That 11-game winning streak the New york Mets had going into the Bronx back on April 24th against the cross-town Yankees seems like a distant memory, There was the optimism and a valid reason to believe that this Mets team had finally arrived.
But since that inter league series that came early, and where the streak was stopped losing two of three, this does not resemble a Mets team that once had the best record in baseball. And after a 7-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at Citi Field Friday evening, their season high fifth straight loss, the question has to be asked:
Was that early winning streak a fluke? or is this just a bump in the road in mid- May for a team that had high expectations and is expected to rebound? Time will tell because this does not resemble a team that had everything going right and where they saw nothing go wrong.
“These guys are good enough to grind it out,” said the manager Terry Collins. Since that winning streak his team is 7-13, good enough to be the third worst record in baseball since. So in a span of a month, the Mets went from one of the the best to worst.
And now the questions will be asked some more, whether or not this losing will continue. More so, will this anemic Mets’ offense that has scored three runs or less in in 13 of their last 17 games, get to where they were, and that leading the league in offense? If not, at least return to respectability before this gets out of hand and a season of expectations becomes a disaster of more questions.
There are never any correct answers as to why or as to how this can happen. Baseball is a long season and hitting is contagious. It can be accepted when one, two, or even three bats in the lineup hit a snag. But when an entire lineup goes cold then there is more of a concern. That happened last May and the hitting coach was relieved of his duties. Though Collins still has a team barely in first place, attributed to that good start, there is every reason to believe that the surging Washington Nationals, a half game behind in the standings will take over first place in the next few days,
That does not mean that Collins’ job is in jeopardy, or that some on the coaching staff will be let go. There is more concern that the Mets could find themselves in more of a hole if this does not get better. And it has to get better fast with the Major League worst, 13-23 Brewers in town for two more. After that, the St. Louis Cardinals come to town to play four games and they happen to have the best record in the National League.
Collins does show concern. You hear it in his tone when addressing the issues that have suddenly hit his team. The Mets clubhouse Friday night, after their latest loss was quiet. There were no players lingering in chatter, and the thrill of victory that was so evident during that good start, and during that winning streak, now resembles a team that is in crisis.
“We have to start doing some little things better,” Collins said. The at bats have been sluggish as they were against Brewers’ starter Kyle Lohse who left after eight innings and gave up two hits. And once again, as much as Collins shows concern, he is trying to keep up the tempo. The manager is a good leader and one thing he never does is put down his team, even with this struggle,
He (Lohse) just pounded the strike zone,” Collins said. “I think we just said look, we can’t get behind this guy. So I think the whole theory tonight was, if if you get a good pitch, you gotta do something with it. The balls we hit, they were caught.”
Except the Mets once again did not get the opportunity to put the ball in play when they had to, and that was attributed again to bad at bats. What once was a thriving offense has totally gone cold, and it isn’t all attributed to the absence of David Wright in the lineup who is not expected back anytime soon with back strain and the hamstring recovery.
And it can’t all be attributed to Travis d’Arnaud, the catcher who was hitting the ball well before going on the disabled list with a fracture to a finger in his right hand, and his return is still not determined.
“All teams go through this,” said Johnny Monell. In his first major league start, the catcher went 0-for-3 and he was called up from Triple-A two weeks ago to provide some left handed punch off the bench as Eric Campbell went back down.
Campbell will be back Saturday because the other misfortune that has hit this team is the growing members on the disabled list. The latest casualty is the 21-year old infielder, Dilson Herrera who fractured the tip of his right finger during fielding drills prior to the game.
Collins said Campbell hopefully will bring the 10-game winning streak of the Triple-A Las Vegas team to Citi Field. And the way the Mets are going right now, perhaps that is one way to look at it as Campbell moves to third and Daniel Murphy goes back to second.
As for Herrera, it is like anything else when a team has misfortune as they are having now. It wasn’t expected and caught Collins off guard.
“We shook our heads when they came to us and told us during the game that his finger was broken,” Collins said. “I just said, ‘Of course it is. The way things have gone for us; we certainly couldn’t have just a fingernail issue, we’ve gotta break his finger.”
And when the strength of this team, the pitching, also goes bad than you know the Mets are confronting a serious issue. Bartolo Colon was seeking a baseball best seventh win. Instead, the veteran right-hander allowed six runs on seven hits in 5.0 innings.
The bullpen also did not do the job to keep the game in reach. Carlos Torres allowed another home run as Ryan Braun hit his second of the game in the eighth inning. By that time any energy for the Mets and their fans was not in the ballpark.
“There’s gonna be bad times and good times ,” Wilmer Flores commented. The shortstop, who made another error, his 9th, tops in the National League among infielders, started the Milwaukee four-run third inning when a throw took Lucas Duda off the bag at first.
“You gotta learn how to go through the bad times, and this is one of them. You gotta keep pushing,” he said.
Except Flores has contributed to this sudden mediocrity also with inconsistency at the plate, and there are questions now about his ability to handle the position and that the Mets may need to look for a shortstop.
For a team that could do nothing wrong four weeks ago, there is concern. But the question should be: Was that winning streak a fluke or is this team really ready to contend by September?
The Mets know the next six games at home could tell what is real and what is not. And if it is not, this could turn out to be another September where playing out the schedule won’t be a fluke.