It was the first real series the Mets had played in years. Into September with the division on the line and a chance to nearly put it away but also a chance to let the Nats back in the door. Nervous excitement fluttered up from that inner sanctum that connects us all in our love for the Mets. That great feeling of a series really mattering, of having the division on the line. The same feeling you get putting in a large sum of money into a poker hand at a casino. You’re confident, you like your odds, but there’s a chance you walk away devastated.
The Mets did not walk away devastated. They sauntered off after sweeping the Nats and grasping the division firmly in front of them, and they will not release it. With a seven game lead and a well-rounded team, that exciting feeling won’t likely return until the playoffs. Oh sure we’ve got a Subway Series match up that means a lot more to them than to us, and an outside shot at beating out the Dodgers for that third potential NLDS game, but those things aren’t the same as the journey towards an eventual clinch.
It’s funny, the Mets have played so well in September that the remaining games are actually becoming less meaningful. We’re subject to endless discussions of rest, innings limits, skipped starts and tune-up appearances in order to have everyone raring to go for the playoffs. Still, this team makes every game exciting and it’s going to be a fun month.
A poor weekend has led to the Nationals gaining a little ground in the NL East race going into what might be the biggest series of the year. The Mets would do well to put their foot down and not let the Nationals chip away at the lead and gain confidence.
This series will define how the rest of the season goes. If the Nats win it could start to be become a real race, but if the Mets win it’ll continue to be a ‘tread water and get games off the schedule’ month for the Mets. A 5+ game lead with only three more head to head is pretty substantial.
The Mets have struggled a little lately, but they’re also due to settle in again; especially the pitching. The Nationals got fat on Atlanta Braves pitching, but that’s almost the polar opposite of what they’ll face in this series. Cool those bats off and find ways to hit the Nationals pitchers. Mostly the Mets offense has been able to do that; capitalize on opportunity by putting up a lot of runs at once, and then hammering away at bullpens if they get the shot there.
The Washington Nationals are not that good. Winning this series keeps them with a big enough cushion that would make it nearly impossible to lose.
The Mets acquired Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe, and Yoenis Cespedes to help a struggling offense, and shortly after they started winning more games and scoring more runs. However, this was largely in part to players the Mets already had as the new guys haven’t really been pulling their weight.
Including Michael Conforto, the new guys have hit .198/.260/.333 going into yesterday’s game. That’s a 64 wRC+, significantly below average. During that time Lucas Duda has hit nine home runs and has a wRC+ of 234. He’s the main reason the Mets are where they are. Other players have contributed too, Curtis Granderson and Daniel Murphy particularly. The Mets were always due to hit better than they were leading into the trades, dealing with some hard luck and some injuries. That they’re doing so now is not surprising.
This isn’t to rag on the new guys. The new guys are very good baseball players who won’t stay down long. THAT is the biggest thing about the trades in that it gives the Mets flexibility and eliminates holes in the lineup and allows everyone to find a way to contribute. It’s not that the Mets got some solid players, it’s that they stopped giving plate appearances to guys that weren’t hitting. John Mayberry Jr and Eric Campbell are gone, and Collins is picking his spots for Juan Lagares and Wilmer Flores, the two guys who were making the most outs on the team. If someone starts to hit more, they’ll get to play more.
Things look to get better offensively–maybe much better. Cespedes, Uribe, and Johnson will definitely hit more. Michael Cuddyer so far looks much better, and if he can stay away from that knee pain, there’s little doubt that he’ll continue to contribute.
The biggest thing of all, the one that makes me most giddy, is the potential return of David Wright. Nobody added a better hitter than Wright at the trading deadline. Adding in a legitimate top hitter in baseball to a lineup like the Mets is going to make it scary. Even if Wright has to take a chunk of days off to ease back into not playing baseball for months. Even if he’s not vintage Wright. He knows how to play baseball. I can’t help but bet on David. I can’t help but look forward to him returning.
