You can feel the critics ready to pounce.
Perhaps, they might say sarcastically, the New York Mets needed to spend more than the value of their $335 million-plus payroll.
Of course, there are still 160 games left in the regular season, but the Mets — the most expensive team in baseball — know the spotlight will be on them for the entire 2023 campaign.
So far, the Mets have split two games with the host Miami Marlins, and the third of four contests in the series is set for Saturday afternoon.
The Marlins, with a relatively meager $81 million payroll, according to Spotrac, will look to young right-hander Edward Cabrera to give them a series lead.
New York will start right-hander Tylor Megill, who has moved up from the bullpen to the third slot in the rotation due to injuries. Two Mets’ starting pitchers are already on the injured list — Justin Verlander and Jose Quintana.
“It’s unfortunate with what happened,” Megill said, “but I’m here to do my thing and help the guys out. There are a lot of emotions. I’m here to compete.”
Megill, 27, has pitched just two games and six innings against Miami, going 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA.
Overall last season, he went 4-2 with a 5.13 ERA in 15 games (nine starts). He had a stellar April, going 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA in five starts, and the Mets hope to get him back to that form.
Cabrera, who will turn 25 on April 13, is 1-1 with a 7.20 ERA in four career games against the Mets.
Cabrera finished 6-4 with a 3.01 ERA in 14 starts last year. He improved everything from his rookie season of 2021, when he went 0-3 with a 5.81 ERA in seven starts. His hits allowed per nine innings decreased from 8.2 to 5.5, and his homers yielded dwindled from 2.1 to 1.3. His walks were down, too, from 6.5 to 4.1.
He will take the mound with the Marlins at .500 thanks to the heroics of Jorge Soler on Friday. The right fielder led Miami to a 2-1 win by hitting a solo homer and making a run-saving catch.
Skip Schumaker, who earned his first win as Marlins manager, said Soler “looked good all around,” including on his diving catch that robbed Starling Marte of a hit that would’ve tied the score in the eighth inning.
“(Soler) had good swings and good at-bats,” Schumaker said. “On the ball hit by Marte, (Soler) got a good jump. If that ball gets by him, who knows where Marte ends up.”
Marlins starting pitcher Jesus Luzardo, who earned the win on Friday, said the other teammates were giving Soler the comically royal treatment in the dugout.
“We were messing around, calling him MVP,” Luzardo said.
Meanwhile, several big-time Mets hitters are off to slow starts, including center fielder Brandon Nimmo, who in December signed an eight-year, $162 million contract; shortstop Francisco Lindor, who is on a 10-year, $341 million deal; and first baseman Pete Alonso, who is due a huge contract soon after averaging 43.3 homers in his three full seasons.
Nimmo and Lindor are both 1-for-6, and Alonso is 1-for-8, though he homered on Friday.
–Field Level Media
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