Astros cheating scandal is feeding nothing but Mets bliss

Astros cheating scandal is feeding nothing but Mets bliss

PORT ST. LUCIE — Each time the Astros play the Mets in 2020 — seven times on the Grapefruit League schedule, four times during the regular season — the Mets can reassure themselves that they made the right call cutting ties with Carlos Beltran before he so much as oversaw a pitchers’ and catchers’ workout. Yet what’s going on this spring, and what continued on Sunday, runs deeper than that.

If the sign-stealing scandal shows no sign of relenting on the Astros, who sustained a major scare at Clover Park, the Mets seem magically strengthened by it.

What began as a marquee pitching matchup turned into the latest of bad days for the defending American League champions, who saw their ace Justin Verlander, an icon of durability, depart after just two innings with what his manager Dusty Baker called right triceps soreness; Verlander had clocked four innings in his previous start. The Astros said the right-hander, who didn’t speak with the media, went for tests, although they specified neither the nature nor the location of said tests.

Luis Rojas
Mets manager Luis RojasGetty Images

On the other side? Noah Syndergaard registered a peaceful three innings for the Mets en route to a 3-1 victory, allowing a run and two hits as he walked none, struck out four and, afterward, cracked a joke that starred the Astros.

As he discussed the motion-capture technology that he utilized Saturday — he wore only a pair of athletic underwear during the workout, causing SNY footage to go viral — Syndergaard said, “It’s where baseball is going. Using the access to the data and technology we have and using it in not a cheating way, I think is great.”

The Mets fans didn’t require a reminder of what the Astros did. The ballpark reverberated with rage every time veterans George Springer, Michael Brantley or Alex Bregman came to bat; points must be deducted for the Brantley-bashing given that he didn’t join Houston until last year.

By this point, the Astros must be so punch-drunk that they don’t bother pointing out unearned scorn. Besides, they now face a more important concern about their short-term viability, even as Baker, who succeeded the fired and suspended A.J. Hinch in the Astros manager’s office, offered precisely the perspective his new employers need from him.

“I know everybody wants to be concerned,” Baker said, “but concern doesn’t do any good. We just have to wait until it comes back, until the results come back. It’s hard to worry about something you don’t have any control over.”

While the Astros still field an everyday lineup that can dominate a game as well as any, their pitching staff, already weakened by the departures of Gerrit Cole to the Yankees as well as the absence of other depth guys, would take a huge hit with a serious injury to Verlander, the 37-year-old future Hall of Famer who has logged 200-plus innings in 12 of the past 13 years. Such misery would find plenty of company this spring, as the Yankees (Luis Severino), Red Sox (Chris Sale) and Braves (Cole Hamels) have experienced setbacks with frontline starting pitchers (the Yankees of course have many other significant injuries, too).

Not the Mets, though. Lordy, has good fortune suddenly smiled upon the Mets. J.D. Davis, the 2017 Astro and 2019 breakout Met who hurt his left shoulder earlier in camp, returned to the lineup Sunday and looked healthy, going 0-for-1 with a walk and playing as competent a left field as he will. Dellin Betances’ uncertain readiness for Opening Day can’t be a big surprise, given what he has endured. Yoenis Cespedes and Jed Lowrie, neither of whom has graduated to game action, entered camp with very low expectations, anyway.

Really, since they parted ways with Beltran three days after Rob Manfred’s released his Astros report which indicted the then-player, the Mets have enjoyed a run of tranquility and prosperity. Competition being a zero-sum game, if Verlander can’t start the season on time, that will benefit the Mets, who visit Minute Maid Park April 7-8.

The Mets reside sky high; everyone else goes day-to-day. How long can this magic last? As long as it does, the Mets are must-see baseball.

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