Justin Verlander booed as Mets fall on Citi Field debut

Joon LeeESPNMay 16, 2023, 11:39 p.m. ET4 minute read

Isaac Paredes takes court from Justin Verlander twice to spoil his home debut

Isaac Paredes goes twice from Justin Verlander to spoil his debut at Citi Field and make Rays 6-0.

NEW YORK — When the Mets signed Justin Verlander, they expected the reigning Cy Young Award winner to bring cheer to fans at Citi Field.

But his first impression on Tuesday prompted boos.

Verlander struggled on his Queens debut, his third outing since recovering from a major strain that delayed his start to the season. He allowed six runs on eight hits, including two homers, with three strikeouts and two walks in five innings as the Mets lost 8-5 to the Tampa Bay Rays. New York now sits 20-23, the three worst games of the season under .500, while Tampa Bay improved to 32-11.

“I understand the fans are frustrated; we’re frustrated too,” Verlander said. “We expect to be better. I expect to be better. I think this whole organization expects to be better, and there’s only one thing left to do, and that’s put your head down, work hard and get out of this crisis.”

Mets manager Buck Showalter said the fan boos matched the current Mets clubhouse vibe.

“People come here and want to see the Mets win, want to see us do well, and they’re frustrated like us,” Showalter said. “I understand that, but we control it every night. They want us to do well. We control that. Play better and it won’t happen. It’s part of the game here when you do something that is very important for the players. folks.”

After looking sharp in his first two outings with the Mets, Verlander looked shaky on Tuesday.

The right-hander allowed a pair of base runners in the first and second innings but walked away unscathed. The Rays again created pressure in the third with a first single from first baseman Harold Ramirez followed by a walk from shortstop Wander Franco. After a strikeout from Brandon Lowe and a strikeout from Randy Arozarena, Verlander allowed his first home run of the night, hooking a breaking ball to Rays third baseman Isaac Paredes, who quickly dropped the pitch into the field seats left to make the score 3-0.

Trouble piled up in the fourth when Verlander allowed a brace to Christian Bethancourt that led to a two-out RBI single from Ramirez to make it 4-0.

Paredes got Verlander again in the fifth when he hit a two-run homer to left field on a 94 mph inside fastball that the Rays infielder hit again into the seats of the field LEFT.

The start was Verlander’s worst of the season after allowing two runs in five innings on his season debut May 4 against the Detroit Tigers and just one run in seven innings Wednesday against the Cincinnati Reds. In his three starts this season, Verlander has a 4.76 ERA, allowing nine runs in 17 innings pitched.

Verlander didn’t mince words about how he felt about leaving on Tuesday.

“Like s—,” he said. “Not a lot of positives to take from it. I guess the only positive is that I know I have work to do. I’ve already started watching a video trying to find – I think there’s there’s a little something off my mechanics. I need to fix it and I need to fix it fast.”

To top it all off, in the sixth inning, Citi Field’s new scoreboard malfunctioned, displaying a huge Rays logo all over the screen, twisting the knife on a night the Mets found little optimism.

While New York scored a solo homer from third baseman Brett Baty, a two-run shot from first baseman Pete Alonso, and a two-run homer from Eduardo Escobar, the Mets still fell short.

Verlander said he’s surprised the Mets are three games under .500 in mid-May and are in fourth place in the National League East, trailing only the Washington Nationals.

“There are teams that click at the right time and find their mojo and go from there,” Verlander said. “I think we’re past the point of waiting for this to happen and I think we have to get there.”

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