Mets enter the biggest series they’ve played in years a mere three games out of first place. It would take a sweep to tie, but two of three would get them to two back. Is that enough? The Mets have been lingering around two back for weeks now, and while there are still a lot of games left, they’re dwindling fast and there are only six against the Nationals after this.
So while getting back to two back would be a good start, at one point the Mets need to rattle off a stretch of wins that gets them back into first place rather than a stone’s throw away. No better time than when you’re actually playing your competition head to head.
On the flip side however, it’d be terrible to actually lose this series. To fall four back or worse, while not critical, is particularly worrying. Much like the second time the Mets played them this season, the Nats have been struggling but very recently have gotten healthy and won a few games. Keeping the pressure on and not letting them get any momentum could be key.
So while two of three doesn’t solve any problems, it prevents new ones. With Travis d’Arnaud back, perhaps some trade help, and a glimmer of hope on the David Wright front things are possibly looking up for the Mets down the stretch. Keep the Nationals off balance and be prepared to strike.
Remember, the Nationals visit Citi Field for the final three games of the season. It’s certainly be nice to get into first before that and clinch, but something tells me that’s going to be a monumental series.
This upcoming series against the Washington Nationals is probably the biggest series the Mets have played in years. It’s still too early to be a make or break series, particularly with so many left against the Nats, but it’s late enough that pulling closer, or ahead, of the opposition really sets things in motion whereas losing makes things a little more difficult.
The Mets have their top three pitchers going against the Nationals, which will certainly help. Of course, it’s scoring runs that’s been the Mets problem this year. They have actually hit the ball well this past series against the Cardinals, they just managed to scatter them and never bunch them enough to really score. Now would be a really good time for that to come together and lead to runs.
The trade deadline also draws near. Holding tight with the Nationals would help reinforce the value added by bringing in another bat or two. The Mets could do a lot with a little more offense.
It’s not about how incompetent the hitting has been for the Mets so far this season, it’s about how competent, and healthy, it will be the rest of the season going forward. Health is a major factor, and a tricky one. It’s the hardest to predict and the biggest problem when it fails.
Juan Lagares has been, or had been, playing hurt for a swatch of this season. David Wright has barely played. Travis d’Arnaud missed a ton of time and now is hurt again. Daniel Murphy has missed time. Michael Cuddyer seems like he might be hiding an injury. These things hurt, no matter the depth you do or don’t have.
It’s hurt the Mets ability to win. Despite some great pitching, they do not score enough runs on a regular basis to win enough games to be truly competitive. You could point fingers to just about everyone except maybe Lucas Duda, and even he’s had a slump here and there. The ability of the Mets to return and stay healthy is going to be a big key of the second half.
Additionally some roster adjustment both on the prospect front and the trade front can go a long way. The Mets could use another bat, particularly one that could play SS or 3B. Admittedly, there aren’t a ton of options in this area. The Mets pretty much have the outfield locked down, at least as much as you’re not going to sit Cuddyer, Granderson, or Lagares enough to make it worthwhile to acquire a fourth regular. Wilmer Flores is driving the ball when he does hit it, but he doesn’t hit it enough to compensate for his poor defense or on base percentage. With Tejada and Murphy and the almost ready Herrera, the Mets can sorta make due at third base until David Wright returns, but it might be wise to acquire a solid upgrade there and worry about where to play him if everyone’s healthy later.
Guys like Herrera are interesting too. Can he take the next step forward and be of value in the majors? Can Darrell Ceciliani have a roll as a bench player and frequent outfield sub? What about Matt Reynolds down in the minors? The Mets have some offensive help on the horizon, both immediately and a little further away. Perhaps it’s not quite time to panic and reach out to the greener grass players on the other side of the fence. After all, that grass could be Astroturf.
