How will Mets handle injuries to Francisco Alvarez, Brooks Raley?

One lopsided loss in Los Angeles to the Dodgers on Sunday doesn’t put so much as a dent in the Mets’ feel-good season to this point, especially since they’d already locked up the series with a couple of gritty wins on Friday and Saturday.

However, the injuries that befell them over the weekend might cause a little more damage.

Bad enough they lost Francisco Alvarez to a torn thumb ligament that puts him on the shelf for six-to-eight weeks. But losing Brooks Raley to elbow inflammation for at least two weeks could have an even more immediate impact on a team whose bullpen has been among the best in the majors.

The late-inning lefty has been a crucial piece of the Mets’ success, pitching with dominance in setting up closer Edwin Diaz. In eight appearances over seven innings, Raley has been nearly flawless, allowing two hits, three walks, and no runs, while racking up nine strikeouts.

Fellow lefty Jake Diekman presumably slides into Raley’s role, at least to some extent, and he can be dominant when he’s on, but also tends to have control issues at times.

Perhaps more significantly, the Mets’ depth has been a major strength of their bullpen, and now that’s compromised with only one lefty instead of two.

Indeed, there’s no downplaying the importance of their relievers. Even after Grant Hartwig gave up a couple of runs in relief of Adrian Houser in Sunday’s 10-0 loss, the Mets have a 2.95 bullpen ERA -- the best in the National League. And the relievers have held opposing hitters to a .195 batting average.

Such dominance has been vital at least partly because the Mets aren’t getting much length out of their starters. The bullpen has accounted for 85.1 innings in 21 games, as the starters are averaging fewer than five innings per outing.

That said, the starting pitching has been solid overall, especially in the absence of the injured Kodai Senga, as evidenced by the rotation’s 3.91 ERA, even after Houser’s clunker on Sunday. But the lack of length is concerning because it could drain the ’pen if it continues, especially with a key reliever missing.

Most problematic have been the walks. The starters have allowed 58 walks, most in the NL, and while the Mets as a staff somehow lived to tell about walking 10 Dodgers hitters on Saturday, four walks on Sunday caught up with Houser, contributing to the eight runs he gave up in four-plus innings.

Mar 31, 2024; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Brooks Raley (25) pitches in the ninth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

For the season, Houser has 14 walks in 19.1 innings, the highest walk rate of his career. Obviously it has contributed to his 7.45 ERA, especially for a pitcher who relies on command rather than stuff, and it raises questions about his staying power in the rotation.

He’s been typical of a back-end starter, with solid outings against the Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates, and poor ones against the Dodgers and Atlanta Braves.

Still, for the moment, he looms as the potential odd man out when the Mets have healthier options -- not only Senga, but perhaps David Peterson and Tylor Megill as well.

And then there is the question of when they might it deem it time to promote Christian Scott, their top pitching prospect, who has been impressive in Triple-A so far, with 26 strikeouts in 14.1 innings. Chances are that’s at least a couple of months away, in part because the Mets likely will limit Scott’s innings, but it figures to be an enticing option at some point if the righthander continues to ascend.

A lot depends on whether the Mets can prove that their current 12-4 run is more than just a hot streak.

There’s a lot to like about the way they’ve played, obviously, especially the fight they’ve shown in the late innings and the timely hitting that has produced so many impressive wins, including the two against the Dodgers to start the series.

Alvarez hadn’t been a huge part of what they were doing, hitting .236 with a .652 OPS and one home run. But make no mistake, he’ll be missed -- especially his home run power.

Still, Tomas Nido’s defense is good enough that he’ll likely split time with Omar Narvaez and be an asset behind the plate. As such, it’s worth noting that Nido became the first Mets catcher to throw out a base-stealer this season, nailing Will Smith on Sunday to end the streak of 28 straight steals against the Mets that set a team record.

Anyway, big picture, the Mets should be feeling good about themselves leaving LA, even after getting routed Sunday. They measured up nicely overall against the big, bad Dodgers and their superstar trio of Mookie Betts, Shohei Ohtani, and Freddie Freeman -- not to mention Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who so far doesn’t look like he’s worth $325 million.

But now the question is whether these latest injuries will slow their roll.