The Mets couldn’t find a run but might have found a replacement.
Stung by the news that starting pitcher Joey Lucchesi’s MRI exam revealed a significant tear in his ulnar collateral ligament, the Mets were shut out for the third time since Thursday in a 1-0 loss to the Braves in the second game of Monday’s doubleheader. Lucchesi’s injury, which was confirmed by an industry source to The Post, typically requires season-ending Tommy John surgery.
As Lucchesi will head for a second opinion to see if there is another course of treatment, Triple-A call-up Jerad Eickhoff capitalized on a second chance when he tossed four scoreless innings in his first MLB start in more than two years. He finished the 2019 season on the injured list with right biceps tendinitis and a finger laceration, and spent only one day on a MLB roster while splitting 2020 with the Padres and Rangers.
“This is what I worked for, to be in position to have this opportunity,” Eickhoff said. “I don’t know what’s going to unfold here, but you have to put your best foot forward.”
Eickhoff’s success was hard to predict after he posted a 5.32 ERA in eight starts with Triple-A Syracuse. But the five-year Phillies veteran looked comfortable in his return to the majors as he allowed three hits, walked three and struck out three.
There were no clean innings, as Eickhoff worked out of a bases-loaded one-out jam in the first and stranded one runner apiece in the second, third and fourth. He recalled his second career MLB start, against the Mets in 2015, when he survived a laborious first inning.
“Honest to God, I went back to that moment,” Eickhoff said. “I was extremely calm, I was in the moment each and every pitch, I was locked in. I didn’t let fatigue get to me. It was back to breathing and focusing on the next pitch. That’s what was able to get me through.”
Eickhoff’s opportunity could be extended as the Mets search for rotation length behind Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker, in front of an injury-strapped bullpen, and move toward their third doubleheader of the week Friday. Actually, the Mets might have been wise to stick with Eickhoff longer in his debut.
The only run of the game was Ronald Acuna Jr.’s home run off Miguel Castro leading off the fifth. The slicing missile just right of center field jumped off the bat at 115.7 miles per hour. As Acuna rounded the bases, he held both hands up to his ears, pleading for louder boos from the crowd.
The Mets made an out at second base and two (almost three) at third base. Two foolish decisions killed a sixth-inning rally and another nearly ended the game in the seventh, but a replay reversal delayed the eventual loss.
“We gave three outs on the bases,” manager Luis Rojas said. “We want to be that unpredictable team that pushes the envelope all the time. The decision-making, we have to coach.”
Lucchesi, whom the Mets acquired from the Padres last offseason, put up a 4.46 ERA in 11 appearances, including eight starts, totaling 38 ¹/₃ innings in 2021. He had been surging recently, putting up a 1.19 ERA in his last five starts, and Rojas said he was on the verge of trusting the left-hander to go deeper in games. The Mets placed him on the injured list Saturday.
“It’s a big loss for us,” Rojas said. “A talented young kid that is getting better every time he goes out there.”
— With Ken Davidoff