The most difficult question facing Sandy Alderson is the existing roster. While it’s unfair to pinpoint a moment in time, particularly one during a slump, to judge a player on, various Mets hitters have not been great this season to this particular point. Michael Cuddyer is having a rough go of it right now, and Curtis Granderson has been merely an average right fielder. However, the question isn’t “Who’s been disappointing so far?” it’s “Who’s going to help out the rest of the way?” and the answer to the first question isn’t really a prediction of the second. Betting on Daniel Murphy, Curtis Granderson, or Michael Cuddyer over counterparts is probably the safest bet, but it’s not a guarantee either. This is where Alderson needs to juggle the roster of who’s going to help, who can be moved for external help, and which guys are best to play where. Sometimes the smartest move you can make is to trust a guy you already have, but Alderson’s already been criticized for being too complacent. That doesn’t mean trading because you’ve been criticized is the right move either–there are shades of gray everywhere.
The Mets are in a difficult spot. Will they ever hit again? Should they explore a trade and at what cost, or should they promote more minor leaguers? Perhaps holding steady and making sure guys come back healthy is the best course. Whatever happens, you can be sure we’re in for a bumpy ride.
The Mets beat the Marlins in less than two hours last night.
That’s too fast.
I’m all for avoiding unnecessary delays. I think calls should stand if a review takes more than two minutes to get right. I’m fully on-board with the between innings game clock that makes sure things move along like they should.
This game was too fast. Part of the allure of baseball, particularly of a tied 0-0 game going into the later innings, is the perpetual battle that happens pitch by pitch. A 3-1 pitch could be the start of a rally. A hanging curve could be the one mistake that gets hit out of the park. This game went too fast to really absorb any of that. Just as you’re getting settled in, it’s getting late. It became a race instead of a duel and Dillon Gee faded first. Admittedly, he was tired and this is where the Mets offense failed. When your pitcher has thrown 50 pitches in roughly 10 minutes, it would behoove the Mets to take a few pitches and try to work some deep counts. Draw a few throws at first when you do happen to get on. Dillon Gee’s pace was great, but the Mets needed to do more to disrupt Cosart’s.
I wonder what’s more taxing for an arm? 70 pitches into the eight in 90 minutes, or 105 with a more normal cadence and rest between innings?
While endless delay tactics, stepping out of the box, throwing to first, catchers visiting the mound, and all the other tricks guys pull can often be tiresome, sometimes the mind games of trying to throw someone off their rhythm is part of the fun. I almost feel cheated. I expect 150-180+ minutes of baseball every night and the Mets and Marlins couldn’t even get me 120.
Still, a win is a win. The Mets have the best record in baseball, Murphy’s starting to shake off the rust and David Wright might only be a week to ten days away. Things are looking up.
During Jonathon Niese’s first at bat the other night Josh Lewin casually mentioned that he had a three game hitting streak going back to last year. Pitcher hitting streaks are not something you pay much attention to, as even a three game streak during the season spans 10 or more days. Niese laced an RBI single to left field in the fourth to extend the streak to four and it made me wonder about pitcher hitting streaks.
Turns out four games ties for the active lead among pitchers with Colby Lewis. Lewis’ is perhaps most interesting because it began all the way back in 2011 with a double in June bring him to one out of eight on the season. He made only one start in an NL park in 2012, going two for four against the Astros. He missed all of 2013, but managed a hit in both his NL games in 2014 including the 4th one against the Bartolo Colon and the Mets on July 5th. The Rangers play in Arizona on April 21st and 22nd, but Lewis is scheduled to miss them. Kyle Kendrick just had a 4-game hitting streak end against Clayton Kershaw on Friday.
Niese’s streak began on September 20th last year against the Braves’ David Hale. Many Mets pitchers have had a four game hitting streak, most recently R.A. Dickey did it in 2011 and 2012. There are six guys with five hits, most notably Mike Hampton and Tom Seaver. Anytime your name is mentioned alongside Seaver’s you know you’re doing something right. The all-time Mets leader though, with a six game hitting streak from late 1974 to early 1975, was Jerry Koosman. Koosman hit .500 during his streak going nine for 18 with a double, triple, and four RBI. It ended against the Expos and Dave McNally when Koosman failed to get a hit in his first AB and after giving up six runs through five was replaced in his second AB by Jesus Alou. Niese will face the Braves tonight trying to make it five.
