|Cold bats, hot seats the story as Nats visit Mets|
Managers are rarely the focal point of a baseball series, especially one between two longtime rivals expected to battle each other for a division title this season. But the New York Mets and Washington Nationals are both a long way from looking like contenders, which is why Mickey Callaway and Dave Martinez are likely to be in the uncomfortable spotlight Monday night when the Mets host the Nationals in the opener of a four-game series.
Mets right-hander Drew Gagnon (1-0, 4.09 ERA) is expected to make his first start of the season when he opposes Nationals left-hander Patrick Corbin (4-1, 2.91).
Both teams continued their extended funks Sunday, when the Mets suffered a 3-0 loss to the host Miami Marlins and the Nationals fell to the visiting Chicago Cubs 6-5.
The loss was the fifth in a row for the Mets, who became the first team since 2017 to be swept by the Marlins. Miami, which began the weekend on pace to lose the most games in baseball history, allowed just three hits in the final two games -- the first time New York has been held to two hits or fewer in consecutive games since 1967.
On Sunday, the Mets sent 28 batters to the plate against Sandy Alcantara, who allowed two hits -- both to J.D. Davis -- but induced Robinson Cano to hit into a double play following each single. The other runner came via walk.
The anemic performance against the Marlins increased the temperature on Callaway's already-hot seat to something approaching scalding. Several local and national reports indicated Sunday evening that Callaway's job was safe for the time being, but the Wilpon family -- owner of the Mets -- is notoriously fickle and prone to making moves it believes will appease the fan base, so Callaway won't be entirely safe for Monday until he takes out the lineup card.
Callaway insisted all weekend he's not worried about his job status and reaffirmed his faith the Mets can turn their season around.
"I believe in these guys, it's the same group that we left spring training with that we believed in," Callaway told reporters. "I think that we've got to get these guys rolling. Now, I understand that everybody's disappointed -- the fans, the ownership, myself, the team, because this is not who we are. We have to figure out who we are. I truly don't believe this is the type of team we are. But we've got to go out there and show it."
Martinez's seat is a little cooler than Callaway's, thanks in part to the Nationals jump-starting the Mets' losing streak by taking the final two games of a three-game series in Washington last Wednesday and Thursday. Washington also has easier excuses to make for its underperformance -- namely an injured list that features eight players and a bullpen that has produced a major league-worst 6.60 ERA.
Still, managing the Nationals is never a very safe gig in the best of times -- Martinez replaced Dusty Baker after Baker won consecutive NL East crowns in his only two seasons at the helm -- and general manager Mike Rizzo has already fired pitching coach Derek Lilliquist.
"I come to the ballpark every day expecting to win," Martinez told The Athletic before Friday's series opener against the Cubs. "I've said this before: We have 25 players on the roster who are available. We try to use all 25 players the best we can. They understand they have a job to do. I never fault anything on injuries."
The game Monday will pit two pitchers who opposed each other in separate roles in the Nationals' 5-1 win last Wednesday. Gagnon, who is starting Monday in place of the injured Jason Vargas, tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief. Corbin earned the victory by allowing the one run and tying a season-high 11 strikeouts over a season-high eight innings.
Gagnon is 1-0 in two appearances spanning 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Nationals. Corbin is 2-4 with a 4.39 ERA in 12 career games (11 starts) against the Mets.
--Field Level Media