Mets swept by Rays and seriously banged up as Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil leave loss

May 21, 2021 0 By PENTICTONLAWYERS

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Mets could build a deep lineup out of their banged-up players — a sizable, injured group that welcomed two members on Sunday, one new and one old. While the club considers its growing number of hurt players, it must also deal with the aftereffects of getting swept at Tropicana Field.

Michael Conforto left the Mets’ 7-1 loss to the Rays in the first inning with “right hamstring tightness,” the team announced. Utility-man Jake Hager, who made his major-league debut on Saturday, replaced Conforto in right field.

Jeff McNeil, already working his way back from what the Mets described as “body cramps,” also left the game in the third inning with “left hamstring tightness,” the team announced. McNeil was the designated hitter in the interleague matchup on Sunday, and backup catcher Patrick Mazeika took over for him at DH batting leadoff.

“It’s tough right now, where this team is at, with Conforto going down and the other injuries we had,” McNeil said. “It’s frustrating for it to happen now. You want to space those things out. We happen to get the injury bug all at the same time.”

If Conforto and McNeil land on the injured list, they would join Jacob deGrom, Brandon Nimmo, J.D. Davis, Albert Almora, Luis Guillorme, Dellin Betances, Jose Martinez, Carlos Carrasco, Seth Lugo and Noah Syndergaard among the wounded.

McNeil, though generally upbeat about a potentially quick return from his hamstring tightness, said his left leg was the same one that was cramping up last week and described it as a “carry over.” Mets manager Luis Rojas rejected the suggestion that McNeil was playing through a minor injury in the two games he DH’ed at Tropicana Field. Rojas did not say whether it would have served the team better to place McNeil on the injured list straightaway, last Wednesday, when McNeil initially felt the discomfort.

“We were trying to be smart about not forcing him to play on the field, and that’s why we had him DH,” said Rojas.

Rojas said both Conforto and McNeil will receive MRIs and tests to determine the severity of their hamstring injuries. Conforto, who did not speak to reporters Sunday, was not previously dealing with a hamstring issue, per Rojas, but told the skipper that he found it difficult to play on the turf surface at Tropicana Field.

Based on Rojas’ comments, speculatively, it seemed like Conforto’s hamstring injury was more serious than McNeil’s continued body tightness.

“Hamstring issues are no joke right,” Rojas said. “We’re going to still see how they go through the day and tomorrow morning we’ll make some tests and see what comes back. But when you talk about hamstrings, you’re definitely concerned. It takes — you’re talking about a few days.”

The legend of Mazeika grew even more powerful when he put the Mets’ only run on the board in the sixth with a solo shot to right field, his first major-league hit. The last Met to homer for his first major-league hit was current pitching coach Jeremy Hefner in 2012. Mazeika notably collected his first career RBI with two fielder’s choice walk-offs just five days apart earlier this month.

Marcus Stroman gave up three home runs against the Rays to Manuel Margot, Willy Adames and Brandon Lowe. He took his fourth loss of the year as his season ERA jumped from 2.01 to 2.72 following his six-inning outing.

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“You have those types of games throughout a baseball season, so I’m not slightly worried about it,” Stroman said.

In a risky development, the only remaining player on the Mets’ bench for the rest of the game was catcher Tomas Nido. That’s it. The Mets, before they open a three-game series in Atlanta on Monday, will need to ensure a one-man bench like Sunday’s is a situation that does not happen again.

“We’re moving to the National League game and there’s going to be some moving parts,” said Rojas. “We’re going to need that depth.”

Conforto, batting third, sprinted down the first-base line on a double-play ball in his first at-bat against Tampa Bay left-hander Josh Fleming. As he stretched for the bag, he hopped, came up lame and grabbed his right hamstring. Conforto gingerly walked off the field alongside a trainer.

McNeil beat out an infield single to leadoff the first inning, sprinting down the first-base line and stretching his right leg out to reach the base. He remained in the game until the inning was over. McNeil did not play Saturday and his return to the lineup Sunday was short-lived. Though he had said his cramps were behind him, the Mets were being “precautionary” by keeping him at DH and away from playing in the field, per Rojas.

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