You might be wondering what the All-Time streak is. Niese is nowhere near Wilbur Cooper’s 16 game streak from 1924. Cooper hit .346/.376/.433 on the season that year while winning 20 games for the Pirates. More recently Carlos Zambrano had a 13 game hitting streak, but the play-index query I used ignored his pinch hitting appearances where he wasn’t a pitcher. Truthfully he only had a six game hitting streak. Johnny Sain had a 13 game streak in 1947 which is good for second place on this list.
When I said ‘pitcher hitting streak’ your mind may have first gone to Babe Ruth. Ruth did have an 11 game streak crossing from 1917 to 1918 as a pitcher, but there were a bunch of games in the middle as a pinch hitter and first baseman. Truthfully he hit in the final two games of 1917 as a pitcher, and then 10 of the first 11 games of 1918, with the one miss being a walk as a pinch hitter. That’s a 12 game streak, nine of which were as a pitcher. Ruth would later have a 26 game hitting streak with the Yankees, but not as a pitcher.
Can Niese get a 5th hit tonight against Trevor Cahill? If so the streak might start getting some real attention; five games is a lot for a pitcher. At that point only six active players would have had a longer one, with Wade Miley’s 2012 8-game streak being the top. Niese has never batted against Cahill, but I’m looking forward to the matchup.
The Mets won on the field, and in the cooler. The beer selection at Citi Field is much improved, and last year was no slouch. While i was online the group behind me consisting of what I’d describe as an average Mets fan group of guys and girls was talking about the list and how they liked it. It’s always nice to be reminded just how far craft beer has penetrated into the norm. Citi Field is definitely keeping up with the times by not serving you the same boring hot dog with the same flavorless lager that might have been the norm even 10 years ago.
There still isn’t really a dark beer in the porter or stout sense, but there IS a dark beer. Upstate brewery makes a Kentucky Common Beer called Common Sense. This is a dark cream ale meant to be consumed fresh. It was the first beer I had when I walked through the doors to Citi Field, and it got my day started off right. Felt like a great ballpark beer, not too strong, some nice light roasted flavors and just a hint of hops. Think dark lager almost. Oh, and the can was pretty neat too.
Some IPAs, a few lagers, and a couple of fruit beers which I think is a nice addition. Ithaca’s Apricot Wheat is an excellent beer, and I had Great South Bay’s Blood Orange Pale later in the day. It’s a nice pale ale with a delicious blood orange kick to it. I like the additions of more New York breweries.
Worth noting is that the Empire Craft Beer stand in the Promenade Food Court–or as I call it, The Piazza–they have taps, and in this case Sixpoint Sweet Action, Blue Point Summer, Southern Tier Hop Sum and Oyster Bay’s Honey Ale.
Goose Island is everywhere, and this doesn’t just refer to Citi Field. Their ownership by Anheuser Busch-InBev gets them distributed to many places, including most ballparks. Usually that just means Honkers Ale, the 312 series, and IPA, but this year they’ve got two more. Matilda, a Belgian Pale, and Sofie, a Belgian Farmhouse, can be had at a few of the Goose Island stands around the park. They’re both excellent, well-regarded beers by Goose Island.
There is of course more to say, but those are the highlights. Check out the Citi Field Beer List for a little bit more breakdown.
With the excitement of Opening Day, and the disappointment of a rain delay and a loss, our first series win, and Matt Harvey’s return the Mets have packed a lot into the first week of the season. Now it’s time to settle in for the long season and make the Mets a part of our routine.
Next week the Mets return home, we get Citi Field noises and visits, normal 7:10 start times and the flood–might still be a trickle–of Mets caps and jerseys representing people headed to the game that evening. The Mets play everyday. It becomes a routine. Arrow, Jeopardy and iZombie episodes pile up on the DVR. We’ll have seen every NL East team by next weekend, and we’ll get acquainted with new heroes and villains.
Baseball is back!
Monday is Opening Day. I’ll be doing my usually stroll through the stadium looking for what’s new, cataloging the new beer selection, and just generally tweeting and sharing interesting observations. Make sure you follow along on Twitter.