ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — One limp afternoon later, the Mets were swept out of Tropicana Field and left searching for enough healthy bodies to field a team.
Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil were Sunday’s casualties, both victims of hamstring injuries that removed them from action after only one at-bat. If the makeshift lineup left to battle the Rays wasn’t a problem enough, Marcus Stroman’s worst start of the season sealed it.
Held to two hits, the Mets lost 7-1 to get swept three games by the Rays and firmly bury the memory of the seven-game winning streak they carried into the series.
Conforto was in obvious discomfort after trying to beat out a double play grounder in the first inning, diagnosed with right hamstring tightness. McNeil, who returned to the lineup as the DH after sitting for precautionary reasons Saturday due to recent back and hamstring cramping, was out of the game after the first inning. He had legged out an infield single in that first at-bat and was removed with left hamstring tightness.
The latest injuries came as the Mets are awaiting the returns of Brandon Nimmo and J.D. Davis, both of whom have spent the last two weeks on the injured list with hand/finger injuries. Albert Almora Jr. was placed on the IL last week with a left shoulder contusion after crashing into the outfield fence. Infielder Luis Guillorme also remains out with an oblique strain.
On the pitching front, ace Jacob deGrom is sidelined with right side tightness and Carlos Carrasco out as he rehabs his hamstring. Seth Lugo and Noah Syndergaard remain on the rehab trail from surgery.
Conforto’s departure thrust Jake Hager, an infielder, into right field for the first time in his career. Patrick Mazeika became the DH atop the lineup in McNeil’s absence. The only remaining position player was backup catcher Tomas Nido.
Stroman allowed five earned runs on six hits and one walk over six innings, surrendering a season-high three homers. It came a day after Joey Lucchesi (behind an opener) and the Mets bullpen allowed 11 earned runs.
The Mets will look for stability Monday with Taijuan Walker on the mound in Atlanta for the start of a three-game series against the three-time defending NL East champions.
McNeil’s single leading off the game was the Mets’ only hit until the sixth, when Mazeika homered, pulling the Mets within 4-1. It was the first career hit for Mazeika, who has two walk-off fielder’s choices this year.
Stroman gave the run right back in the bottom of the inning, allowing his third homer of the afternoon and fifth in his last three starts. Brandon Lowe’s leadoff blast gave the Rays a 5-1 lead.
Willy Adames took Stroman deep in the fifth, a two-run homer that sank the Mets in a 4-0 hole.
Stroman’s first real mistake of the afternoon was an elevated sinker that Manuel Margot crushed for a two-run homer in the fourth.
Edwin Diaz, who hadn’t pitched in a week, entered for the eighth and allowed two earned runs on three hits as the Rays extended their lead to 7-1.