Justin Verlander of the Mets “frustrated” by his departure against the old team

June 20, 2023;  Houston, TX, USA;  New York Mets starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) prepares to pitch as fans hold signs for Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (not pictured) during the seventh inning at Minute Maid Park.

The Mets entered Tuesday’s game against the defending World Series champion Houston Astros feeling pretty good about themselves.

They scored 11 runs to demolish Houston and had eight magnificent innings of Max Scherzer to open the series on Monday. And with Justin Verlander on the mound for Game 2, there was a good chance the Mets would take the first two, but it wouldn’t.

Verlander was good, but there were a few defining moments when he left on Tuesday, and one word he could best describe.

“A little frustrated,” Verlander said after the game. “A 3-0 home run. I know Breggy is doing his homework and sold himself for a heater there. That’s on me, should have known a little better. I was trying to limit the damage in the big run by not walking it.

Of course, Verlander is referring to the third inning where, after the Astros took a 1-0 lead, he gave up a two-run shot to Alex Bregman with two out in the inning. That home run proved to be the difference in the Mets’ 4-2 loss.

After the third, Verlander would settle in and work in the seventh inning against his old team with the Mets trailing 3-0. However, another mistake put the Mets in a bigger hole. With two out in the seventh and a man in the second, Jose Altuve – who hit a sack fly in the third – hit a single to give the Astros a 4-0 lead.

“The last one bothers me,” Verlander said. “Trying to salvage a decent exit. Go seven and [give up] three and give your team a chance. Looks like a lot of balls put into play have found a hole. Some of the hardest hit earlier in the night they found some guys and then settled in and started a bit. The last one really hurt.

“Justin was good. I had a few softballs, about four of them, that went in there,” Mets coach Buck Showaltr said of his starter after the game. “He had a chance to get into the eighth or ninth [inning] there.”

He may not have entered the eighth like Scherzer the night before, but Verlander pitched well enough. The future Hall of Famer went seven innings, allowing four runs on eight hits while striking out five.

It’s Verlander’s second straight outing where he’s gone at least six and, more importantly, kept the team in the game. It’s also the first time he’s done this all season, a far cry from the previous season when Verlander won the AL Cy Young as a member of the Astros with an 18-4 record and a tiny 1 ERA. .75.

When asked how he felt about his former teammates, Verlander was honest.

“I didn’t love it,” he said with an almost nervous laugh. “Just fresh out of getting to know these guys so well. Try to turn that part of you off and just focus on throwing and attacking those guys. They emerged victorious. It would have been nice if we had won, but it’s a competition. They feel good and I don’t.

Verlander could have won if the Mets had given him something resembling the offensive explosion they had on Monday, but Framber Valdez held New York in check. He pitched five perfect innings before the Mets finally got a hit in the sixth. And it wasn’t until the eighth that they grabbed two points from the 29-year-old left-hander.

“He threw well.“Jeff McNeil, who went 0 for 3 on Tuesday, said of Valdez. “We started to hit it in the later innings when the guys started to see it and feel more comfortable. These first sets, we did not see the ball well.

Those first few runs went really fast, going around 20 minutes. Verlander, 40, was asked if the lack of rest between sets due to the infraction affected him.

Verlander was, again, honest.

“Actually, I felt good. It would be nice if I could sit here and use it as an excuse to feel tired, but I didn’t,” he explained. “I lost the zone and fell behind and kicked hard. Yeah that’s it.”

Tuesday’s loss puts the Mets 34-39 and 5.5 games behind a last-place Wild Card finish. With nearly half of the season over, the Mets know they need to turn things around, and soon, if they plan to compete for a playoff berth.

“Last night was a good night, tonight wasn’t,” McNeil said. “It’s hard, we try to drive. We need to be warm, we all know that. Start winning a lot of ball games and get straight back to this stuff. I know we’re not happy with how tonight went, but get ready to play tomorrow and win the series.

Tylor Megill will be on the mound Wednesday as the Mets look to win their first series since their three-game sweep of the Phillies in late May.

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