Jose Reyes was once among baseball’s most electrifying players, but that era has long disappeared, replaced by the wonder if he can just avoid being a liability for the Mets.
The veteran infielder’s days with the team have never appeared more numbered. Reyes isn’t hitting or running the bases particularly well, and Tuesday night he committed two errors, one of which loomed large in the Mets’ 5-1 loss to the Marlins at Citi Field.
Other factors contributed to the Mets’ four-game winning streak concluding, most notably a rough night at the plate against lefty Caleb Smith and the Marlins’ bullpen, but Reyes’ defense added to the misery.
Given the start at third base for the fifth time this season, Reyes was responsible for two unearned runs scoring in the second inning, after unloading an errant throw on Smith’s sacrifice bunt. Reyes also threw away Starlin Castro’s grounder in the fifth, but the Mets escaped without a run scoring.
“At this point of my career, I don’t feel frustrated at all,” Reyes said. “I want to continue to work, and that is the only thing I can control. I can’t get frustrated now. I’ve been in this game a long time. Why am I going to get frustrated?”
The 34-year-old Reyes is batting just .145 in his bench role, placing his spot on the roster in jeopardy once Todd Frazier returns from the disabled list. Reyes has been outplayed lately by rookie infielder Luis Guillorme, who is making a strong case to win a backup job. But manager Mickey Callaway insisted he will continue playing Reyes at third base if the matchups dictate he should.
“We have to play the players we have,” Callaway said. “So if it makes sense like it did tonight, where they had a left-handed pitcher on the mound and [Reyes] is a switch hitter, versus other guys who hit left-handed, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it.”
The Mets lineup was frustrated by Smith, who allowed one run on three hits and two walks over 6 ²/₃ innings. Entering play, the Mets were hitting only .212 against lefties, a factor in the team’s decision to sign veteran slugger Jose Bautista, who was released by the Braves on Sunday.
Zack Wheeler gave the Mets a respectable outing, allowing three runs — two of which were unearned — on seven hits over six innings with nine strikeouts. It followed a clunker against the Blue Jays last week, when Wheeler allowed six earned runs over four innings, much of it following a delay to groom the field during a steady rain.
Bautista doubled leading off the second in his first at-bat with the Mets and scored on Tomas Nido’s sacrifice fly, slicing the Marlins’ lead to 3-1. But the Mets never got closer and watched Miami take complete control in the eighth on Derek Dietrich’s two-run homer against AJ Ramos.
Wheeler surrendered three runs in the second, two of which were unearned following Reyes’ first error of the game. With runners on first and second, Reyes fielded Smith’s looping bunt, peered toward first and then looked toward second. Reyes ultimately unleashed an errant throw to first, loading the bases before J.T. Realmuto stroked a two-run single.
“That was a tough play on the bunt popup,” Wheeler said. “I think I could have got it, but just let Jose take it. There’s a lot of talking going on right there, so he had a little indecision where to go.
“It’s a tough play, especially when people are telling you to throw it to every different base. I think that’s why he made that bad throw to first. I tried to get him out of it and pick him up, but it was a tough play.”
Reyes probably had a play at second, according to Callaway.
“If he throws to second, we might get a double play, upon re-looking at it,” Callaway said. “But [Reyes] kind of got in between where he wanted to go with it and then he threw it over to first and we just didn’t catch it.”
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