Is this a realistic question to ask? Are the New York Mets a premier team in the National League and all of baseball? With a 13-3 record they have matched their best starting mark in franchise history as they get ready to welcome the Atlanta Braves for a three-game series at Citi Field Tuesday evening,
But is this realistic? And, now with key injuries that have put their starting catcher and a key left-handed bullpen pitcher on the shelf for an extended period of time, can this team continue at this pace? Yes and no, because the long season is only two weeks in and there is a lot of baseball to be played.
At this pace, 90-wins or more is possible. But lets not hand them the NL pennant at this juncture of a young season, more importantly when Travis d’Arnaud and Jerry Blevins went on the DL, with a broken hand and forearm, the resiliency of this team started to come into play.
That start begins Tuesday evening at home. And after that, despite they not being the same powerful Yankees, the Mets visit the Bronx for three early season games Friday in the first version this year of the annual interleague Subway Series.
Mets fans have been starving for this attention since their move to the new ballpark and this past week, and for the first time since Citi Field opened in 2009, there were three crowds of 39,000 or more in the span of a week. What Mets fans did not expect, and what the team did not envision, was the unexpected list of names that headed to the disabled list.
Yes, resiliency will be the word for the Mets and their faithful. And perhaps this comment from Carlos Torres, the relief pitcher who has been reliable and will now be put in a more prominent eighth inning role, said it best:
“ Every organization brings up more guys that are to fill in and step up. That’s what this bullpen has done, that’s what this bullpen will do and that is what this team will do. No one can every quantify someone’s worth to a team or organization, but Blevins and d’arnaud are both solid players and will definitely be missed. So is anyone else who gets hurt in the future. But we will rally and step up to fill their spots.”
Torres, the right-hander, who has quietly been doing the job since last season, gave up four hits and home run Saturday in his fifth appearance in the last seven games.He could be a little arm weary in the early going, but in the early juncture this has become a Mets team that shows their resiliency to overcome a deficit and not give up.
They want to win and they are, and the manager Terry Collins has referred to that attitude time-and-time again in his post game meetings with the media. That was something that wasn’t heard or seen in that locker room last season and the players have made mention also about the good clubhouse and no quit attitude.
There is no quit nor will that be evident during this critical period of losing two of their important cogs. d’Arnaud was leading the team in runs batted in and his defense behind the plate was vastly improved. Opposing hitters were hitless when Blevins came out of the pen, 0-for-15 overall and 13 left-handers failed to reach base.
That will be difficult to replace, and there is no telling if Blevins would have had that success, or anything near that in the months to come. In the meantime, Alex Torres the other left-hander, and late pickup before the season opener, will try and duplicate that success.
And in that post game locker room Sunday afternoon there was no attitude of quit They felt the loss of their catcher and left-hand relief specialist. But they have been through this adversity the first 13-games with the captain, David Wright on the DL with a strained right hamstring. They lost their closer Jenrry Mejia for 80- games due to suspension for using a body enhancement drug.
There is every reason to be confident and showing their desire to be a part of this NL race because Eric Campbell, filling in for Wright at third, is 4-for-16 with three walks. And a suspect bullpen will be tested more though closing games is becoming a routine for Jeurys Familia, six saves in the early going with command on the fastball and a variety of other pitches that make a good closer.
Before the season started, a quality starter Zach Wheeler went down with Tommy John surgery as did another reliable left-hander out of the pen, Josh Edgin. So this adversity has propelled the Mets to come together more.
But they know, as fans do, that Lucas Duda has become an improved and good hitter. Better approaches at the plate and an ability to hit the left-hander. And Michael Cuddyer has been everything because he is getting on base and driving in runs.
The bottom part of the order has been productive. Wilmer Flores has been productive at the plate, showing some power and Ruben Tejada on Sunday came off the bench and delivered a big three run double. Still, Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson are expected to get their bats going.
Granderson is drawing walks and Lagares with the Gold Glove in center makes it that more difficult for the opposition to get a ball past him.
Oh, there is Matt Harvey and Bartolo Colon, 6-0 combined and Jacob deGrom with his 2-1 start, 19.1 innings pitched and two earned runs.
“That’s why we have depth in Triple-A and why we can step down and get others to contribute,” GM Sandy Alderson commented. That depth begins tomorrow night when the prospect Kevin Plawecki fills the void with Anthony Recker, as d’Arnaud recovers. And the scouts say that Plawecki would be starting for another team, and may be better than d’Arnaud with the ability to throw out runners and hit the fastball.
They were fortunate last week in games when Cuddyer and Flores were hit on the hand. But that fortune for the Mets was not there Sunday. There will be a void, and more so until Wright gets back in the lineup.
But for now, the Mets feel they will cope. They are the resilient team and as of now the best team in the National League.
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