Livescore Thursday, April 25

The Mets have become practically the definition of a losing team, one that plays just well enough to lose because they hit well on days the pitching fails and vice versa, and/or they make untimely errors, both physical and mental.

As a result they’ve lost eight of nine games to fall to 31-35, and if you thought they would respond to Buck Showalter’s team meeting after Friday night’s debacle in Pittsburgh, well, any good feeling from Saturday’s win over the Pirates disappeared in a hurry as the Mets were a no-show with the bats on Sunday.

They lost 2-1 mostly because they couldn’t do much of anything against Mitch Keller, and while the right-hander is the Pirates’ top starter, he was also mired in a slump, having given up 15 runs in his previous three starts.

You can make a case this was a game where the Mets really felt the absence of Pete Alonso, who is on the IL after taking that pitch to the wrist during the Braves’ series in Atlanta, but that can’t be an excuse for getting only three hits.

And, naturally, this was a day when the bullpen shined, keeping the team in the game with 3 1/3 scoreless innings. Quite the opposite of the killer sweep in Atlanta where the Mets scored plenty of runs but the bullpen blew leads on three straight nights.

Hence, the just-good-enough-to-lose vibe that surrounds these Mets.

There is plenty of time for them to prove they’re better than that, starting with the Subway Series against the Yankees at Citi Field beginning Tuesday, but at this point it’s hard to believe this is a championship contender.

So that’s the big picture, and it’s not pretty.

But what about the smaller details?

I don’t believe Showalter is the problem with these Mets, but it’s certainly fair to question some of the decisions he’s made this season, from lineup decisions to in-game strategy, much of it lately revolving around Daniel Vogelbach and rookie Mark Vientos.

On Sunday, he decided to pinch-hit Luis Guillorme for Vientos leading off the eighth inning, and clearly there was a case to be made for the lefty-for-righty move, especially since right-handed reliever Dauri Moreta features a slider the league was hitting .122 against as the day began.

“He has one of the best sliders in the league,” was the way Showalter put it, addressing reporters in Pittsburgh. “(Guillorme) was a lot better matchup on paper.”

Okay, but lefties haven’t hit significantly better against Moreta than righties, .152 vs. 141 this season.

And then there’s the rest of the equation: the Mets were down a run on a day when they weren’t hitting, and Vientos is on the team for his home-run power, while Guillorme is a singles hitter who hasn’t hit much at all this season.

Even more to the point, it’s getting harder and harder to understand why Vientos is on the team at all if he’s not going to get regular at-bats. A few scouts have told me the odds are against Vientos succeeding, with his long swing, if he’s playing only occasionally, especially with so little experience at the major league level.

“He’s the kind of hitter who needs to get in a rhythm if he’s going to hit big-league pitching at this point in his career,” one scout said. “If they’re not going to play him (regularly) he should be back at Syracuse.”

Vientos’ .167 batting average in 45 plate appearances, which includes one extra-base — a memorable home run — and 13 strikeouts, would seem to support that opinion.

Just how much Billy Eppler is involved in daily lineup decisions, or whether the GM is in agreement with how little Vientos has been used, isn’t clear, but the rookie has been with the Mets for nearly a month so apparently this is the way it’s going to be.

For a long time that meant playing Vogelbach instead, DHing him against right-handed pitching, but he was slumping so badly that Showalter stopped using him after the first two games in Atlanta. Since then, Vogelbach has sat for four straight games.

And when Showalter needed a left-handed hitter to hit for Vientos on Sunday, he turned to Guillorme, which raises the question of why Vogelbach, as well, is still on the team.

Obviously he hasn’t hit for power this season, which is why his presence in the lineup was making Mets’ fans losing their minds on a daily basis, but he does have power.

So if he’s not going to be used in that spot Sunday, down a run in the eighth inning, there has to be a better way for the Mets to use his roster spot.

On the other hand, scouts continue to say that Ronny Mauricio needs more time in the minors to work on pitch recognition or else major-league pitchers would get him to chase badly, but they also say he has the tools to be an impact hitter eventually.

Furthermore, he apparently hasn’t looked comfortable at second base and he’s just beginning to get work in left field, so it wouldn’t be ideal timing to bring him to the big leagues. But if Vientos is going to continue to get infrequent playing time, and Vogelbach is not going to be used even as a pinch-hitter in an obvious situation, the Mets need to try something different.

It’s not why they’ve lost eight of nine games. But at a time when they are mired in a major funk, every little mistake is magnified.

And though it wasn’t absolutely a mistake to pinch-hit for Vientos in the eighth inning, it sure became one when Guillorme didn’t just make an out — he was called out for a pitch-timer violation.

Such is the way this season is going for Showalter and the Mets.

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