Mets continue to lose in ways that make trade deadline decisions easier

NEW YORK — When New York Mets manager Carlos Mendoza visited starter Luis Severino on the mound Saturday with two outs in the seventh inning and the right-hander’s pitch count at 102, he relayed conviction.

Mendoza told Severino: “This is your hitter. This is your game. We are going to win it.”

Severino rewarded his manager’s faith. Severino needed just one more pitch after the conversation to finish the inning and end another strong performance. Mendoza’s belief in his team, however, turned out to be misplaced.

The day after owner Steve Cohen called his club’s recent play “mind-boggling,” the Mets reached a new low. Despite a quality start from Severino, the Mets lost to the San Francisco Giants 7-2 in 10 innings. New York (21-30) has dropped five straight. It’s not just that the Mets, who are 6-16 in May, keep losing, which is bad enough. It’s how the Mets keep losing.

It’s the kind of losing that tends to turn tricky situations into easier decisions for front offices.

After the Mets lost all three games to the Cleveland Guardians earlier this week, Francisco Lindor answered a question regarding how much time was left to turn things around by saying, “Not a lot.” Since then, the Mets have only kept losing. It’s not yet June, but it’s getting late early.

In seven innings, Severino overwhelmed the Giants, which is important to detail within another loss because he’s one of a handful of players on the Mets with a contract that expires at the end of the season. Of course, the biggest name in that group is Pete Alonso. Beyond the homegrown slugger, though, the Mets have a list of solid veterans playing reasonably well who are priced to trade (J.D. Martinez, Sean Manaea, Harrison Bader, Jose Quintana, Adam Ottavino and Jorge López are others).

This roster construction was no accident. The Mets’ front office gave their core group of players a chance to prove it could make a run by retooling the bullpen, starting rotation and bench. But the additions arrived on only short-term deals, which allows for the flexibility to go in another direction.

Opposing scouts have liked what they’ve seen from Severino, and his latest outing offered another example to believe in what’s been a rebound season.

Severino didn’t allow a hit until the sixth inning. When Patrick Bailey singled to left field, Severino turned away angrily and shouted at the ground. If he believed he had no-hit stuff, he wouldn’t have been the only one. Severino ended up allowing three walks, two hits and one run. He struck out six. His velocity was up, steadily between 96 to 97 mph. He consistently spotted his two-seam fastball on the edge. He frequently generated weak contact early in counts.

“He was in complete control of the game today,” Mendoza said. “Hell of an outing for him.”

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Luis Severino has a 3.22 ERA through 10 starts with the Mets. (Mike Stobe / Getty Images)

When Severino exited, it appeared that the Mets were headed for a much-needed win. They led 2-1 in the seventh after Brett Baty’s solo home run. But then the game went the way too many others have lately for the Mets. It all unraveled on a profoundly disappointing level.

In the ninth inning, the Mets turned to Edwin Díaz, giving him a shot at saving a game for the first time since he was temporarily removed from the closer’s role last week. He blew the opportunity for the fourth time this season and was charged with his third straight blown save after he allowed a run. This time, he said afterward that he felt fine and remained confident. But his struggles are a glaring issue the Mets likely need to fix to reel off a necessary string of wins.

“My job is to continue to find lanes for him,” Mendoza said. “He’s gotta fight through it. We can’t hide him. He’s gotta pitch. He’s too good of a pitcher, and I’m pretty confident he’ll turn it around. In the meantime, we gotta continue to work with him and put him in situations where we feel good about it. Today was one of them. He just didn’t get the job done.”

Things worsened in extra innings. The Mets botched a double-play ball when Alonso made a poor throw that Lindor failed to grab. The Giants tagged Sean Reid-Foley and Josh Walker for five runs. In the bottom of the 10th, the Mets went down quickly; they never even moved the runner from second base.

For the game, New York went 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position. It was another example of the Mets needing more from their best players. Alonso went 0-for-5, Brandon Nimmo went 1-for-5 with four strikeouts and Lindor had a memorable moment for the wrong reasons. With one out and a runner on second base in the seventh inning, he took a third strike without appearing as if he ever intended to swing. He explained the strategy by saying he couldn’t pick up reliever Randy Rodriguez’s slider. So after swinging and missing twice at two sliders out of the zone, he figured the best bet would be just to let another sail away for a ball. Rodriguez threw a strike.

“I just took that pitch and I gotta live with it,” Lindor said.

Recently after games, the soundbites have sounded familiar. The Mets say that they are better than this. They nonetheless also say that they have to play better. They say they will play better, too.

“We are stuck in this same place; we get to a point where we are winning and then at the end we end up losing,” Severino said. “It’s kind of a mentality thing. We have to focus on what’s in front of us.”

Within those non-Alonso names on the list of the Mets’ expiring contracts, Severino stands out as someone who could reel in a decent return — if he’s dangled in trade talks at some point. He should at least fetch some club’s top-20 prospect, said an evaluator who cautioned that it remained early to speculate and the market hasn’t clarified yet. To that point, there’s still a crowded field for the third wild-card spot; for a long while it was full of below-.500 teams, but the Giants (27-26) recently got over the mark at New York’s expense.

In theory, with the way the Mets’ roster is assembled, they’re flexible enough to consider different directions in regard to the trade deadline. However, it’s getting harder to imagine scenarios in which the Mets do enough to convince decision-makers that it’s worth holding onto players like Severino.

(Photo of Edwin Díaz: Mike Stobe / Getty Images)

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