be tying single from Travis d'Arnaud, who had been hitless in his first four at-bats.

Manager Terry Collins acknowledged postgame that the Mets should have challenged the final play because they had one remaining. But Collins said he did not think to do so because the team's replay official concluded Bruce was out.

"That might be one of those plays where you might as well just take the chance anyway and see what happens," Collins said. "... I didn't think about it."

While nominally in the wild-card race, the reality is the Mets (56-54) are now their closest to .500 since April 23. And there's no sense scoreboard-watching because of all the internal issues.

Jacob deGrom, one of the few recent bright spots, will try to help the Mets avoid getting swept in Detroit on Sunday when he opposes Anibal Sanchez. DeGrom has produced a scoreless outing in three of his past four starts.

With an overabundance of lefty batters on the active roster with Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Lagares, Jose Reyes, Asdrubal Cabrera and Justin Ruggiano on the disabled list, Collins decided to start switch-hitting Ty Kelly in left field and backup catcher Rene Rivera as the designated hitter against Tigers southpaw Matt Boyd. That contributed to what has become unwatchable offensive production.

The Mets entered the game hitting an MLB-worst .205 with runners in scoring position. They had runners on the corners and one out in the first Saturday, but Bruce struck out and Wilmer Flores grounded out.

The Mets did close to within 6-5 thanks to two errors by the Tigers in a two-run seventh. But with the tying run in scoring position and none out, d'Arnaud grounded into a double play and Kelly Johnson grounded out.

Meanwhile, Verrett was charged with six runs, seven hits, two walks and a hit batter in 3⅔ innings. The final two runs charged to him came when Miguel Cabrera delivered a two-run single against Jonathon Niese.

Granted, the expectations aren't as high for Verrett as the rest of the staff. But he now has a 5.61 ERA in six starts since taking over for Matt Harvey, who underwent season-ending surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome. And Collins seemed to indicate the Mets might go in another direction the next time Verrett's turn comes up.

"I just talked to [general manager] Sandy [Alderson] about some things, and we're going to certainly take a look at some options," Collins said. "... We've certainly got to pitch better in that spot."

What options would the Mets have if they decide to make a rotation change?

They could put Niese in the rotation. But, remember, there's a reason why the Pittsburgh Pirates were willing to trade him back to the Mets for Antonio Bastardo.

The alternative for the Mets is just to bide their time until Zack Wheeler rejoins the big-league club. Wheeler, who has not pitched in the majors since 2014, finally began a rehab assignment Saturday with Class A St. Lucie. His fastball ranged from 90-96 mph. Wheeler should be ready to return by the first week of September, barring a setback.

Whatever the answer, the Mets have produced a 36-43 record since May 10.