SAN FRANCISCO — Thomas Szapucki will not be invited back to pitch for the Mets anytime soon.
The young left-hander, making his first career major-league start, spoiled the afternoon before it even had a chance to begin. Szapucki gave up five earned runs in the first inning and four more in the second to plunge the Mets in their 9-3 loss to the Giants on Wednesday at Oracle Park.
“It sucks doing something like that,” Szapucki said after the game. “I was shown things I need to work on today. I’m going to get to work and be better.”
Szapucki, 25, was pitching in place of Tylor Megill (right biceps tendinitis) in a spot start for the Mets. He made just four outs and allowed seven hits, while walking three, leading to an unseemly 60.75 ERA. The Giants won back-to-back games against the Amazin’s, who went 3-3 on their road trip to Denver and San Francisco.
The Mets (29-17) recorded just their second series loss of the season out of 14 tries — they are 11-2-1 this year. Wednesday was also the second time the Mets lost back-to-back games this season. It snapped their streak of 14 consecutive wins following a loss, which was a franchise record.
“We have a good group,” said Francisco Lindor, who went 2-for-4 with a home run on Wednesday. “We play the game the right way. We work as hard as we can. … It’s going to happen at some point. I think it’s kind of impossible to win every series. But hats off to San Francisco.”
Szapucki surrendered four home runs in just 1.1 innings, and of course Met-killer Joc Pederson was a part of that mix. Pederson cranked a two-run shot, his fourth dinger in two days off Mets pitchers, in the first inning to put the exclamation mark on San Francisco’s early lead. Though Szapucki brought a sub-3.00 Triple-A ERA into his Wednesday start, it became obvious after just his first few batters that his fastball and changeup weren’t ready for the majors.
But Mets pitching coach Jeremy Hefner offered a different viewpoint on Szapucki’s outing, indicating that his stuff wasn’t the problem. Rather, Hefner said what caused Szapucki to spiral was his inability to get ahead of batters and make pitches, or attack the batters, when there were runners on base.
“As a young player, those are the things he’s going to have to learn and he’s capable of that,” Hefner said.
On the brightside for Szapucki, it’s difficult to imagine any of his future big-league outings can be worse than the mess he made against the Giants. Wednesday was just his second-career game in the majors. He pitched in relief last season, allowing six earned runs on seven hits, including two home runs in Atlanta on June 30, 2021.
“It’s tough, giving up nine runs in two innings,” said Hefner, recalling his Sept. 20, 2012 outing when he pitched for the Mets. “I think back to the Phillies, I gave up like eight or nine runs and didn’t record an out. Having to watch your teammates pick up the slack, where you didn’t feel like you did your end of the bargain, I can relate to him. I told him that.”
The trouble of it all was how well Mets relievers pitched after Szapucki’s meltdown.
Trevor Williams, Colin Holderman, Chasen Shreve and Seth Lugo combined to pitch 6.2 scoreless innings from the bullpen. Williams, pitching on three days’ rest following his 52-pitch start against the Rockies on Saturday in Denver, was particularly impressive as he allowed just one hit and struck out five across his 3.2-inning outing against the Giants. Manager Buck Showalter credited Williams for his effort, and said he again presented himself as a good starting-pitcher option for the club down the road.
“Szapucki had the rest to pitch deeper into the game,” Showalter said of why the Mets refrained from just starting Williams on Wednesday. “The Giants didn’t cooperate.”
Even for the Mets, a resilient team which has rallied for impressive comebacks just over a quarter into the season, a nine-run deficit was too deep a hole to overcome. Still, they certainly tried — with one particularly tough squirrel playing like the Mets were still in the game. Jeff McNeil was diagnosed with a left-knee contusion after making a nice catch, colliding into the left field wall and exiting after the third inning.
Besides McNeil, Showalter left all of his starting position players in the game in the not-so-off chance the Mets would again rally, like they just did on Tuesday, and make it close against San Francisco. Typically, managers will take their regular starters out in blowouts. But the Mets have proven a few times this season that it’s wiser to leave them in.
“I was talking to Mark Canha, normally I’d be taking some guys out of the game,” Showalter said. “But with this club, you guys have made it tough.”